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Bloodchild by Octavia Butler: the Tale of Slavery and Maturing

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Bloodchild is a story about the relation between humans and an alien species called Tlic. It has its focus around Gan, a Terran, and T'Gatoi a Tlic. T’Gatoi has a personal relationship with Gan's family. She was responsible for bringing Gan’s mother and father together, in which they had a happy marriage. Continuing to read the story, things will get confusing as that are some strange situations happening in the background. For example, the Tlic elect male humans to be impregnated by them and host their eggs in order for the species to remain alive. Gan, the protagonist, is chosen by T’gatoi at his birth then acknowledges his destiny of being her host. 

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While reading to the story, there were a couple of themes passing through my mind; Slavery, the inversion of man-woman papers and rape. Upon further research I later found out that Octavia Buttler feels as if Bloodchild has nothing to relate with slavery and that the focus of the story wasn’t on its sexual critics, it is a mere story of love between two different species. I would like to argue on the contrary.

In my opinion, slavery is constant throughout the whole story. For example, one can see that the human race has succumbed to the Tlic's which dominate all characters, the way they live, the way the world works, ultimately they using Terrans bodies as a mean of survival. One can disagree as the Tlic give Terrans the choice of whether or not staying on the planet, However, I oppose to that by saying that Terrans have little choice and resources for making this decision, and if they decide to stay, one of the males in the family has to be offered as a host. T'Gatoi assumes a superior position in Gan’s family. As Slaves didn't have a choice when it came to working for and serving their superiors, Terrans also don’t have much of a choice for serving the Tlic's. More closely, Gan’s relatives often found themselves serving T’Gatoi. This inferior Terrans condition can be seen in 'T’Gatoi liked our body heath and took advantage of it whenever she could.' (Buttler 3). T’Gatoi’s dominance over Gan’s family can also be seen in ”my mother used to try to tell me how to behave with T’Gatoi […] because T’Gatoi was the Tlic government official in charge of the Preserve, and thus the most important of her kind to deal directly with Terrans.”(Buttler 3). It is very clear that the Tlic were the ones in charge, and T’Gatoi, even by being friends with the family and calling their home as her own second home “[…] The house she considered her second home.” (Buttler 4), had clear superiority over the rest of the family.

Gan explains to us how the boys selection happens. A boy is picked at his birth to serve a respective Tlic in which they will maintain a close relationship with. This relationship could be interpreted as a means of hiding the slave nature of their whole dynamics. Gan's father was the first of the family to serve T'Gatoi. This relates to my statement in the following way, In slavery, the family tends to remain slaves of the same master for generations, as Gan’s family is serving T’Gatoi for many years. During a visit from T’Gatoi, Gan thinks, “She parceled us out to the desperate and sold us to the rich and powerful for their political support.” (Buttler 5). This clearly shows the product nature Terrans had for the Tlic. Once again, humans are compared to slaves, as a product, not a living being. However, he follows: “She oversaw the joining of families, putting an end to the final remnants of the earlier system of breaking up Terran families to suit impatient Tlic.”(Buttler 5). T’Gatoi had a clear affection for Gan’s family and was trying to end the slaughter of Terrans. This fact can be used as an argument that indeed Bloodchild is not about Slavery. In my opinion, this reinforces my thesis, as it can be seen that T’Gatoi, even by not agreeing in Terran’s slaughter, still used humans as hosts. Moreover, it is still a narrative about slavery and trying to make it less severe. Terrans were in a strange environment, completely different from their planet. As slaves were removed from their homelands and sent to a completely different environment. Also, in order to stay in the Tlic planet, Terrans were obliged to serve the Tlic, otherwise they would need to go back to their world and suffer even more.

Octavia Butler feels that her story is about a boy becoming a man in order to serve T'Gatoi. The dynamics of Gan going from a boy to a man can be related to a girl losing their virginity, hence the inversion of man-woman roles. Gan is the one impregnated, and is the one who has to carry the baby whereas T’Gatoi who is a female, assumes the men’s role from our society.

To sum it up, Octavia Butler's view about her story not being about slavery, and that it is a love story of a boy turning into a man is plausible, the tail spends a lot of time exploring Gan’s sentiments and his journey preparing for attending T’Gatoi. On the other hand, the story has many parallels with slavery, given the whole dynamics between Terrans and Tlic. That being said, I remain on my theory that Bloodchild is indeed about slavery.  

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