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.
Truth vs. Denial Theme Icon

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 reluctant for the baptism to take place for multiple reasons, all of which stem from commitment to (what she believes to be) the truth. She admits that she no longer believes in the Christian God, saying: “My God has another name.” She is also reluctant to attend her father’s friend’s church for the baptism, pointing out that it would be safer to simply be baptized in her own bathtub. However, she notes that journeying to the church—which is the only actual church building left in the area—reminds the adults of “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.” She adds that “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.” Clearly, the adults are in a state of denial about the world in which they live and the possibility of this world returning to its former state. As a young person who never properly experienced “the good old days” for herself, Lauren is not susceptible to this kind of nostalgia; furthermore, she is less wedded to existing religious tradition, and as a result has come up with her own ideas about God, which differ significantly from the Christian view. In this sense, Lauren’s youth enables her to access the truth in a way that older people cannot—a reversal of the conventional idea that wisdom comes with age.

On the other hand, the book also features young people who are in a similar state of denial to the adults around them, thus indicating that youth does not inherently encourage people to see the truth. This idea is most clearly conveyed during Lauren’s conversation with her friend Joanne. The two girls are the same age, and share suspicions about certain elements of the adults’ tendency for denial, such as the notion that President Donner will make the country go back to “normal.” However, when Lauren argues that they should act on their understanding of the truth and make preparations to leave the gated community, Joanne is resistant and rejects their discussion entirely, asking Lauren: “Why do you want to talk about this stuff?”

For the novel’s adults and teenagers alike, the truth of their reality is so painful and frightening that they cannot help but embrace denial. After Joanne tells her mother about her conversation with Lauren, Lauren’s father scolds his daughter, saying: “These things frighten people. It’s best not to talk about them.” When Joanne eventually decides to move with her family to the corporate-owned city of Olivar, Lauren accuses her of giving into her denial by saying: “I see what’s out there. You see it too. You just deny it.” Unlike Joanne, Lauren’s decisions about her future are grounded in a firm rejection of fantasy and an embrace of truth, no matter how frightening this truth might be.

The question of truth and denial is also important in relation to Lauren’s observations about God and her development of Earthseed. When characters such as Travis suggest that Earthseed is simply something Lauren has invented, she compares the process of conceptualizing Earthseed to a scientific discovery: “I reached down, picked up a small stone, and put it on the table between us. ‘If I could analyze this and tell you all that it was made of, would that mean I’d made up its contents?’” Throughout the book, Lauren asserts that Earthseed consists of true observations about the world; indeed, this is what makes it different from other religions.

Under one of the passages of Earthseed scripture Lauren quotes in her diary, she writes: “This is the literal truth.” Her use of the word “literal” draws an important contrast between Earthseed scripture and other religious texts such as the Bible. There is much within the Bible that is difficult to accept as the literal truth, due to the fact that it contradicts other parts of the Bible, common sense, and scientific observations about the world. Interpreting the Bible as literally true thus requires a denial of scientific facts, and as a result, Lauren is disdainful of people (such as Mrs. Sims) who subscribe to Biblical literalism. Earthseed scripture, on the other hand, emerges from observations about the world, and as such there is no contradiction. For this reason, Lauren is able to assert that Earthseed is “literally true” even though it is the product of her own mind; indeed, she presents Earthseed as not only true but a powerful barrier against the forces of fear, fantasy, and denial.

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Truth vs. Denial ThemeTracker

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Truth vs. Denial Quotes in Parable of the Sower

Below you will find the important quotes in Parable of the Sower related to the theme of Truth vs. Denial.
Chapter 1 Quotes

All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Is Change.
Is Change.

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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.
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:
Chapter 5 Quotes

"You don't know that! You can't read the future. No one can."
"You can," I said, "if you want to. It's scary but once you get past the fear, it's easy.”

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker), Joanne Garfield (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

Maybe Olivar is the future––one face of it. Cities controlled by big companies are old hat in science fiction. My grandmother left a whole bookcase of old science fiction novels. The company-city subgenre always seemed to star a hero who outsmarted, overthrew, or escaped "the company." I've never seen one where the hero fought like hell to get taken in and underpaid by the company. In real life, that's the way it will be. That's the way it is.

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Heaven
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

I'm trying to speak––to write––the truth. I'm trying to be clear. I'm not interested in being fancy, or even original. Clarity and truth will be plenty, if I can only achieve them. If it happens that there are other people outside somewhere preaching my truth, I'll join them. Otherwise, I'll adapt where I must, take what opportunities I can find or make, hang on, gather students, and teach.

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Heaven
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

I have to write. There's nothing familiar left to me but the writing. God is Change. I hate God. I have to write.

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker)
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

"Change does scare most people."
"I know. God is frightening. Best to learn to cope."
"Your stuff isn't very comforting."
"It is after a while. I'm still growing into it myself. God isn’t good or evil, doesn't favor you or hate you, and yet God is better partnered than fought."
"Your God doesn't care about you at all," Travis said.
"All the more reason to care about myself and others. All the more reason to create Earthseed communities and shape God together. 'God is Trickster, Teacher, Chaos, Clay.' We decide which aspect we embrace—and how to deal with the others."

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker), Travis Charles Douglas (speaker)
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

“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:
Chapter 20 Quotes

God is neither good
nor evil,
neither loving
nor hating.
God is Power.
God is Change.
We must find the rest of what we need
within ourselves,
in one another,
in our Destiny.

Related Characters: Lauren Olamina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Heaven
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis: