Representations of Hope in Octavia Butler’s "Parable of the Sower" and Ursula’s "The Dispossessed"

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A confident desire for change, generally that is hope; it does not matter the kind of change one would be hoping for, neither does it matter the circumstances that have made them want that change. All that matters is the confident desire that the change will happen. It, therefore, follows that hope can be represented in different ways, depending on the circumstances, of which some circumstances can be very adverse, while others can just be mild. This distinction can be clearly seen in the two novels “The Parable of The Sower” and “The Dispossessed”. This essay will give details on the comparison between the representation of hope in the two novels in the aspects of the circumstances whose changes are hoped for in the novels, the perspectives of the main characters concerning hope, as well as which novel represents a better version of hope.

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Beginning with “The Parable of The Sower”, Lauren and her friends are surrounded by a hopeless environment full of violence and deaths, poverty, corruption, poor sanitation and suicide cases among other disturbing occurrences. To make matters worse, she is suffering from a hyper-empathy syndrome, a condition whereby she can feel the pain and suffering of the people that surround her. I can easily envision the burden that she is carrying; it is actually unbearable for a normal person like me. In chapter two she is riding her bike alongside her friends and their families around the city and all they see are corpses, injured children, and armed men. There are cases of theft and rape such as that of Mrs. Sims who later commits suicide, probably because the burden of her family being slaughtered and her rape became unbearable. The government itself makes the matters even worse; in chapter 3 the newly elected president promises to suspend laws dealing with minimum wage, environment protection as well as worker protection, claiming that it would stimulate the economy (Butler, 2014). This is the situation in the life of Lauren and her friends; the air they breathe is just made of vices and disaster. Amidst all this, it is intriguing how Lauren takes these circumstances; when it seems to the reader that there is no more hope, that the mess is too much to be mended, she has a better perspective of it, a greater heart to still think positively about everything. She always has a way of convincing herself that the situation is short-lived; in a nutshell, she is a replica of hope in the novel. When everyone else thinks of God as a judge or just a king, and her brother thinks of God as “the grown-ups’ way of getting children to do what they want”, Lauren is envisioning God as none of the above descriptions; she is in a way seeing hope in the God she knows; this can even be seen from her favorite book in the Bible, the book of Job. It gets to her consciousness after the death of Mrs. Sims that her perspective of God is that God is the change she is hoping for. As other people see themselves in the societal mess, Lauren is confident that she can do something about that mess, through God, because she says that human beings and God can mutually shape each other.

As for the case of the second novel, “The Dispossessed”, Shevek is observed to be the bearer of hope of the difficult situation between the rival sister planets, Urras and Anarres; whereby the two worlds have different ways of governance and beliefs. Urras is a technologically advanced planed that has social problems because they have no structured governance and has social injustices, while Anarres is a strong planet when it comes to human equality and relations, however it lacks innovation and non-human connections: the two planets have been in rivalry for a long time and they seem not to recognize the past that they shared together; neither do they think of a possible future in which they can coexist together with no rivalry; however, Shevek does not see a reason why this rivalry should continue. Shevek’s brilliant scientific ideas are shunned in Anarres, yet they are well embraced in Urras.

Shevek sees the possibility of changing the situation between these two planets for the better good; he has great hope that the change he wants is very possible and attempts to bring the change by inventing a technology that enables instant communication across any distance, and spreading it to every nation and society, because he believes the communication can help in getting rid of the rift between the planets. This initiative is almost interfered with when he goes to Urras; when he realizes the ill intent that the A-Io government has concerning his theory, he escapes the trap before its maturity. His hope does not die, he ensures that the technology does not fall into the wrong hands, and finally he hands his complete theory to the right hands, requesting for it to be broadcasted to all nations (Hardy, 2012). Shevek had the choice of keeping the theory to himself when he realizes that everywhere he goes to does not deserve the change he is trying to bring; however, that is not his line of thinking. He still believes that there is light coming at the end of the tunnel, and fights to the maximum of his abilities to ensure that the change he confidently aspires for is achieved.

Comparing the two novels, the “The Dispossessed” provides a more hopeful vision than “The Parable of The Sower”: the protagonist in the first novel bears hope for a change in the situation between the two planets; what makes his vision more hopeful is that he has strategies to bring this change. He has plans on how he can contribute to the change he wants; his hope is not just in plain words. He has actions to back up his vision, and he does his best to ensure that his plans are achieved. This is not the same case as that of Lauren in “The Parable of The Sower”: it is clearly observable that Lauren aspires for a change in the condition of the society she lives in; however, we are not told of any strategies she has put in place to see to it that the change she hopes for is achieved. The best we see is when she notices the fact that there is something she can do about the whole matter.

In conclusion, a vision of hope is just the beginning. When someone aspires for a change, there has to be something they can do to facilitate that change: without a plan or a way forward, the vision will simply die because it needs to be made real through our actions. A hope for better things should drive us to bring the change.

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