The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

by

N. K. Jemisin

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Themes and Colors
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Fifth Season, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice

N.K. Jemisin’s science fantasy novel The Fifth Season takes place in a world that often experiences apocalyptic periods called Fifth Seasons. These “Seasons” can be separated by hundreds or even thousands of years, and most are extended winters caused by massive seismic activity of some kind. The inhabitants of this volatile and dangerous world live on a single massive continent called the Stillness, which is ruled by the remnants of the Sanzed Empire and…

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Disaster, Violence, and Survival

The Stillness, the supercontinent that is the primary setting for The Fifth Season, is a world constantly in danger of disaster. The complete collapse of civilization is always possible due to the apocalyptic conditions of its periodic “Fifth Seasons,” which could come at any time. This reality has led society to prioritize survival above all else—and violence is generally seen as a necessary aspect of that equation, as during Seasons, only some…

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Freedom

The hierarchical society of the Stillness limits the freedoms of many of its citizens in various ways. Nearly everyone is divided into “use-castes” that determine from birth the roles that they are assigned to within their communities, and orogenes are denied their humanity and only allowed to use their abilities under the control of the Fulcrum, a self-contained order policed by the deadly Guardians. While conceding that some structure is necessary for…

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Power and Control

In the science fantasy world of The Fifth Season, certain beings wield incredible physical power over others through their inborn orogenic power. Orogenes are able to manipulate and enhance kinetic energy to affect seismic activity, setting off or quelling earthquakes and volcanoes or drawing life from everything around them within a certain radius. The fact that certain members of the population possess these abilities and others do not raises the immediate issue of when…

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History, Storytelling, and Knowledge

The society of the Stillness is shaped by its perception of its own history, which is mostly passed down through the Sanzed Empire’s own records and also through stonelore, the ancient commandments intended to help society survive through Fifth Seasons. Although most of the citizens of the Stillness consider such knowledge as true, timeless, and literally written in stone, it is revealed throughout the novel that stonelore is, like any human document, actually…

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Identity and Naming

The major structural conceit of The Fifth Season is that the protagonist is initially presented as three different characters, each with her own plotline, and only towards the novel’s end is it made explicitly clear that all three characters are actually the same person—Damaya as a young girl, Syenite as a young woman in her twenties, and Essun as a woman in her forties. She takes these new names after experiencing a major traumatic…

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