The conflict seen between Lilith and the people she Awakens is based on the questioning of her humanity. While the other humans are "afraid she is not human" (Butler, 180), there are reasons other than fear that can lead one to question Lilith's humanity. How do we define humanity? If our definition is that to be human one must have a certain alignment of DNA, then Lilith is certainly not human due to the alterations Nikanj applies to her. If to be human is to think and behave like the majority of humans, then she is still not human. Lilith is an intermediary between the Oankali and the humans. She doesn't fit in with the humans and she doesn't quite belong with the Oankali either, so what exactly should we call her?
My question is, hierarchy or not? Because the Oankali certainly have made one if you look at it from a few angles. The Oankali are now the one with the biggest stick, but they have an arguable hierarchy within themselves between ooloi and male/female genders. The ooloi have special powers which the male and females do not have which could make them, in a good number of situations the most powerful Oankali. So the hierarchy thus far is:1. Ooloi2. Male and Female Oankali3. Lilith (with her altered strength, healing, and wall movement powers)4. Joesph (with slightly less Oankali alteration but still more powerful than regular humans)5. All the other terrified/drugged humans going with the flow6. The new weird (and old) animals and plantsNow the positions in this hierarchy could be a bit negotiable, but from a few viewpoints, this is how the novel develops roles. Weren't the Oankali supposed to eliminate this need for hierarchy? Why did they make Lilith leader and give her and Joseph abilities and unique experiences? Could Dawn be impossible for a human to write in a non-hierarchical way simply because that part of humans runs too deep? Could an Oankali even be non-hierarchical?
At the end of “Dawn” Lilith becomes somewhat the opposite of what she always said she was going to be. When she met with Paul Titus, he explained to her why he thinks going back to Earth is not a good idea and staying with the Oankali is the smart decision. During this same encounter Lilith swore that all she wanted to do was go back to Earth and had yet understood Paul’s connection with the Oankali. Well, after the events of the fight and being left behind by the other humans, Lilith now seems to wonder if she fits in better with the Oankali because she cares for them more, specifically Ninkaj. This leads me into my question about Lilith’s pregnancy – can someone explain better about how her daughter and Ninkaj’s child are connected? Is it simply the fact that they are Oankali or is there some special connection that I missed in the reading?
So early in this assigned reading, Lilith has caught the Oankali in a lie. What's even more interesting is that Butler explicitly wrote that so readers would take special notice. "What the hell did Nikanj want anyway? Why couldn't it stay out as it said it would. There: She had finally caught it in a lie. She would not forgive it if that lie destroyed Joseph's feelings for her." (Butler 151). This is the first time an Oankali has not been truthful with Lilith, even if the purpose of the visit is to give Joseph some enhanced abilities. Butler clearly points the lie out to us, and my question is why does she do that? I understand that it is significant that the Oankali have lied, but what is Butler's reason for definitively pointing it out for us?
A more philosophical question that I've taken from the reading thus far, is the idea of nature vs. nurture in the face of isolation from your species. Throughout the reading we see Lilith, whom I personally find to be rather calm in the face of her situation, becoming less inclined towards "humanity". An example of this is her hesitation in Awakening the humans seen on page 117, "She did not want to Awaken anyone. She was afraid of these people and afraid for them. There were so many unknowns, in spite of the information in the dossiers." (Butler 117). Although one could argue that Lilith has become rather conditioned (a very human quality) to the customs of the Oankali, I personally think that being exposed to so little of "humanity" as she knew it has caused her to adopt a less "human" state of mind. Furthering the idea that perhaps humanity is less nature and more nurture in the face of isolation, given that she is hesitant to wake those of her kind, and is becoming more and more attached to Ninkaj.
I find it interesting that upon the death of Peter, his ooloi went into a catatonic state yet, upon the death of Joseph, Nikanj does not seem effected. While it asks Lilith to share her pain with him, it does not exhibit the same biological effect as the other ooloi who have lost their humans. This may just be me looking for an Oankali conspiracy. However, throughout the reading Lilith has become more accepting of the Nikanj and has gradually allowed it to preform more genetic alterations to her and "pleasure" her despite her very firm opposition in the beginning. It seems to me that Nikanj has gradually coerced Lilith into sharing it's ideology. She no longer puts up much resistance against it or questions it. When she does it seems to persuade her physically by wrapping it's sensory arm around her neck. I found it incredibly suspicious when Nikanj revealed to Lilith that he had made her pregnant. Especially since it did not consult her in any way and had previously told her that she could not get pregnant until she was altered back to fertility. This means Nikanj made these alterations without her knowledge which is something the younger Nikanj refused to do.
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On page 48, Butler touches on what I think to be is human nature and predisposed thoughts when addressing first impressions and expectations. Butler says, "...she did not like the ooloi. It was smug and tended to treat her condescendingly... And in spite of Jdahya's claim that the Oankali were not hierarchical, the ooloi seemed to be the head of the house." To me, this stands out as a reference to a human's inability to shy away from thinking of things in the light of earthly society. Although Jdahya spent six days speaking of the morals, goals and priorities of his people, Lilith seems unable to believe that a society exists where everyone is equal. At first limited interaction she has already created a social pyramid of the Oankali, where ooloi are on top.
I think it’s interesting how the book deals with sexism. It is especially apparent when Lilith starts to awaken people. By looking at the people’s relationships we can see some inferiority between men and women. There are certain hegemonic stereotypes that are enforced not just by the men, but the women too. It’s interesting how they characterize Lilith as a man for her strength. Some also expect the men to take on a protecting role. It can also be taken back to the rape scene in the beginning of the book. I think that it’s not addressed as an issue of hierarchy by Lilith and the Oankali is the author making a statement about how we as a community view sexism. I think Octavia butler is trying to address how we don’t take sexism as seriously as we do things like war and racism. We don’t acknowledge it as an injustice or, if we do, not a very big one.In general I don’t exactly understand the dynamic of the awakening process. I understand people who fight will stay behind on the ship. I get how this eliminates a certain amount of violence, but this does not eliminate hierarchy. I know we have realized its impossible to eliminate hierarchy from humans, but they almost enforce it with the strength and leadership Lilith has.
