Friday, January 21, 2011


In Chapter 4, Lauren's father takes her and a few other people target shooting in the hills. When Aura Moss shoots at a wild dog out of fear, Lauren's father goes off to try to find it. He returns with “a look that [Lauren] couldn't read” (page 42.) He has seen some decaying corpses, and he is trying to protect the youths from seeing them. While in this dystopian outside world the horror he's protecting them from is an extreme example, a parent's job in most society is to protect one's children from becoming disillusioned, scarred, or in any way emotionally harmed by the harsh realities of life. He does this effectively, except for slightly worrying Lauren with his unreadable expression.

Later, in Chapter 12, after the death of Lauren's father, she goes looking for his body. She begins the day's entry by stating “I've never seen more squalor, more human remains, more feral dogs than I saw today” (page 130.) The gravity of this grim reality hits Lauren hard. She says “I have to write. I have to dump this onto paper. I can't keep this inside of me.” (page 130.) Because her father is not around to protect her anymore, she is forced to deal with this harsh outside world on her own. She is forced to grow up. While this is realistically an ongoing process, this moment is a very well-packaged crystallizing point.

These two moments, working together, undoubtedly offer a critique of society. Butler seems to object to the coddling of our children. Even though Lauren is not entirely a part of the gated community in spirit from the beginning, with Earthseed replacing Christianity and with her aversion to settling down in a white-picket-fence motherhood, she still becomes disillusioned throughout the story. This disillusionment is actually amplified by her hyperempathy; when she witnesses pain, she experiences it. It's not only an emotional disillusionment but an actual chemically and biologically enforced painful experience. Butler's point is that this disillusionment is inevitable and extremely painful; we should not keep that a secret and pretend that everything is going to miraculously be okay. Because Lauren's father didn't exactly protect her from the horror of the corpses and disembodied arm she found, Butler isn't exactly using Lauren as an example of what not to do. Lauren's situation becomes a statement of what is going to inevitably happen.

Since Lauren isn't an outright nonexample, there is no real explicit alternative stated in the book. Butler isn't outrightly stating her point, saying “if you coddle your children, then such-and-such will occur. Instead you should ruin their innocence.” This would be far too heavy-handed for Butler's novel. However, there is definitely a heavily implied alternative. Logically the only real alternative to sheltering someone is to expose them to what you are sheltering them from. However, Butler does not explicitly state at any point how to expose them. Perhaps, however, Butler sees the disillusionment process in terms of religion. In Christianity, the method is to gradually expose children with a constant reminder that faith in God as a being to keep the child safe from the frightening parts of life. Lauren's Earthseed beliefs, however, are that God is not a being controlling the world but actually a process of shaping and changing your environment and your own life. In this way, we can see that perhaps Butler is suggesting that children should be allowed to experience the world and go through disillusionment with a constant reminder that they can shape their world and life in any way they see fit.


  1. The contrast you establish between the two sections (which take place in a similar area, or even the same one) is insightful, and shows that you are able not only to pay attention to details, but to reach across the text for related details in different sections. This is a basic, fundamental skill of good critical reading.

    The third paragraph is both vague and interesting. If the subject of the critique is the coddling of children, but Lauren is not an example of being coddling (although there is some ambiguity on this topic, as you clearly recognize), then is there an example of this coddling in the novel? If so, where? If not, is that really the subject of Butler's critique? I'm not, incidentally, disagreeing with you - but I do think you need a little more evidence for your position that Butler is deeply concerned with coddling (what I see here is more an issue of parental pedagogy - how does one teach one's children the correct skills?)

    In the fourth paragraph, perhaps recognizing the problem you've creating by arguing that Lauren is not a coddled child, and not producing another one (is Keith coddled? How about, in a really strange way, the Moss children? Joann Garfield?), you get vaguer. Obviously you're correct that Butler believes that children need to be exposed to the world and therefore disillusioned - but in all seriousness, who would believe that children should never suffere reality and disappointment? Where disagreements come in is on the question of when and how children need a stiff dose of reality.

    So, how to analyze Butler's views on the subject? It's a complicated issue, but I think one way of analyzing it is to approach Lauren (who is, by and large a success, and probably in part because of the way her father teaches her various things, esp. how to mask here emotions - incidentally, his unreadability is a reflection of her unreadability to other people) in contrast with someone else. Keith and Joann are the obvious examples, I think, albeit in totally different ways.

    In other words, you can push yourself farther, to try to answer in more specific terms what Butler is critiquing about contemporary parenting (or teaching, even).

  2. It is clear from the beginning of your post that you have a direction you intend to take, that of whether or not children should be protected from the harshness (i.e., reality) of the world. However your argument regarding Butler's point of view on the subject becomes very confusing, suggesting that while she placed this alternative in the novel, she doesn't, in fact, offer an alternative.

    In situations such as these, a firm stance needs to be taken on whether or not there is indeed an alternative. Butler clearly presents the reader with the idea of protecting a child's innocence. After Lauren is left to fend for herself, she is exposed to those horrors that she was to be protected from. The "coddling" that you mention is removed when children grow up, or in Lauren's case, are forced to grow up. As Lauren turns out to be relatively successful in her battle with reality, it is clear that Butler is making a statement about the fact that children do indeed have to grow up, sometimes before their time, but can often handle these realities.

    I would recommend, for future posts, that you begin with what you intend to do with the text rather than beginning with examples from the text. It may simply be a personal preference of my own, but I find that understand the argument before I know examples helps me to place those examples into some context. While it did not necessarily take away from your post, I did need to do some re-reading in order to fully grasp what you were trying to say.

    Despite the fact that your essay was at times difficult to understand, your conclusions regarding Butler's alternatives in terms of religion was excellent. As I just went back to re-read it, I find it very fitting for what you were trying to state. However, like I said before, it is nice to understand where you plan to take your argument. Had I known it would lead back to religion as I began, I would have kept that in mind while reading it initially, making it much clearer in terms of what you were trying to do.