Date of Award
Dr. Misty Kreuger
Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower is a standout work of dystopian science fiction that features commentaries on governmental failings, race and gender discrimination, and class divides that are all highlighted by an apocalyptic and oppressive crumbling society. Butler uses a dystopic setting, characteristics, and tropes to embellish her world and social commentaries including the use of the dystopic and thirdspace coteries structure: two personal communities within which the central character interacts that hold very specific roles and characteristics across most works of dystopian literature. This structure allows dystopian literature to establish their distinctive world and tone as well as the specific relationship between these coteries and the central character of the novel, all of which is central to the real-world societal commentary generated by these texts. However, in Parable of the Sower, Butler both establishes and breaks from this traditional dystopian structure to create a work that counters conventional dystopian themes.
In this paper, I will first go over the traditional two coterie structure of dystopian works by detailing the reoccurring characteristics of the dystopian coterie and thirdspace coterie as well as how they typically operate within 20th-century dystopian fiction, particularly regarding their relationship to each other and the central character. I will then discuss the operation of this structure within Parable of the Sower by examining how the novel follows the established structure in the first half of the novel, disrupts the coterie form in the central turning point of the novel, and then restructures and redefines the coterie roles in the second half of the novel. Finally, I will discuss how this restructuring generates themes, messages, and societal critiques that are both in conversation with and counter those of traditional dystopian literature.
Newby, Billie Rose, "The Ever-Present Dystopia, the Non-Present Utopia, and the Thirdspace: The Role of Contrasting Coteries in 20th-Century Dystopian Literature and Parable of the Sower" (2021). HON 499 Honors Thesis or Creative Project. 12.