|Femininity in the Male Dominated World of Science Fiction | | | | | |Christel August Haygood | |Dr. Loretta Burns | |ENGL 400. 1 | |April 26, 2010 | Octavia Butler has used the nontraditional characterization of female characters in her various works to express the themes of sexuality, race, issues of social criticism, and the role of women in society. This can be seen in many of her works such as Kindred, Fledgling, and Bloodchild and Other Stories. Through her eyes, she uses her female characters to portray the heroes. With this, Butler uses her stories to explore the issues that face them at that time.
Butler expertly integrates the use of science fictive storytelling as a means of awakening the world to the issues that face society, and especially society to the plight of African Americans. In this study, one will analyze Octavia Butler’s female character “Edana” and how she uses this woman to explore the realms of sexuality, societal position and race in the world that Butler creates for them. It will be supported primarily through her work Kindred; it will also present evidence from outside critics of her works and authors who are also knowledgeable of this particular topic area.
The main points to be presented will be: What is the purpose of using the elements of science fiction in order to engage readers in a particular story? How is each female character used to explain the various aspects of women in society? Why does Butler choose to use female characters to tackle such issues of the aforementioned social criticism that she makes a central theme in many of her novels? In the various articles that have been written on Butler’s characters, her main theme sequence has been represented wholly.
Ruth Salvaggio, author of “Octavia Butler and the Black Science Fiction Heroine,” express that Butler consistently uses the themes of racism and sexuality for her characters to use their honed survival skills in order to overcome the social barriers that exist during the period(s) that she places them in. In Dana’s case, she is transported between both the 1970’s and the 1800’s. Butler allows her reader to be able to watch in first person how Dana learned to survive and not necessarily through blunt force, but through thinking and learning the important skill of adaptation.
Author Hoda Zaki links her awareness of societal taboos as that of a Utopia/Dystopia atmosphere. In her book, “Utopia, Dystopia, and Ideology in the Science Fiction of Octavia Butler,” Zaki points out Butler’s ability to address the issue of racism in a genre that it is not typically made aware. She continues that Butler takes the views of Science fiction and adds a humanistic quality in which a non-scientific reader is able to comprehend and enjoy.
The groundbreaking story telling of Butler is profound in the sense that she is writing in a genre that is not populated by many female writers and definitely not by members of the African American community. Edana is the narrator and the readers have the opportunity to witness her experiences as she encounters them. The story opens with Edana and her husband setting up house as they are recently married and moving into their first house in the 1970’s. As the story continues, we find that Dana is called back in time to the plantation where her ancestors lived during the 1800’s as slaves.
She soon learns that she is experiencing these “trips” in order to secure her future. What is complicated is that she is from the future and trying to keep it intact. Butler places her in various situations where she constantly finds herself growing into her own. In the journey that Butler takes Dana through, she meets her ancestor “Alice,” whom she has to keep alive until her ancestor “Hagar” is born. With this birth, the future is secured for Dana to be born as well. As Butler explores the theme of sexuality, one is drawn to her expertly crafted character of “Edana (Dana)” in Kindred.
She strips away the stereotypical characterization of women being “damsels in distress” and creates her heroines with the same amount of substance as that of the same amount of substance as that of male characters in literature. She creates the opportunity for the reader to be able to grow with Dana to see where her journey leads her and teaches the reader. Dana’s sexuality is one that is a consistent question in not only the readers, but of her fellow characters. She challenges the roles of the males she encounters on her journeys to the plantation.
Her proper speech, ability to read, and the fact that she wears pants on occasion, defies the world that the men of the plantation have come to learn and accept. Her defiance of the typical societal restraints, even translate to the lives of the other women on the plantation. The master’s wife is jealous of her and how she has a better relationship with her son than she does. The other slaves say that she acts too white, and hate and envy her all in the same breath. Throughout the novel, Dana’s question of knowing her place is consistently challenged, by the other slaves, the master, and even in some cases her husband.
As Butler allows the question of femininity linger in the reader’s mind, she allows the ever taboo subject of race ease right on in and make itself at home. Butler has explored the issue of race in many of her other novels, but none have been as blunt and to the forefront as Kindred. Just as she was ostracized by the other slaves on the plantation, race was an even bigger topic of controversy for her. The other slaves believed that she acted too white for her to be a slave and the white people of the plantation felt the same sentiment. She not only experienced racism in the past, but she also felt its stings in her present day surroundings.
