Parable of the Sower

Fire Symbol Analysis

Fire Symbol Icon

Fire is the most prominent force of destruction in the novel. All over the country, communities are destroyed by fires—including, eventually, Lauren’s neighborhood. Part of the significance of fire is that it can be both a natural and man-made force. Many of the fires raging across the country occur naturally, as a result of climate changed-induced drought, storms, and extreme heat waves. However, others are started on purpose by arsonists, including addicts of the drug known as pyro. This drug, which is mentioned frequently throughout the book, makes the experience of watching a fire burn “better than sex” and thus encourages addicts to burn everything in sight. The comparison between arson—an act of destruction—and sex, which (at least in a biological sense) is an act of creation, is testament to the perversion of humanity in the world of the novel.

The destruction caused by fire is generally shown to be total and irrevocable—as soon as Lauren’s neighborhood burns down, for example, she, Harry, and Zahra flee, knowing that the community in which they once lived will never exist again. On the other hand, there are also references to the idea of the “phoenix”: new life rising from the ashes of fire. This is especially true on Acorn, the Earthseed community formed on the remains of Bankole’s farmland at the end of the novel. Although Bankole’s farmhouse and family have been destroyed by fire, the community plant seeds in the land that remains, a reminder that even ash can provide the “good ground” evoked in the Parable of the Sower.

Fire Quotes in Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fire. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Religion, Hope, and Change Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grand Central Publishing edition of Parable of the Sower published in 2000.
Chapter 1 Quotes

To the adults, going outside to a real church was like stepping back into the good old days when there were churches all over the place and too many lights and gasoline was for fueling cars and trucks instead of for torching things. They never miss a chance to relive the good old days or to tell kids how great it's going to be when the country gets back on its feet and good times come back.
Yeah.
To us kids––most of us––the trip was just an adventure, an excuse to go outside the wall. We would be baptized out of duty or as a kind of insurance, but most of us aren't that much concerned with religion. I am, but then I have a different religion.

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 14 Quotes

In order to rise
From its own ashes
A phoenix
First
Must
Burn.

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Some kind of insane burn-the-rich movement, Keith had said. We've never been rich, but to the desperate, we looked rich. We were surviving and we had our wall. Did our community die so that addicts could make a help-the-poor political statement?

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker), Keith Olamina
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 17 Quotes

"I wasn't crying about that fire. I was crying about our fire and my Bibi and

thinking about how much I hate people who set fires like that. I wish they would burn. I wish I could burn them. I wish I could just take them and throw them in the fire… like they did my Bibi."

Related Characters: Zahra Moss (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 18 Quotes

“Now is a time for building foundations––Earthseed communities––focused on the Destiny. After all, my heaven really exists, and you don't have to die to reach it. ‘The Destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars,’ or among the ashes.” I nodded toward the burned area.

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire, Heaven
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

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Fire Symbol Timeline in Parable of the Sower

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire appears in Parable of the Sower. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Religion, Hope, and Change Theme Icon
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
Truth vs. Denial Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
...dream, she is teaching herself to fly, but ends up flying into a wall of fire. She tries desperately to escape, but is consumed by the flames. Sometimes she wakes up... (full context)
Chapter 3
Religion, Hope, and Change Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
Truth vs. Denial Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
...family were killed in an arson attack. Lauren thinks it may have been a “revenge fire” or possibly because of a new drug that encourages people to start fires. Lauren is... (full context)
Chapter 4
Religion, Hope, and Change Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Truth vs. Denial Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
...God. Lauren then says that a three-year-old girl in her neighborhood, Amy Dunn, started a fire in her family’s garage. The neighborhood has a plan for fires, which they execute successfully.... (full context)
Chapter 10
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
...Keith tells Lauren about “crazies” who take the drug that makes them want to watch fires. They shave off all their hair, paint their skin bright colors, and set fire to... (full context)
Chapter 13
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
A few days later, someone sets fire to the Payne-Parrish house. While neighborhood residents try to put the fire out, three more... (full context)
Chapter 16
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
...thirst, admitting that as a child she would sometimes even suck on rocks. People build campfires even though it is illegal, and Lauren, Harry, and Zahra cook their food on a... (full context)
Chapter 17
Religion, Hope, and Change Theme Icon
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
Truth vs. Denial Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
As Lauren, Harry, and Zahra keep walking, they see an enormous fire, perhaps a whole other neighborhood set alight. Some of the people walking along the freeway... (full context)
Chapter 18
Religion, Hope, and Change Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
...are willing to talk to her. They discuss pyro and the problem of people setting fires. No one Lauren speaks to knows of any jobs that pay in real money. The... (full context)
Chapter 19
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
...with it. The group all survive the earthquake unharmed, but soon Travis spots a large fire in the distance. They begin walking away from the fire, but then hear gunshots. Suddenly,... (full context)
Chapter 20
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
...take a rest day yet. Early the next morning, Lauren awakes to the sound of gunfire. She hisses at the people sleeping next to her to be still and wait for... (full context)
Religion, Hope, and Change Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
Writing, Books, and Scripture Theme Icon
...confesses that she is haunted by the thought that her father didn’t die in the fire and will one day find her. Lauren observes that taking care of other people can... (full context)
Chapter 24
Religion, Hope, and Change Theme Icon
Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth Theme Icon
The fires raging in the distance get nearer, and the group hurries away from them. They are... (full context)