Lilith is named Lilith for a reason. It's a famous name, even if it's one you don't see very often. Of course, there's a good reason for that, seeing as how the original Lilith was a demon in Abrahamic mythology. That being so, there has to be some reason she's named the way she is, because I highly doubt it was just some happy coincidence devoid of any symbolism.Apparently (and I'm no expert on religious texts), Lilith was the first wife of Adam, special in that God fashioned her out of Earth like Adam, unlike Eve who was fashioned from his rib. She gets casted out of Eden for saying God's true name, and couples with Samael, considered an evil archangel. She was the snake who tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. The problem is connecting this legend to the character in the novel.I can see a few connections, but not many. For one, I can't see how's the Adam, Eve, Samael, and so on. It would honestly depend on Butler's stance on this transhumanism topic. It also depends heavily on who takes the seat of God. The Oankali are the most obvious candidate, considering their seemingly complete control of the "world", the ship. However, that doesn't quite fit seeing as how Lilith is the only one who "allies" with them, contrary to the mythological Lilith. You could also make the point that the concept of "humanity" is God, and Lilith, who couples with the inhuman, the Oankali, betrays humanity. She also tries to convince people to comply with the Oankali, in the way Lilith convinces Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of knowledge. Yet, even so, everyone still rejects her in the end.The interpretation also depends on Butler's view on Lilith's myth itself, considering it's a controversial one. Some see her as a demon, and some see her as someone to be admired. Really, there are tons of interpretations of the symbolism for Lilith's myth in this book, considering the many perspectives with which you can view it. However, I'm leaning towards the idea that "humanity" is the God, and the Oankali's engineering the forbidden fruit.I got the mythology information here: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/lilith/
There seems to be an unsettling theme of slavery in Dawn specifically but at the same time I don't think you can directly correlate the connection like slavery in our history. Lilith is held against her will without clothes forced to eat rationed portions and told what her future will be this all sounds a lot like what slaves were put through. However there is a slight difference because the Oankali have humanity's interest at hand whereas slavery in our history was a very selfish, unethical and unmoral institution. This brings up another physiological question where do you draw the line? Is the Oankali's captivity really any better than how we held slaves captive in the past?
I think that the hierarchical system is pretty important because of the fact that Oankali think it is such a detrimental part of human society to have any sort of system in place. I know it probably isn’t too much to add, but it got me thinking about how they are further falling into the hierarchical system (since there’s evidence to show that they already had a basic one set up, where the Ooloi are at the top), due to the fact that by keeping Lilith in the dark and not being completely honest with her. It’s almost as if purposefully withhold information from her, and by doing this, they inadvertently raise themselves up on a platform which becomes the basis to a stronger and more defined hierarchical structure within their own society. My hesitations about interbreeding between the two species are further enforced because it seems that when the Oankali mix with other beings, they absorb absolutely everything from the interaction, including the seemingly detrimental aspects that they work so hard to prevent and diminish. I may be running in a completely unanswerable philosophical circle, but it feels like the Oankali are hypocritical in the sense that they are biased enough to judge other species on their ways of life, vain enough to call their own methods better, and ignorant enough to fall into the trap mimicking the human’s faults. In my opinion, it is more dangerous and stupid to be biased, vain, and ignorant (along with many other things), than being intelligent and having a hierarchy. In this way, it is their self-assuredness that could be their downfall.
I am very interested in the intentions of the Oankali. While collectively, as Lilith's captors, they seem like the bad guys, the care and insights of individual characters like Nikanj make the Oankali seem like much a much more humane species. I think this contrast between the actions of the individual, and even further, the obvious differences between Nikanj and Kahguyaht, and greater society is noteworthy. Nikanj mentions that, as a young ooloi, she is unable to influence the more powerful, decision-making Oankali. This tension between the individual versus society seems to be building throughout the novel.
While finishing "Dawn", I found that Butler seems to portray Lilith as being treated like a child. Lilith states to the Awakeners that they are constantly being listened to and watched. It seems as though the Oankali do not trust her and want to monitor her every move. They want to make sure that she is not doing anything suspicious that can affect the way they want to control her. In a way, she also seems to be portrayed as a slave (not our historical definition of slave) but rather she is forced to stay in an isolated room and follow everything the Oankali tell her to do.
The ending of Dawn, really frustrated me. I just can't understand how the Oankali can give and take hope away from Lilith so ruthlessly. They completly ignore all her requests, even though she is coerced into following instructions and aids the Oankali, against all her beliefs. She begins to care for Nikanj and I felt like that was exploited by the Oankali. It was the lack of free will and basically crushing of all hope that really turned me against the oankali. With that being said, I feel that the Oankali have some good intentions, just the method of execution is too harsh and somewhat ineffective.
Throughout the second half of Dawn I became very interested in the relationship between Lilith and Nikanj. While I once described the relationship like a child and their parent, I have begun to feel as though it is more like slavery at this point. Lilith makes many requests which are not met, she is forced to awaken so many people, and she must teach the people about the Oankali. It seems as though she is not trusted by Nikanj, however she still trusts Nikanj very much. Even though she caught Nikanj in a lie like she had hoped, she still obeys Nikanj's requests and gladly seeks "pleasure" from Nikanj. I am confused as to how Lilith still has so much faith in the Oankali.
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