Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jodahs the Savior

The decision of Butler to change the narrative perspective from third to first in the final book is representative of the successful transition of the human species to human/Oankali constructs.  By revealing Jodahs’ thoughts and feelings, it shows the motivations of the Oankali as a whole as well as a movement away from individualism.  Jodahs story can  perhaps be seen as a story that future Oankali/human children  will hear to learn of the  triumph and  value  of their kind.
Jodahs as a construct represents the last real test to the Oakanli genetic engineering experiment with humans.  As an ooloi, it has incredible ability to create new life as well as to create diseases without effort.  The concern is that the construct ooloi will inherit the power as well as the desire and drive for power inherent in the human species.  However, Jodahs drive for power seems non –existent in comparison for its passion for companionship with the human species and its obsessive need to heal.  It discusses the inescapable desire to heal  when it sees Marina by saying “the pull of the female, injured, alone and  in no way related to me was overwhelming” and continues with “[t]he beauty of her flesh was my reward.  A foreign Human as incredibly complex as any Humans, as full of the Human Conflict […] She was like the fire-desirable and dangerous, beautiful and  lethal.  Humans never understood why Oankali found them so interesting”(Butler  577).  The use of first person here is important as these insights in to the motivations and desires of the new Oankali construct are important to witness how Jodahs is beyond the human contradiction.  Its description of the human being so appealing reflects how almost fully Oankali it is.  As well as when it interacts with this women, and refers to her Human Conflict, it shows that it sees itself as separate and not a part of that dilemma.  Jodahs shows both the Oankali passion and the recognition of the fatal flaw in humans.  In this way, access to its inner thoughts shows the reader the extent to which Jodahs as a construct is distinct mentally from humans.
            Another aspect that is present in the first person perspective in the third book is the fact that Jodahs is a movement towards the more Oankali way of interaction in which every being’s thoughts are known by anyone present. Jodahs experience is not its own as other Oankali, most often Nikanj are able to can’t help but sense it.  When Jodahs first finds out that it will become an  ooloi rather than a male construct it reflects “[t]here were times when I envied Humans their ability to shut off their sight by closing their eyes, shut off their understanding by some conscious act of denial that was beyond  me”(Butler 548).  This collective experience means that nothing is private and everyone  is  aware of everything.  The use of the first person may be a tool to show that the personal thoughts and struggles of Jodahs as the other Oankali would perceive it as well as how it would feel to Jodahs to have everything exposed every thought, pain, and desire.  Jodahs represents a construct that is much more collective in communication and experience than Lilith and other humans.  Even though the Oankali were able to sense the human emotions, they did not draw attention to the fact that they had access to their private thoughts and they relied more on verbal communication.
            The use of the first person in the telling of Jodahs story may be representative of the fact that its tale is one of success for the Oankali people.  Lilith is remembered as being the first human as well as saving Nikanji’s life.  But Jodahs may represent more of an  important figure in Oankali history as it proves  the triumph of the Oankali over the difficulties facing the transition of the human race into human constructs and overcoming the human contradiction.  The first person may help show this distinction by showing the importance of  preserving for further generations the inner feelings and emotions of the first ooloi construct.  It’s not hard to imagine that the last scene in the novel when Jodahs creates independent life as being an important moment in and if it were perhaps in traditional human history, would be painted on the walls of cathedrals for future generations of constructs (746).  In some ways Jodahs may represent almost a religious redeemer for the human constructs as it was still an experiments with Lilith and Akin.
            The use of the first person in the third book shows the success by revealing the inner thoughts of the ooloi construct as well as possibly better representing its individual experience.  Additionally the first person is important to the Oankali constructs as Jodahs story is the success of the human Oankali experiment and proves that life will continue for the constructs.
Butler, Octavia.  Lilith’s Brood. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1989.


  1. I think that you touch on several good ideas in this blog post. Any one of these ideas could be singled out and expanded on in a blog entry on their own. For a revision, I would suggest that you select just one, or maybe two of the arguments that you presented and expand greatly on them. I feel that this blog is lacking some focus; I found myself confused on what your main argument was. As soon as you touch on one of your arguments, you move on to the next one. There are many good ideas here, I just found myself wanting to hear more about them. I think that its better to have an expanded conversation on just one or two of these ideas, instead of a brief discussion of all of them. Overall, you present many fascinating ideas in this blog; with some focus, you could really present a great piece of work here. Good luck!

  2. How strange (but maybe weirdly fitting) to argue that a first person narrative is *less* individualistic! It's a bold beginning - I hope you make it work.

    One thing I was thinking in your second paragraph is that you *might* be arguing that Jodahs in some way fails to integrate humanity - it is so much the outsider and spectator (you seem to be arguing, and I follow your argument) that I wonder if your'e going far enough in your claims about it.

    The way I'd put your third paragraph is that Butler is asking the reader to see Jodahs as an Oankali in consensus mode would. This is clever, thoughtful, and worth a whole essay in itself, if you can pull it off. While this isn't any kind of obvious argument, I think that it's an interesting way of grappling with some of the novel's weirdness, and I admire the idea, even if the execution of it is far from complete.

    An interesting shift or almost contradiction here (especially at the end) is that you want Jodahs to be a savior and also a success story - these concepts are rather different, with the first being more human and the second more Oankali, I think. I like both, but I think you need to clarify which one you mean, or develop a relationship between them.

    I found the whole thing somewhat less scattered the Jesse did, but he had a point; in particular, my favorite argument (that the reader is essentially dropped into an Oanaklia pov) is just barely related to the other arguments. At least some streamlining is in order - freeing up more room for discussion of the text.

    There is a lot of good material here, and you're working effectively to move beyond some of the summarization issues you struggled with, e.g,, in the revision.