Parable of the Talents (novel)
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
|Author||Octavia E. Butler|
|Genre||Dystopian, science fiction|
|Publisher||Seven Stories Press|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|Pages||365 (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||1-888363-81-9 (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PS3552.U827 P38 1998|
|Preceded by||Parable of the Sower|
Parable of the Talents is a science fiction novel by American writer Octavia E. Butler, published in 1998. It is the second in a series of two, a sequel to Parable of the Sower. It won the Nebula Award for Best Novel.
Parable of the Talents is told from the point of views of Lauren Oya Olamina and her daughter Larkin Olamina/Asha Vere. The novel consists of journal entries by Lauren and passages by Asha Vere. Four years after the events of the previous novel Parable of the Sower, Lauren has founded a new religious community called Acorn, which is centered around her religion Earthseed, which is predicated around the belief that humanity's destiny is to travel beyond Earth and live on other planets in order for humanity to reach adulthood.
The novel is set against the backdrop of a dystopian United States that has come under the grip of a Christian fundamentalist denomination called "Christian America" led by President Andrew Steele Jarret. Seeking to restore American power and prestige, Jarret embarks on a crusade to cleanse America of non-Christian faiths. Slavery has resurfaced with "shock collars" being used to control slaves. Virtual reality headsets known as "Dreamasks" are also popular since they enable wearers to escape their harsh reality.
During the course of the novel, Acorn is attacked and taken over by Christian American "Crusaders" and turned into a re-education camp. For the next three years, Lauren and the other adults are enslaved and forced to wear "shock collars." Their Christian American captors exploit them as forced labor under the pretext of "reforming" them. Lauren and several of the women are also regularly raped by their captors, who regard them as "heathen." In 2035, Lauren and her followers eventually rebel and kill their captors. To avoid retribution, they are forced to disperse into hiding. By 2036, President Jarret is defeated after a single term due to public dissatisfaction with the "Alaska–Canada War" and revelations of his role in witch burnings.
Meanwhile, Larkin is adopted by an African American Christian America family and renamed "Asha Vere Alexander" after a popular Dreamask hero. Unloved and abused by her adoptive parents, Asha grows up never knowing who her biological parents are. As an adult, Asha reunites with her uncle Marcus "Marc" Duran, who was believed to have perished in the events of the previous novel and has since become a Christian America minister. With Uncle Marc's help, Larkin becomes an academic historian but leaves the Christian faith.
Unknown to Asha, Uncle Marc also re-establishes contact with his long-lost half-sister Lauren. Marc claims that the "Crusaders" were rogue elements who do not represent Christian America but Lauren doesn't believe him. Marc also does not tell Lauren or Asha that they are related to each other. With Jarret's legacy in disgrace, Lauren's Earthseed religion grows in popularity in a post-war United States, funding scholarships for needy university students and encouraging humanity to leave Earth and settle Alpha Centauri.
After Asha learns that Lauren is her biological mother, she manages to meet with her mother. Though Asha is unable to forgive her mother for choosing Earthseed over her, Lauren tells her daughter that her door is always open to her. After learning that her half-brother Uncle Marc hid the fact that Asha was related to Lauren, Lauren severs all ties with her estranged brother. Lauren dies at the age of 81 while watching the first shuttles leaving Earth for the starship Christopher Columbus, which carries settlers in suspended animation to Alpha Centauri.
Jana Diemer Llewellyn regards Parable of the Talents as a harsh indictment of religious fundamentalism and compares the novel to Joanna Russ' The Female Man and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. The Los Angeles Times op-ed editor Abby Aguirre has likened the religious fundamentalism and authoritarianism of President Jarret to the "Make America Great Again" rhetoric of the Trump Administration.
Proposed third Parable novel
Butler had planned to write a third Parable novel, tentatively titled Parable of the Trickster, which would have focused on the community's struggle to survive on a new planet. She began this novel after finishing Parable of the Talents, and mentioned her work on it in a number of interviews, but at some point encountered a writer's block. She eventually shifted her creative attention, resulting in Fledgling, her final novel. The various false starts for the novel can now be found among Butler's papers at the Huntington Library, as described in an article at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
- Allen, Marlene D. “Octavia Butler's ‘Parable’ Novels and the ‘Boomerang’ of African American History.” Callaloo 32. 4 2009 pp. 1353–1365.
- Caputi, Jane. "Facing Change: African Mythic Origins in Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels." Goddesses and Monsters: Women, Myth, Power, and Popular Culture. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 2004. 366-369. ISBN 978-029919624
- Jos, Philip H. “Fear and the Spiritual Realism of Octavia Butler's Earthseed.” Utopian Studies 23. 2 2012 pp. 408–429.
- Lacey, Lauren. J. "Octavia Butler on Coping with Power in Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and Fledgling.” Critique 49.4 (Summer 2008): 379-394.
- Melzer, Patricia. "'All That You Touch You Change': Utopian Desire and the Concept of Change in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents." Contemporary Literary Criticism Select. Gale, 2008. Originally published in FEMSPEC 3.2 (2002): 31-52.
- Nilges, Mathias. “‘We Need the Stars’: Change, Community, and the Absent Father in Octavia Butler's ‘Parable of the Sower’ and ‘Parable of the Talents'.’” Callaloo 32.4 2009 pp. 1332–1352.
- Stanford, Ann Folwell. "A Dream of Communitas: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents and Roads to the Possible." Bodies in a Broken World: Women Novelists of Color and the Politics of Medicine. Chapel Hill: The U of North Carolina P, 2003. 196-218. ISBN 978-0807854808
- Stillman, Peter G. "Dystopian Critiques, Utopian Possibilities, and Human Purposes in Octavia Butler’s Parables.” Utopian Studies 14.1 (2003): 15-35.
- Jonas, Gerald (January 3, 1999). "Science Fiction". The New York Times.
- Holden, Rebecca J.; Shawl, Nisi, eds. (2013). "Annotated Butler Bibliography". Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler. Seattle, WA: Aqueduct Press. p. 284.
- Diemer Llewellyn, Jana (2006). "Rape in feminist utopian and dystopian fiction". The University of Hong Kong Libraries.
- Aguirre, Abby (26 July 2017). "Octavia Butler's Prescient Vision of a Zealot Elected to "Make America Great Again"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
- Canavan, Gerry (June 9, 2014). ""There's Nothing New / Under The Sun, / But There Are New Suns": Recovering Octavia E. Butler's Lost Parables". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved May 19, 2016.