Firstly, I would like to apologize for having not been very active on the blog in the past few weeks. With campus climate and current events, my thoughts have been elsewhere. Nevertheless, Thanksgiving Break provided me the opportunity to decompress and read Parable of the Sower, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Although I found the dystopian civilization all too imaginable, I think it speaks to Butler’s power as an author to be able and throttle the reader’s emotion as is fit. The point made in class, that Butler takes contemporary problems and exaggerates them, makes the novel difficult to read at many points because they are the ‘worst case scenario’ type situations that are the fodder of nightmares. Another aspect of this that was particularly disturbing is that these are the SAME issues we are dealing with more than two decades later.
I also appreciated, Prof. Haley, that you handed out Butler’s obituary, because it very concisely presented a well-rounded portrait of her character and the common themes she threaded throughout her works. Something that I haven’t been able to get over is the line, “She used to say that the last thing she wanted was for her work to be prophetic.” It seems almost haunting in a way, like a harbinger,; perhaps it is the vivid detail with which she describes raw emotion and sensations, or how well she has crafted the remnants of ‘civilization’ in which the protagonist dwells.
The novel also made me think a lot about complicity; while this is sometimes a question of survival, more often than not, it’s simply the easy way out, a way to keep one’s head down and pretend like it isn’t happening. Occupying a privileged position in society (white, male, middleclass), complicity tends to be more a way of life. Sometimes situations are very clear, your moral compass says “I know this is wrong,” or, “I know that is right,” but sometimes you don’t know how to feel about something: enter complicity. In some situations, it is the only choice that allows survival, but the vast majority of privileged complicity stems from the fundamental, however misguided, belief that “It doesn’t affect me.”
As a fairly empathetic person, I have never understood as someone could believe this. Unfortunately, as I see more and more of the world I wonder if going with the status quo, not wanting to make waves, put your own skin on the line: cowardice and complicity, are these rooted in the base of human existence?