Octavia Butler’s Dawn

“Your Earth is still your Earth, but between the efforts of your people to destroy it and ours to restore it, it has changed.” Book 1: Dawn; Section 1: Womb; Chapter 5; pp. 33-32.

This quote exemplifies what Octavia Butler’s stance is on human nature and what the purpose was in writing this series of works. Jdahya tells Lilith that although Earth still belongs to the humans in essence, humans tried to destroy each other and their own world. The Oankalis have tried to restore it so this is why they have a say in when the humans will be sent back to Earth, along with all the new lessons on culture and tradition that the humans are being trained to learn. I feel that Butler has a pessimistic view on human society based on what Dawn focuses on. Humans have waged a nuclear war on themselves and a foreign alien species is the one trying to save the remaining humans on Earth rather than allowing them to destroy each other. I find it very interesting how we have found ourselves at this point in the semester reading Butler’s work. All along we have speculated the dangers in technology and how computers having a mind of their own can be alarming. Eventually the technology might turn on the humans and take over, which is somewhat the reality we are currently living in. In this text, the humans have turned on each other and the only hopes in restoring Earth to a stable state is to have the aliens come in and save the day. They are erasing historical records and modifying cultures in order to make Earth “different.”

“Yet it talked about mixed settlements, Human and Oankali-trade-partner settlements within which ooloi would control the fertility and “mix” the children of both groups.” Book 1: Dawn; Section 4: The Training Room; Chapter 1; p. 200.

The development between the Humans and Oankalis is at an advanced level towards the end of the novel, as Lilith is going to breed together with an Oankali. This is despite the animosity that is taking place between the humans and Oankali. Clearly the humans have a reason to be upset and violent. They have been taken out of their environment by this alien species and are being brainwashed by one of their own (Lilith) in order to learn the differences that will take place on Earth. Butler is writing from the perspective that the Oankali are the good guys, the passive species that don’t want to fight and resist any altercations. In the first encounter with Lilith, we see Jdahya’s response to Lilith about hurting other humans. He says that his purpose is anything but harming humans. They are trying to help the humans (and themselves) by restoring what is left of the human population and Earth. The only reason for all this turmoil is the human population turning against itself in the first place. As a reader, you find yourself turning against the humans and taking the side of the Oankali.

The biggest development throughout the text is Lilith’s inquiry, as well as the reader’s, as to what sacrifice the Oankali are seeking in return for helping restore the human’s society and sending them back to Earth. As gene traders, they improve their own species by joining their genes with the races they encounter. I find this very similar to the development in Sleep Dealer and how Memo advances his body by getting nodes in order to work and support his family. It’s the idea that you can improve your own being by taking something away from someone else or using technological advancements to benefit yourself. Butler’s work gives us the sense that there is a possibility that transformation and progress will exist for our species, and perhaps another species, somewhere down the

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