Use-castes are ways of dividing people into how useful they will be during a Fifth Season. For example, members of the Resistant use-caste are supposed to be better at surviving famines, Breeders are selected for being healthy and having desirable physical traits, Innovators are meant to be intelligent problem-solvers, and Strongbacks are used for heavy labor. Even outside of a Season almost all citizens of the Stillness use their use-caste as a second name, inheriting it from their parent of the same sex, as useful traits are supposedly passed down most successfully in this way. Damaya is born a Strongback, then is referred to as Orogene at the Fulcrum, and when she becomes Essun she takes the use-name of Resistant.
Use-caste Term Timeline in The Fifth Season
The timeline below shows where the term Use-caste appears in The Fifth Season. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: you, at the end
Chapter 2: Damaya, in winters past
Chapter 5: you’re not alone
Chapter 6: Damaya, grinding to a halt
...and came out with his bodyguard, Shemshena. Shemshena was a skilled warrior of the Innovator use-caste who had studied orogenes and the way orogeny worked. Before Misalem arrived, she had evacuated... (full context)
Chapter 7: you plus one is two
Chapter 13: you’re on the trail
Chapter 15: you’re among friends
...Rogga Castrima, and Essun and Tonkee are both surprised to hear “rogga” used as a use-caste name, considering its negative implications. Tonkee, clearly fascinated by Ykka, also comments that Castrima is... (full context)
Chapter 21: you’re getting the band back together
...professions, and even more by being a trans girl, as the members of the Leadership use-caste “breed among themselves” via arranged marriages. Her family finally decided to “bury” her at the... (full context)