Lauren’s verse throughout the novel displays her religious evolution as she continues learning and growing. Chapter 12 begin’s with the verse,
We are Earthseed
The life that perceives itself
Like many of Lauren’s verse, this one includes “change.” The idea of change guides her through her entries. Following the verse are entries discussing Joanne Garfield’s acceptance to Oliver and Reverend Olamina’s disappearance. These entries represent great change, not only for Lauren, but also for the community. It is the first time in the novel that the community cannot deny the changes that are occurring around them. Although they accepted the break-ins earlier and tried to adapt within the community, it is with the first loss of an entire family and then the town preacher — arguably the most important person to the community’s unity — that they must acknowledge the impending destruction they may fall victim to (even within the walls).
Lauren constantly fights denial. With the death of her father, when her ability to reason is challenged, she still fights it. Following the unsuccessful search for him, she preaches a sermon that centers both on the “on-going search,” but also the persistence of a widow. “I’m no good at denial and self-deception. That was Dad’s funeral that I was preaching—his and the community’s” (136). Lauren contradicts herself by sustaining the bit of hope that Reverend Olamina may be alive, yet she knows she must suppress it. And she presents herself as the leader of her community, stepping forward to give them an idea of hope, that they will survive the destruction if they persist. But she does not herself believe this to be true; she believes that the only hope lies in leaving California. She lies to do the duty her father taught her, to teach and guide rather than scare. Although Lauren is young, she is quick to jump into her father’s footsteps and offer her voice to the community — a community that she believes will soon fall apart.
Lauren’s religion is defeating her desire to lead the community. She cannot teach a people that won’t accept her teachings. Joanne’s reaction of fear and shock when Lauren tried to tell her about preparing for survival taught Lauren that she cannot trust her neighbors to understand her viewpoints, that they would rather remain within the walls hoping for the worsening conditions to end — but Lauren knows they won’t. Signs that the walls of the fortress are slowly breaking down have already begun, and although the community adapts (they create a watch system), they still do not completely understand that the worsening conditions mean for the community.
But with the news that the Garfield’s are leaving the neighborhood behind, the community as a whole is soon to experience a great loss. The Garfield’s departure is significant because it is not a change to the community that was forced upon the family; they choose to leave; they acknowledge the powerlessness of the community and leave it for one they believe will be stronger. They draw the concept of the danger directly in the community; if families are beginning to leave then the danger seems more real because if the other families in the neighborhood acknowledge and credit the reasons for their departure, they must face the truth that they cannot face the danger. However, it not only makes the danger feel real, but also weakens the community because they have less allies, less watchmen, defenders.
And after the news of the loss, the community — aware of looming violence — is harshly confronted with the loss of their reverend, their guide. The violence destroys their most important figure of hope and survival. This is the strongest way that they could perceive the effects of the world outside upon their lives. It signifies the approach of great change, and it is up to them where that change will drive them. Lauren knows that she will not accept the changes that would draw the outside violence any farther into her home. Her religion is her backbone, and she must find a way to make adapt God, change. Her plans to leave the town and travel on her own towards a free land resemble that of a traveling messiah who leaves home to search for land where his beliefs stand a chance of growing despite the risks it poses to him. Her belief in change and its possibility is all that keeps her from giving up and allowing the world to knock down the walls of the tiny fortress and trample her with the community.