Friday, January 21, 2011

Change Abounds

Page 31, “A victim of [change] may, through learning adaptation, become a partner of [change], a victim of [change] may, through forethought and planning, become a shaper of [change]. Or a victim of [change] may, through shortsightedness and fear, remain [change’s] victim, [change’s] plaything, [change’s] prey” (Butler 1993). I have taken the liberty (through Lauren’s own logic) of replacing the word ‘God’ with ‘change’ throughout this verse. Lauren worships a god that she believes will pay testament to her survival: Adaptation. If she could have convinced those in her community of the same beliefs, then the change that raped and burned her village to the ground might have been an enlightening experience for them – though, as we know, it was nothing but death.

Olimina has taken God, which has altered the course of the world, and equated Him to an idea, an event; change. “God is change,” after all. In this particular verse, there are traces of her fears and her current state. She sees the world as an ever-moving collection of events that waits for no one. People have two options; they can take control of the change or let it do with them as it pleases, become its “prey.”The personification of change gives an ominous feel to the idea that Lauren uses to stimulate fear and thought. The verse illustrates exactly how her father and his followers blinded themselves to what would eventually come. As they waited for the world to right itself, the world got worse every day. They took no part in shaping the future, the universe; God. There is something to be said here about the different religions in question. Lauren’s Earthseed is very proactive. It forces members to be the protectors of themselves and those around them. Her father and his generation typically pray to their god to help them. “Belief initiates and guides action – or it does nothing.” Lauren’s beliefs lead her to action – a saving grace other religions lack.

As Olimina’s town was desecrated, she acted upon the changes that were tearing her world apart. Others did not. She had been shaping her change for some time, and in essence, her future. She made the grab-and-go pack and she rehearsed the routine of its use. In years before, thanks to her father’s foresight, Lauren had been training to use a gun. Even more proactive, Lauren sought to learn from the past. She read and absorbed all she could about the ways the Earth, though ravaged, could provide for her outside. In her taking the past seriously (in one instance likening their future to the Bubonic Plague), she continued to build upon Earthseed, the ultimate hand in her defense against the currents of change (or destruction) that defiles the land. This new religion is the backbone of her shaping God and gaining followers. Lauren will go on to sow these beliefs in her new group as a way to root the change she knows to be the future of human-kind. Without this change there would be no world for her or anyone else to bring children into (though as she notes, people continue to do so).

Olivar was a change that some, including Cory, thought would save them. But there it is again; Lauren knows that they must save themselves, “become a shaper of [change].” They must initiate what is to become of the new world. As their houses were torched and screams filled the air, I’m sure at least one person wished they had moved to the corporate town. Lauren may have preferred some do that, too, had she known what was to come. At least, in that case, the people would have had some choice in the shaping of change that came. Change always comes; Lauren resisted leaving the town for fear of the fate of her family – change came anyway. The journal entries don’t address this, but I wonder how she feels now. Would she still stay with her family for those months had she known their deaths were coming, regardless? Her family did not survive as they did not change, not in the slightest. Keith had died because he was rash in his change. Lauren lives because she planned for the coming change. None of them seemed better off, but somehow Lauren’s Earthseed kept her alive. Adaptation, a theme touched upon in the verses of her book, is a fact of life, usually on a grander scale, which has proved self-evident in the case of the town. Lauren urged them to keep adapting, but they stopped at a certain point. As result, she is forced to live without them. This is arguably the most pivotal point in the story; Lauren’s survival as a representation of her religion. It gives her efforts and toils credit that the story had not thus far. Had everyone lived, or she died, or the town won-out, the reader, and maybe even Lauren, would be questioning the legitimacy of Earthseed. Further in the book, when Lauren starts teaching, the book already has worth.


  1. The first paragraph is an excellent, imaginative start, which ably and compactly analyses Lauren's theology (if we call it that). Your focus on the term proactive is particularly insightful, and helps us understand her, and the things she loves and the things she detests.

    I feel like you lose a little of that sharp focus through the essay. Take the discussion of Olivar (which is pretty decent, even though I'm about to criticize it): a simpler, clearer way of framing this discussion would have been to point out that Olivar, while representing change, represents a reactive change. In response to danger, the Garfield family leaves the shaping and changing up to the powers that be in Olivar. Similarly, I think you could tighten up your discussion of adaptation. I've read in a couple places, including Stephen Jay Gould's Full House that parasitism is the most common form of adaptation in nature. Parasitism is, in fact, everyone in this novel, but Lauren loathes it - perhaps because, while it can be a form of adaptation/change, removes autonomy/will.

    Anyway, I loved the opening, and I thought the rest was solid - but that the following paragraphs did not fulfill the potential of the opening's sharp focus.

  2. This is a very apt analysis of Lauren's ideas. The idea of God being equivalent to change is a fascinating one that I enjoy personally. I really like that you opened with an emphasis of this equivalence by physically replacing God with change. It lays out a solid starting point for your essay.

    The point you make in your second paragraph, that Lauren's religion "leads her to action," is also very apt. However, your discussion could have been made clearer, I feel, by setting an argument between two or three different defined types of change. You did this in an undefined way; it could just be made more concrete by applying terms to the types of change; perhaps "adaptive" describing the active and take-charge changes and "reactive" describing the internal changes that affect only one's self. This categorization might add a more directed sense to your essay. Perhaps it's personal preference, but I feel it could help.