Friday, January 21, 2011

Drowning in Complacency

Drowning people

Sometimes die

Fighting their rescuers (Butler 57).

Although all of Lauren’s verses bear some importance to her journey throughout The Parable of the Sower, none have been as striking as the above verse from the beginning of Chapter 6. While I spent time analyzing the others, pondering their meaning and overall significance, this verse seemed to be immediately connected to the course of events; it’s ominous, it’s morbid, and it’s so seemingly non-religious that I couldn’t help but be drawn to it.

Lauren’s previous entries in her journal were all filled with words like “God,” “worship,” and “change” (and rightfully so since these are the spiritual ponderings of the protagonist) so what place does a phrase about unintentional suicide have in her repertoire? Despite the obvious parallel of the “rescuer” to a more holy “savior”, I don’t feel that this phrase truly has anything to do with the successful (or unsuccessful) nature of divine intervention. Lauren contemplates the concept of God a good deal throughout her life and ultimately decides that, for her, “God just is” (24). She feels no animosity towards him for putting her in her situation, she feels no obedience towards him that governs her decisions, and most importantly she feels that God is not some archaic figure meant to be followed but rather something that we are meant to mold according to our experiences. If Lauren even believes that a “God” does exist at all, she certainly doesn’t feel that she should relent to his doing and blindly follow some larger life plan that he may have in store for her like so many in her neighborhood do. This philosophy calls for a sense of responsibility and a call to action when needed because God is not the ultimate decider, he presents himself in different manners according to the decisions that we make.

This verse finds itself at a point in the story after Lauren has all but completely renounced the traditional idea of God, has made the decision to take hold of her own fate, but has nonetheless been betrayed and written off as an impulsive and careless teenager. Despite the confidence she has in her plan and her friendship with Joanne, the prevailing forces are those which hold together Lauren’s community; complacency and, ultimately, resignation. It is this exact sense of complacency that Marcuse speaks of in One-Dimensional Man when considering the lack of social change in the United States. Because the Olamina family lives within the walls of a relatively protected community they are considered lucky despite the hardships they face, and it is this comparison between the utter chaos and destruction outside and the respective false sense of normalcy inside that Marcuse targets as the source which “modifies the attitude and the status of the exploited” (Marcuse 25). Joanna may exemplify this unconscious submission to current conditions best when, in the middle of Lauren’s survival plan explanation, she interjects with “Things don’t have to be as bad as you say they are here” (Butler 56).

Lauren has the intelligence and the fortitude to step outside this narrow school of thought, outside the walls of her own neighborhood, and truly ponder whether there is much or any rationale to the way she and her peers are living. In her loss of faith in a “true” God Lauren rids herself of the strongest belief and commonality retained by the rest of her community, but also gains the insight to evaluate what is considered societally normal and judge these norms outside the context of her ruined world. Revolution cannot occur without someone who has the audacity to question the system, someone who will defy tradition on the quest for improvement, and Lauren Olamina uses her alienation as a means to recognize change when changes is needed and make herself that savior or rescuer that she speaks of in her verse.

What Lauren does not realize is that the logic behind her plan is not so apparent to those who so desperately grasp to the “anchor of the past,” waiting for their God to save them. To such a society Lauren’s ideas are not only foolish but also dangerous, serving to knock the whole system of balance and destroy whatever shred of regularity they have left. They push the young girl away in favor of preservation and this verse acts as an omen of things to come as a result of their blissful ignorance. Although Lauren’s intuitions may prove to be correct (and may even make sense to some), the gated community cannot view her as their rescuer because they are anchored to long-held custom and they are drowning from the weight of it.


  1. That's a good verse - I'm interesting that two people have already written on it, even though I'm only halfway through the list. I loved your opening paragraph, but I'm curious why you find it to be "non-religious." There are oceans of darkness and cynicism in the Bible, for instance (Check out Numbers 31 sometime...). That's not to say that you're wrong - but I would have liked to see you analyze that feeling...

    Anyway, I find that your individual paragarphs stand alone perhaps a little more than they should. Your discussion of Marcues & complacency was able and worthwhile - it could have, with some modification, been the introductory paragraph of a more focused essay. I also like your related discussion of Lauren's alienation. Good!

    Especially on my third read, I'm beginning to get some of the connections here: in the end, you are arguing that Lauren't sees herself as her community's rescuer, and that the verse is basically about their rejectino of her. But how, exactly, do they reject her? Is it her very limited escape plans? is it her questioning of the Olivar plan? Is it her conflict with her father? I'm not by any means saying that you're wrong - but if your argument is that the verse is an allegory for the process she goes through with the town, you need to articulate that a little more - and show that she is, in Robledo, more of a rejected prophet than a pending or learning prophet. I think her father's funeral is one helpful section for dealing with these issues.

  2. I like your first two paragraphs, especially with the use of Marcuse and the concept of complacency within the community. However, I'm curious as to why you think this passage is non-religious.

    It may not have the certain words that you specified, but I think there is a religious underlying message. It feels as though you slightly talk of this in your final two paragraphs.

    Lauren's religious ideology is change. In order for the community to be rescued, don't they have to stray from their belief in God as an archaic figure and their complacency? Doesn't this imply change from their everyday lives and routines? Would "dying from fighting their rescuers" mean that they refused to change and therefore refused to accept the basic concept of Lauren's religion? I think it would be very interesting to see how you would argue that this is non-religious or address a counter-agrument such as this.