• Trudier Harris


Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West holds a strategic place in this discussion in that it looks backward to traditional portraits of strong black female characters in its sacrificial components, and it also includes the specific violence of killing that is not complicated by the usual questions of slavery. It serves as a natural transition to Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993). A futuristic vision (from 2024 to 2027) of death and destruction throughout the United States, but especially in California, Parable of the Sower is the diary narrative of Lauren Olamina between the years of 15 and 18. The daughter of a drug-abusing mother who has caused her to develop hyperempathy syndrome, a condition in which she believes she experiences the pain of others, Lauren is not only unusual biologically but in every other way imaginable. An inhabitant of a walled community designed to keep out huge numbers of the poor and desperate, including drug addicts, the homeless, and wild dogs that prey upon humans, Lauren is mature far beyond any expectations for a 15-year-old. Well read and visionary, she quickly sees the time when the wall enclosing her 11-family community will no longer hold and all the evils that are outside will destroy what her family and their neighbors have tried to keep inviolate. She plans meticulously for the journey she ultimately makes—a trek through abandoned and mostly barren California landscape and freeways to what she hopes will be a haven in slighter greener northern California.


Usual Question Woman Character Implied Rule Mixed Couple Literary Woman 
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  1. 2.
    Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993), p. 71. Subsequent references are to this edition and will be cited in the text. The “seed” idea is one that Butler has explored before, especially in Wild Seed (1980), in which the supernatural Doro seeks subjects (seeds) for his envisioned psionic garden of superior human beings.Google Scholar

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© Trudier Harris 2001

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  • Trudier Harris

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