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My question is of the way Jdahya explains history. He says that the remnants of the old humanity was destroyed, or what remained after the war. He says most of it, anyway was destroyed, except for places where radiation was strongest. Why did they do this? Because they wanted humanity to start anew. But why must humanity start again, not just pick up the pieces from where they left off? Are the Oankali just going around, waiting for worlds to be destroyed and then they intervene? Why not intervene before the world in question blows itself up? What will the future people of earth find when the parts of their history not destroyed are finally exploitable? Are Oankali just fixers of biological type? So many questions, such a good book.
The book itself was more interesting than I expected, though it wasn't much for the plot or characters or anything. I'm less interested in the general unfolding of the events (which I was generally not too interested in), and more in the completely alien morality of the Oankali. I'm interested in that sort of thing, because the idea of morality and "what is right" had always been a strange topic to me, and it was always fun to look at different moralities, and to see the logic behind them. And, like other moralities, there is a certain logic behind the Oankali's actions, even if by our morality it would be considered "wrong". From what it looks like so far, they seem to prioritize survival above everything else, rather than history or tradition, seeing as how they modified the humans with the sole "goal" of making them more long lived, and they "traded" so that they could use what they received (cancer) to increase their longevity.
The idea of free will in “Lilith’s Brood” interests me. The Oankali are constantly telling Lilith that she has the ability to choose what she wants to do. Nikanj even tells her that if she would like, he would help her kill herself. They are portraying themselves as protectors rather than captors, but does Lilith or any other human really have free will while living among the Oankali? Lilith finds herself becoming dependent on them and acknowledges that dependency is their goal, stating that even though she was trying to enjoy her new ”freedom,” she “had to come back” to take care of Nikanj because she was forced to become connected to it (Butler, 104). If she was manipulated into caring about Nikanj, does she really have free will? The same goes for Titus, who’s DNA was stolen to be used in creating more than seventy children (Butler, 95). He did not freely give away his DNA, it was taken from him without his consent. How would this be free will? Whether the Oankali are morally correct in what they are doing or not, they are trying to put on a façade that simply isn’t representative of what they’re actually doing.
This is definitely my favorite novel so far that we have read. I find the story mysterious and the characters deep and they have grown quite a bit in such short time. A couple things I find most interesting is that the Oankali are such a determined race to fix and restore humanity and how they don’t believe in a hierarchal system. Yet, in the outer shell of the story as a race, they are very hypocritical for they constrain humanity (with many exceptions) and even within themselves the ooloi are above the male and female genders. I am tempted to call the Oankali treatment of humanity slavery because of so many constraints Lilith has until she fulfills her duties to the Oankali but in the end she will have the choice to go to Earth or stay with her ‘family.’ So are humans slaves to the Oankali?
Something I find interesting about this book so far is the idea of humans as prisoners. In our current society, humans are at the top of the pyramid--both in measures of intelligence and the food chain. Yet as a result of an apocalyptic event, the few surviving humans are at the mercy of the Oankali. Lilith's reaction to this role-reversal is one mixed with anger and vulnerability. As Jdhaya escorts Lilith outside of her "cage," she thinks, "He wanted her dependent. That was the reason for her continued isolation from her own kind. She was to be dependent on an Oankali--dependent and trusting. To hell with that!" (Butler 40). This also gives the reader insight on Lilith's personality. Everyone deal with crisis and unfamiliarity differently so this is a good opportunity Butler takes for character development.The intentions of the Oankali also seem very unclear. They have kept the remaining humans in isolation, keeping them healthy, performing procedure, and even removing Lilith's malignant cancer. However, it comes to light that the Oankali intend to breed with the humans. What is their benefit from doing this? Do they have good intentions? Are they gentle creatures? So far, the answers to these questions remain foggy and the world of the Oankali vague.
From what I have read so far, it appears that Butler takes the same standpoint as Lewontin. She believes that genes are only one of multiple factors that contribute to the world that humans live in. To see that Butler argues for the idea that more than just genes sculpt the world we live in, we can look at the quote "It isn't simple, and it isn't a gene or two. It's many-the result of a tangled combination of factors that only begins with genes". This quote clearly shows that genes are only a piece of the puzzle that makes up what the world is. While some would argue that genes are the sole foundation on which everything is structured, from the composition of our bodies, to the way we interact with each other, to the way our world is today, politically, economically and socially. They claim all of it is a direct result of our genes. But here is another book that argues that genes are merely a component, and that it is not the only one.
Some parts of this book remind me of a play I read senior year called No Exit. It was very different then this book, but some of the elements they discuss on human nature are very similar. “No Exit” discusses a group of people who go to “hell”. They are stuck in stuck in a room with no windows, doors, or mirrors with the furniture all stuck in place. They can’t close their eyes rest, get space from the others, or really interact with anything but each other. They all have to watch the people they love get over them. In the end they all go insane. Obviously Lilith’s room in the beginning is an easy connection to make, but they also talk about themes of isolation. The aliens also can never shut off their sensors or rest just like the peoples eyes in “No Exit”. There are weird similarities in the book about characteristics of nature of what it is to be human, and what humans would view as purgatory.
