Drowning people/Sometimes die/Fighting their rescuers. (Butler 61) This verse is used to introduce chapter 6 in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. The verse, in my opinion, is one of the most poetic and intriguing that is used throughout this half of the novel. However, like most epigraphs, it is used to tell the reader exactly what they should expect to see on the pages ahead.
The first sentence in Chapter 6 reads, “Joanne told.” (Butler 61) However this does not sufficiently explain the use of this epigraph in this chapter. Our knowledge from the previous chapter is what makes the reader able to connect this epigraph to the chapter. We can then make the deductions that “Drowning people” is more likely than not referring to Joanne. The “rescuers” in this case is not a plural, but in fact a singular rescuer in Lauren.
Where the verse becomes less straightforward is the second line, “Sometimes die.” (Butler 61) There are no obvious deaths within the chapter, which leads us to question whether or not we can trust these epigraphs to reveal information about the coming events within the narrative. However the parallel that this verse has to the situation at hand is clear. Lauren believes that if the people in her community remain uneducated on how to maintain themselves outside the comfort of their walls that they are surely to be met with ill fate. She encourages Joanne to study this type of information as a test subject of sorts, as well as the fact that she is considered Lauren’s closest friend.
The verse does not have to apply strictly to the fact that Joanne disclosed information to her mother that Lauren had talked to her about. Because it was Joanne’s mother that reacted negatively to what Lauren considers to be help, is a statement about how others will react to her preparations for surviving outside the wall. No doubt that more within the community would react as Joanne’s mother did.
Lauren’s thoughts during the conversation with her father reveal the reasons for her choosing this particular epigraph. She thinks, “…I think your world is coming to an end, and maybe you with it.” (Butler 62) She whole-heartedly believes that her information regarding survival is what will save those who live within the community. As she is met with resistance, from Joanne, from Joanne’s mother, and her own father, it is clear that the remainder of the community will probably react in a similar fashion, with severe resistance and anger. Without the skills that she is trying encourage them to learn, she believes that they will all, in fact, die if an emergency of catastrophic nature were to ever occur. Their resistance to her information suggests that they are at risk to die by fighting what Lauren believes to be necessary skills for survival.