Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, published 30 years ago in 1993, presents readers with a terrifying dystopian world that could feasibly become their own. The novel has been celebrated for daring to imagine how the problems society experiences now might catapult humanity into irreparable chaos in the not-too-distant future. In the year after its publication, Hoda Zaki argued that Parable is ‘a difficult read’ because ‘our own society is not far removed from the one Butler imagines’ (Zaki 1994, p. 37). Jumping forwards to 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic created worldwide havoc and fear, Rebecca Onion proposed that Butler’s novel ‘resonates now because the apocalypse [it] describe[s] is not singular but a series of them’ (Onion 2020).
The genius of Butler’s widely praised Parable of the Sower lies in its striking diary form. The choppy, intermittent nature in which the entries accumulate perfectly captures the frightening unpredictability of life in Butler’s dystopian twenty-first-century USA. More importantly, the diary form allows for the reader to become quickly and intimately familiar with Butler’s fierce young protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina. In thrusting Lauren so firmly into the spotlight, the diary seemingly promotes individualism rather than the collectivism championed by Earthseed, Lauren’s unique creed of eco-philosophy. However, Lauren’s diary confirms the importance of relying on others as it draws on voices other than Lauren’s own.
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