Friday, January 21, 2011

Steps Toward Change

Most of the verses that Lauren has written are about her religious ideology, whether it is directly stated or not. The verse at the start of Chapter 14 is,

In order to rise
From its own ashes
A phoenix
Burn. (153)

Lauren strongly believes in change whether it is for an individual or society. This helps her to keep moving during challenging times. When her father disappeared, she realized that her life had changed from what she had always known and decided to adapt. She stepped up and led the community in church and motivated them all to persist and never give up. Lauren also became a leader when she teamed up with Harry and Zahra in their quest to head north.

The chapter following the verse is the one where Lauren describes the destruction of the community. She lost all of her friends and family and chose to move on. Just like the phoenix, she suffered from her past but she will rebuild and change into a stronger person. Although, not every bird is a phoenix. In other words, not everyone can successfully change or be a victim of a traumatic event and rebuild. For example, Mrs. Sims eventually killed herself after so much loss and suffering.

Before the community was burnt down and Lauren had no other option but to venture north, she was planning on leaving. In order for Lauren to rebuild and change, that change must first be sparked by an idea or event. This goes along with another verse of hers,

Initiates and guides action -
Or it does nothing. (47)

Newton's first law states that an object will remain at rest unless another force acts upon it. Some people fear change and unless they are forced to change or adapt, they will remain the same. Change needs to be initiated, which can usually be from a belief, goal, or desire. Lauren first starts to think that her life in the community will not last forever after Amy was shot through the door to their fortress. Lauren realizes that forces are growing stronger on the outside and that the walls will one day fall. Amy's death was the beginning of the initiation for Lauren's change, but it ultimately began after the large fire.

A group or society needs someone to lead them in order to change as a whole. Lauren and her father are the ones who do this. Reverend Olamina was the person who organized the watch system after the increase in robberies. He also gave advice and comforted people within the community. Lauren maintains this after her father disappears, though not to the same extent. She finds a way to alleviate some of the questions and doubts that the people had after the loss of their leader as well as helping them to continue in their lifestyle. Although she tells them to persist, the disappearance of Reverend Olamina starts people to really think about the outside world and how long they might be able to last, even though they will not have much time to think this through and change as a unit.

Belief can also do nothing if it is not a strong one or if it is not accepted. This is seen with Joanne, who refuses to believe and act upon Lauren's advice. Joanne would not have changed much, if at all, if not for her family deciding to move to Olivar. Joanne did not understand what was really going on outside and that their community will one day cease to exist. Marcuse discussed this in One Dimensional Man where he stated, "All liberation depends on the consciousness of servitude, and the emergence of this consciousness is always hampered by the predominance of needs and satisfactions which, to a great extent, have become the individual's own". He talks about the question: how can someone want or initiate change if they do not realize that they are not really free or that their "happiness" has been imposed on them by another force?

Lauren's belief in that God is change is what keeps her living and motivated to survive. This belief causes her to act and never give up, even after such trying events. Her religion is her initiation to change as well as what maintains it. After the loss of her home, community, and everyone she loves, she will rebuild from her ashes and become even stronger than before.


  1. Chelsea,

    You and I wrote about very similar things, so much so that I think you ought to read mine (just before yours) to get another view interpretation of Lauren’s change.
    I like how you addressed the issue of when her will for change was initiated. I think it started a lot earlier than when Amy was shot, however. She had been writing in her journals for some time (long before she named it Earthseed). I think it was the necessity/urgency for change that was forced on her by those traumatic events you mentioned. I referenced the second verse you did, too! It’s meaning is only trumped by how true it is. Joanne is an interesting factor in the story. Because she’s a close friend to Lauren, it must have been hard for her to see Joanne unwilling or afraid to change. I also think that, though, it may have been a worse situation than the community, Joanne still had a chance to survive because she was changing in at least some way. I disagree with you in a way when you said that Lauren helped to lead the people. After her father’s death, she gave his “funeral” speech, but had no (apparent) part in trying to change the community towards her ideals or even leading for that matter. If anyone was going to do such a thing, it would have been her father – and he was dead. I think a lot of her spirit is wiped out with his passing, as shown by the fact that she admits later to have not practiced her “grab-and-go” routine for some time before the fire. Also, and I can barely criticize her for this, but she still didn’t have a gun.
    As an aside, Lauren incorporates a lot of different ideologies to create Earthseed; God, the Pheonix (Egyptian mythos?), space travel, adaptation, etc. Do you think her community would have accepted such bizarre and diverse ideas?

  2. I found this essay very scattered, but also, especially in particular moments, very rich. The insight about Marcuse was excellent, and it could have been the foundation of an essay by itself. I was also struck by this much earlier line: "not every bird is a phoenix." It's a smart, provocative response to Lauren's faith: you're pointing out the fact (which she would by no means disagree with) that very often, change=death and change=destruction. Now, maybe this was something of a throwaway line, if good one, and you had no particular plans for it. But maybe it's the gem of an idea worth developing: either you could attack her religion for being a kind of faith of disaster, which almost embraces mass death as an agent of change, or that embraces it precisely because it is designed to cope with disaster, and somehow extract something positive out of it.

    Why do I say so much about one line? Because the essay as it stands has a range of rich, undeveloped ideas - and nonetheless, seems dangerously close to not really saying anything as a whole. The observations you end the essay with, that her faith is what keeps her strong, is painfully obvious, for instance. You don't want to say interesting, complicated things as the support for a banal and obvious point: you want to say interesting and complicated things as a way of building up an even more complicated and interesting argument.

    In response to both you and Jordan, especially his last point. The following technical term is very relevant to the question which Jordan is raising: Syncretism.