One thing I noticed while reading this week, was a connection between Butler's writing and Margret Atwood's "A Handmaids Tail", a dystopia novel that toys with concepts of feminism and misogyny. Specifically, in the very beginning of Butler, when Lilith wakes up disoriented with an intense awareness that what is happening in the present moment is a stark contrast from the past saying, "She had decided that reality was whatever happened, whatever she perceived. It had occurred to her--how many times?--that she might be insane or drugged, physically ill or injured," (Butler 5).Atwood's female main character Ofred, who is around the same age as Lilith, and has similar experiences often reflecting on what she remembers of the past and what she knows of the present. Not to say that this connection is necessarily strengthened by further reading of Butler especially in terms of plot, I think it is worth mentioning and is something I will be keeping in mind with further reading.
On page 111, Butler touches on human genetics in culture. Kahguyaht believed that "because of the way human genetics were expressed in culture, a human male should be chosen to parent the first group, I think now that I was wrong." Lewontin discussed this heavily throughout "Biology as Ideology." I find it interesting how the Oankali, for as advanced and observant they are, thought that gender dominance was influenced by genetics. The reference to Lilith being a Judas goat on page 67 also caught my attention. A Judas goat is often used to lead herds to slaughter while their life is spared. I wonder if this is just a metaphor made in passing or if it is foreshadowing future events.
I find this book to be the most interesting out of all the books we have read. What I found interesting particularly is the way Butler presents humans as prisoners. In a way, they are free prisoners. In the grand scheme of things, the humans are being held captive by the Oankali. However, the Oankali give the humans, to an extent, free will within the ship. It almost reminds me of a relationship between a child and their parent. The child may do as they please, yet they must ask their parents permission so the parent can drive them to wherever they would like to go. The humans on the ship can do what they like, but they must have the Oankali open the walls for them.
Throughout the reading I've been catching a lot of animal-rights oriented undertones. Lilith constantly compares her plight to that of a captive animal. She draws comparisons between the Oankali's enslavement of humans to humans' enslavement of animals. Such comparisons seem to intend to incite an emotional reaction and empathy towards animals and animal cruelty. I certainly don't think that this is the main theme of the book, but it seems recurring enough as to be significant.
I think it is extremely interesting that so much time is used to discuss cancer, and it's benefits to the Ooloi. It is intriguing that something so deadly and vicious in our society can be twisted by Butler to be beneficial, and sometimes a blessing, to the alien race. This was especially captivating because it can teach them more about the limits of their existence, as well as understanding what they will become as soon as the 'crossbreeding' is complete. This leads to the other thing that I think is unique about this book. The Oankali become completely separate species whenever they 'trade' their genetic information with others. This limits their ability to have a hierarchically structured society since there is no competition between members of the race to further their own genetic material. Overall, it is definitely an interesting and unique book, but I am still unclear as to what I think the author is going for.
This reading was far more interesting than the other books that we have read so far. I was really surprised by the lack of control humans have, which is extraordinarily apparent at the end of Dawn, when Lilith is unknowingly impregnated. However I was glad that the Oankali gave her Nikanj. Though initially, Lilith is repulsed by the sight of Nikanj, she watched Nikanj grow and develop and so it kind of becomes her support system.Even through her attempted escape and loss of lover, Nikanj wants to help her. And in the end Nikanj seems to be the only reason she survives. Its a tragic relationship, built isolation and coercion. But it seemed to have make the relationship stronger.I found it amazing that one person could think of such an elaborate species and then create a complete trilogy about said species.
I really am interested in this Sci-Fi type of book and I thought the part about cancer really sparked my attention. The fact that they can completely remove a tumor or cancer from a human body and place it within themselves is just purely fascinating. Something that can be so deadly and harmful to humans can be so beneficial and important to the ooloi. I also thought it was very interesting how humans can naturally "attach" themselves to something so foreign and mystical. For example, even though Jdahya was so scary to Lilith, she immediately attached herself to him and used him as a safety blanket. Overall, I think this is such a different book then what we have been reading. But all of these books seem to intertwine in a certain way, whether its about nature or genes or different views on human interactions.
I think a very interesting aspect of Lilith's brood is jdahya's similarities to human character. The closer Lilith gets to Jdahya the more he transforms emotionally to act humanely- with feelings over scientific factual coldness. This transformation could play a significant role when the Ooloi start to interbreed with humans or simply with Lilith's journey with being captured.
When beginning this book I found it slightly harder to get into being that it is very different from works such as Lewontin and Butler. I found this piece much more interesting and engaging than what we have read in the past being that it wasn't a clear attack on other's values and ideas as the others have been at times; Butler's personal opinions are implicitly seen throughout the reading but he doesn't come off conceded at all. I find it interesting that when you begin reading the first chapter you have no idea what the setting or plot is going to be. I really like how Butler slowly introduces the topics of human nature and brings to light natural reactions and behaviors of humans through Lilith's reaction to Jdahya and his people. As well, I enjoyed discovering the varying ideals of humans and Oankali.
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