Parable of the Sower


Octavia E. Butler

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Parable of the Sower, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Religion, Hope, and Change

The book’s heroine, Lauren Olamina, is the daughter of a Baptist minister who founds her own religion, Earthseed, in the midst of the apocalyptic disintegration of the United States. The novel begins with Lauren’s conflicted feelings about Christianity on the eve of her baptism, and ends with a mass funeral service in which pieces of Christian and Earthseed scripture are read side by side. One of the most important aspects of the narrative arc…

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Inclusion vs. Exclusion

The first half of the book takes place within Lauren’s gated community, and this immediately brings to light the importance of exclusion. As the United States becomes increasingly brutal and apocalyptic, people are more and more desperate to close themselves off from the violence and destruction taking over the country. Whereas the very rich are able to live safely within highly-securitized communities and can flee dangerous areas via helicopter, middle-class people like Lauren and…

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Creation, Destruction, and Rebirth

The book is set in a climate of extreme destruction. Struck by environmental and political disaster, the United States has descended into an apocalyptic landscape, which—despite the promises of President Donner—seems largely unsalvageable. This absolute sense of destruction is encapsulated by the fires that rage across the country, which are propelled in part by a new drug most commonly known as “pyro.” The drug leads people to arson and causes them to experience a…

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Truth vs. Denial

Throughout the novel Lauren presents herself as someone who seeks truth while those around her remain in a state of denial. Indeed, this is part of what marks her out as different from those around her, allowing her to survive the horror of her conditions and work to build a better future.

Ideas about truth and denial are introduced right at the beginning of the book, when Lauren is preparing to be baptized. Lauren is…

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Writing, Books, and Scripture

The novel consists of a series of diary entries by Lauren, and thus the entire narrative is mediated by the act of writing. Although her diary entries are highly detailed and seemingly comprehensive, Lauren draws attention to the gaps and biases within them. For example, the entry for Wednesday 26th August 2026 is only one line long: “Today, my parents had to go downtown to identify the body of my brother Keith,” and…

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