It is raining for the first time in six years. At church, the congregation joyfully sings hymns as thunder and lightning rage outside. People in the neighborhood put out buckets to collect the rainwater. The next day it is still raining, and Lauren runs outside, happily getting soaked. The day after that Lauren learns that Amy Dunn is dead. Lauren is in a state of shock, as she had come to feel close to Amy, making a habit of walking her home after school. Someone from outside the neighborhood shot through the metal wall, likely not aiming at anyone in particular but the “wealth and privilege” of the neighborhood in general. The wall is supposed to be bulletproof but is not entirely secure. Residents of the neighborhood hear gunfire constantly, and so no one would have immediately noticed the sound of the shot that killed Amy. Lauren had been planning on hosting a small party for Amy’s fourth birthday, which was only weeks away.
As the community’s reaction to the rain indicates, ordinary phenomena that many people in our present reality might take for granted are treated as an exceptional blessing in the world of the novel. This is further emphasized by the death of Amy. Lauren’s neighborhood may seem like a safe place where the residents are protected, but in reality this very security creates a risk of retaliation by those on the outside. The fact that Amy is an innocent toddler does not protect her from hostility and violence. Her tragic death highlights the utter ruthlessness of the world in which Lauren lives.
By the next day Amy’s body has already been cremated. Her mother, Tracy, never liked Amy but now cannot stop crying. The Dunn family has “spent money they do not have” trying to get the police to find Amy’s murderer, although this will realistically be impossible. Joanne comes over to have lunch in Lauren’s bedroom. Lauren loves the privacy of having her own room, especially considering that most houses in the neighborhood are overcrowded with people. Joanne points out that Lauren was one of the only people who cared about Amy. Lauren says that Amy’s death has revealed an undeniable truth—that Amy’s death is a “wake-up call” to the fate of the rest of the neighborhood. Joanne agrees with Lauren, but argues that there is nowhere to go. Joanne cannot afford college and won’t be able to get a job that would allow her to move out of her parents’ house.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Lauren has a profoundly different way of thinking to the rest of the people living in her neighborhood. The conditions of life in 2025 have caused most people to believe that they have no hope of changing or improving their own futures, and thus they resign themselves to simply struggling to survive and hoping for a better life after death. Although Joanne, like Lauren, is a young person with her whole life ahead of her, she is convinced that she will never be able to leave the neighborhood or even her parents’ house. Lauren, however, has a far more imaginative, proactive relationship to her future.
Lauren admits that she heard on the radio that cholera is spreading throughout the South, and that the drug that makes people want to commit arson is growing in popularity throughout the country. There are tornadoes in the South, a blizzard in the Midwest, and a measles epidemic on the East Coast. Joanne says her mother hopes that President Donner will make everything go back to “normal,” but the girls agree this will not happen. However, when Lauren says that they must take action in order to prepare for the future, Joanne balks and protests that at only 15, there is nothing they can do. Lauren insists that life in the neighborhood is not sustainable, and that one day people will “blast the gate open.” Joanne refuses to believe this. Lauren takes a bite of acorn bread—one of her favorite foods—yet cannot even taste it.
Throughout the novel, many characters place hope in figures that they believe will save them from the miserable reality of their lives, and these figures include God and President Donner. However, both Lauren and Joanne know that this is a hopeless position to take. This sense of hopelessness is emphasized when Lauren cannot even taste the acorn bread she is eating. Acorns are a symbol of hope and new life, but the conversation with Joanne makes Lauren feel disconnected from her sense of hope in her own future.
Joanne suggests that her mother may be right about Donner, but Lauren denies this, arguing that Donner is only a false symbol of hope. Lauren notes that during the bubonic plague, many people thought the world was ending. However, some of the survivors were able to see that the plague left a lot of land vacant and a large demand for workers, and took advantages of these opportunities.
Lauren argues that Joanne is denying the truth by placing hope in Donner and assuming that their neighborhood will be a safe and sustainable place to live forever.
Lauren shows Joanne a pile of books about survival in the wilderness, medical emergencies, and living off the land. She admits that she is alarmed by how little she knows, but adds: “I intend to survive.” Joanne replies that Lauren has been reading “too many adventure stories,” but Lauren insists that Joanne take her seriously. Joanne says that books won’t save them; Lauren responds that nothing will save them except themselves. She gives Joanne a book about plants and insists she read it. The next day, the rain stops, and Lauren wonders how many years it will be until it rains again.
While Lauren sees Joanne as being in denial, Joanne views Lauren’s interest in adaptation and survival as another kind of delusion, fed by reading “adventure stories.” This conflict highlights the fact that people find it difficult to understand the world around them and cope with reality. Of course, the world in which Joanne and Lauren live is a kind of post-apocalyptic adventure story, as The Parable of the Sower is, after all, a science fiction novel. Yet Joanne in particular remains in denial of the nature of their reality.