In Parable of the Sower, I felt like Octavia Butler focused largely on the wall surrounding Lauren’s fortress. The wall was mentioned numerous times, specifically during the first half of the book when Lauren is still in Robledo. When I learned that this book was first published in 1993, the first thought that popped into my mind was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, only a few years earlier. I think that Butler’s constant drilling of the wall surrounding Lauren’s home is a symbol of the wall dividing Germany. While the historical events took place in Germany, they still struck American people, such as Octavia Butler, as well. J.M. Roberts’ book The Penguin History of the Twentieth Century states that the USSR building of the Berlin Wall in August of 1961 “was only the beginning of a period during which Soviet policy tested American resolve much harder than before” (Roberts 654). In wake of the American defeat in Vietnam and the fall of President Nixon, the United States seemed to be in a downward spiral, and many Americans feared the USSR taking over Asia (Roberts). Butler was approximately 14 when this wall went up and 42 when it was torn down in 1989, so throughout her life she was acquainted with the Wall, which I believe she writes about in her book.
The walls in Robledo and Berlin both serve the same purposes: to protect those inside, and prevent unwanted people from invading. In Germany the Soviets were trying to keep out the West Germans, while the fortress in Parable of the Sower is keeping out the street poor, or at least attempting to. Lauren describes the street poor as being desperate, crazy, and/or dangerous, and many of them carry untreated diseases and wounds (Butler 10-11). Similarly to the Berlin wall, I think the walls in Robledo represent freedom. Lauren is constantly expressing her desires to break free and bust out of her fortress. She feels that she can never be truly free trapped inside those walls. One could argue that those in West Berlin felt the same way. I know I’d personally be very upset if suddenly a Harrisburg wall was built shutting off Western Pennsylvania from Eastern Pennsylvania. Then I wouldn’t be able to go home to Philadelphia, just like Berliners could not get where they wanted to go. Another similarity between the Robledo wall and the Berlin wall is that both needed a great amount of protection. Obviously the Soviets had the Berlin wall guarded to prevent attacks, while the fictional wall also had to be protected from attacks. I am just now starting to equate the Olaminas and the rest of the fortress with the USSR. Both needed to protect their area, so they put up a wall with some weapons to defend it. The tearing down of the Berlin wall by the Eastern Germans is eerily similar to when the paints set fire to Robledo, invaded the fortress, and killed everyone in their paths.
Lauren Olamina is interesting because I think she wants basically the opposite of most other people: Lauren wants to get away from home; to go out and explore the unknown. While Joanne Garfield and Curtis and Corey see the wall as protecting their freedom, Lauren sees it as the obstacle hiding her freedom. She tells her friend Joanne Garfield “we’ll die in here unless we get busy now and work out ways to survive” (Butler 56), but Joanne doesn’t agree and tattle tales on Lauren.
After the Berlin wall is torn down in 1989, Germany is reunited. While they may have not actually met before, I feel like in Parable of the Sower, Lauren is “united” with sharers like her in Emery, Grayson Mora, and Tori, who all have hyperempathy syndrome. Just like Germany was better off as one country instead of split in two, I think Lauren is better off with people who can exactly understand what she is going through. Lauren had to break free of her wall to find other sharers outside of Robledo, just like the East Germans had to break down the Berlin wall to get their country back.
Source: Roberts, J.M. The Penguin History of the Twentieth Century. London: Penguin Books, 1999.