Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Prompt 1: Home

Prompt 1: Home

Take one moment from the text where an Oankali offers what you see as an interesting or credible critique/reversal/undermining of our received wisdom, explain how that critique or alternative is presented, and then evaluation from your own point of view (you might make use of Lewontin or Darwin here, but that's strictly optional).  You might argue, for instance, that the imagined Oankali alternative is a kind of vision of the future toward which we should aspire.

In the novel Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler the main character, a human Lilith, is confronted by many new and strange ways of thinking while adapting to a new life on an alien spaceship. These ideas often contradict wisdom/ advice we have received on earth. I believe Octavia Butler uses this as a device to allow us to question our fundamental ideals, and norms we’ve created to live our lives by. She believes we need to question how we could reach our full potential as a species if we got to start over. It allows us to view normally positively viewed social constructs in a critical light.
After Lilith has meet her first alien Jdahya she tries to get her many questions answered. She realizes they are on a ship and asks questions about his home planet. She starts, “‘Why can’t you go back to your homeworld?’ she asked. ‘It…still exists, doesn’t it?’ He seemed to think for a moment. ‘We left it so long ago…I doubt that it does still exist.’ ‘Why did you leave?’ ‘It was a womb. The time had come for us to be born’” (Butler 37).  Here we are able to put in comparison Jdahya’s specie’s indifference to their home planet, and Lilith’s extreme desire to return to earth. Lilith as can be expected reminisces about her life on earth just like many people probably would. There are a huge number of movies and books about humans resorting to space after earth has become to populated or polluted. Many of these are focused around Humans potentially one day returning to our home planet. We have turned the idea of a permanent home into a sentimental anchor. The Oankali obviously don’t suffer this affliction. Jadahya explains they grew their ship and that the ship will soon be divided in three ways and the Oankali will be to. Lilith seems surprised and asks if Jadahya will ever see the other ships and aliens again. He says no. Jadahya seems less dedicated to a permanent idea of a community and home.
People have a tendency to settle down. There is no longer the need to migrate. Technology has made it possible for us to have permanent homes. It is usually a goal to find a home because apparently “there’s no place like home”. Why do we feel the need to settle down? It is because of the images presented to us about what a home represents: comfort, stability, and love. We’ve discussed in class the burden agriculture and settlement has had. Agriculture is the origin of disease and epidemics. So what would our planet, species, and lives be like without settlement? It is an impossible question to answer. For the Oankali home would offer none of the comfort it gives us. The Oankali don’t need homes because of their need to pursue knowledge. Their travel is a necessity of life because knowledge is a necessity of life. The idea of a home is a sentimental construction that isn’t practical for the survival of their species. A home would tie the Oankali back from progress of their knowledge and diversity in their genetics.

Octavia Butler calls into question the value of our ideas of home. Do they hold us back? Do they make us weaker then we would be if we had more diversity in our lives? Would we as a species be better without them? All of these are impossible to answer right now, but if we set out again as a species just as Lilith and the other humans have to what would we do differently. To recolonize the earth they would have to be focused completely on survival, so would homes make the cut? I don’t think so. Homes are a completely sentimental construct with no evolutionary value. They caused many health problems, and could be holding us back from our true potential as the human race. The Oankali do better without them, and I think we do to.

1 comment:

  1. Your first paragraph is almost a restatement of the prompt (which you also pasted right above it). Why? We want your *specific* ideas at the beginning of your essay.

    Your start seems messy and unfocused. Nonetheless, it has merit. “We have turned the idea of a permanent home into a sentimental anchor. The Oankali obviously don’t suffer this affliction.” - This idea is a great starting point, one which surely is close to a thesis. If you had a response to this sentimental anchoring, or even could simply say what Butler is doing with that sentimental anchoring (is she attacking it, for instance?) that would be a thesis.

    You do eventually clarify that you intend to use Butler to question or even attack our sentimental ideas about home (whether individually or focused on the earth itself, I think). I think that’s a fine idea, and one I’d like to see a developed essay focus upon. But at this point you’re showing us brainstorming more than a polished essay. Where, for instance, is the fact that Oankali, at least in a sense, take their highly engineered and perfected homes with them wherever they go? Have they abandoned the concept of home or transformed it? Have they really escaped from all the dangers involved in agriculture and settlement (their only environment in space is one under their total control...)

    Short version: good idea, but with very little development. You need to work with the details of the text, especially with the parts that pose a challenge to your admittedly interesting argument.


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