Butler cleverly allows the reader to stumble on the purposefully uninformed detail that her husband is white and that they have been both disowned by their families. In any time period, Dana is always seen as a black female who should know her place and role in society, in essence, her race defines her and those who live on the plantation. Her race is what dooms her to servitude at the Weylin plantation and what makes her. “‘Don’t argue with white folks,’ [Luke] had said. ‘Don’t tell them ‘no. ’ Don’t let them see you mad. Just say ‘yes, sir. ’ Then go ’head and do what you want to do.
Might have to take a whippin’ for it later on, but if you want it bad enough, the whippin’ won’t matter much. ” It is also what defines the relationship with her to the few loyal and most apt to helping her survive people around her. We can witness this in the portion of the novel where Carrie rubs Dana’s cheek to show her that her skin color does not come off. Race defines Butler’s white characters too. Over and over, we see that white skin excuses all ills, even those of the vilest instances on the plantation, such as the vicious whippings and the heartbreaking separation of the families from auctions.
Just as Butler brings the subjects of sexuality and race to the forefront, she also unites everyone together, by the societal positions in which they are forced to be categorized in. This is evident in both the 1970’s and in the 1800’s, as Dana must find her place in society in both time frames. In the 1970’s she is placed in a semi-submissive role in her marriage. Where she has not reached the success that her husband has reached in her writing career, which solidifies his place as the bread winner in the family, she will not be able to change her ranking until she is able to match or succeeds his success.
On the plantation, she is in an awkward position. Her intelligence, speech, and ability to read position her as threat to the white establishment and a blessed liability to the slaves. Tom Weylin is intimidated by her education and purposefully makes her do hard labor in order to make up for the inferiority complex those he posses, and Margaret Weylin is uncomfortable because Dana garners respect from both her husband and child. In a different viewpoint, Alice shares similar views with Margaret Weylin because she is able to travel with an air of confidence around her that others are unable to do.
These similar sentiments are also echoed in the relationship that Dana has with Rufus, he feels inferior as he grows in to a man, and asserts his place in society by making ridiculous demands of Dana, such as making Alice succumb to his desires. With the central themes sexuality, race and societal position; Butler has indeed raised the social awareness of her readers and the plight that their fellow man has succumbed to. In evaluating my proposition, one concludes that Butler’s use of Dana to explain her varying viewpoints as a means of coming across compassionate and kindhearted to her readers.
Also she uses her to empower her female readers that they do not have to settle for the role that society places them in regardless of ethnicity. Butler possesses the ability to speak for the unspoken and raise awareness for the unaware through her works and political viewpoint. Bibliography Allison, Dorothy. “The Future of Females: Octavia Butler’s Mother Lode”. ” In Reading Black,Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology. Ed. Henry Louis Gates. New York: Meridian, 1990. 471-478. Best, Allison Stein. “Octavia E. Butler. ” Science Fiction Chronicle: The Monthly Science Fiction & Fantasy Newsmagazine 17. (1996): 8, 42-43. Brooks-De Vita, Novella. “Beloved and Betrayed: Survival and Authority in Kindred. ” Griot: Official Journal of the Southern Conference on Afro- American Studies, Inc. 22. 1 (2003): 16-20. Butler, Octavia. Kindred. 1979. Foster, Frances S. “Octavia Butler’s Black Female Future Vision. ” Extrapolation. 1982. 37-49. Hampton, Gregory Jerome and Wanda M. Brooks. “Octavia Butler and Virgina Hamilton: Black Women Writers and Science Fiction. ” The English Journal 92. 6 (2003): 70-74. Jesser, Nancy. “Blood, Genes and Gender in Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Dawn. Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 43. 1 (2002): 36-61 Levecq, Christine. “Power and Repetition: Philosophies of (Literary) History in Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Dawn. ” Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 43. 1 (2002): 36-61. Salvaggio, Ruth. “Octavia Butler and the Black Science Fiction Heroine. ” Black American Literature Forum 18. 2 (1984): 78-81. Zaki, Hoda M. “Utopia, Dystopia, and Idealogy in the Science Fiction of Octavia Butler. ” Science Fiction Studies 17. 2 (1990): 239-251. ———————- qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyui opasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfgh jklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvb nmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwerty uiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdf ghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxc vbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwer tyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmrtyuiopasdfg hjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcv nmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwert yuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasd fghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzx cvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwe rtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmrtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdf ghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxc vbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwer tyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopas dfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklz xcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmrt uiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasd fghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzx cvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwe rtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopa sdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjkl zxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmrtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwer tyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopas dfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklz xcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqw ertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiop sdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjk lzxcvbnmrtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwe rtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopa sdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjkl zxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmq wertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuio pasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmrtyuiopasdfghjklz xcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqw ertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiop asdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjk zxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyui opasdfghjklzxcvbnmrtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjkl zxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmq wertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuio pasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghj klzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbn mqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwwerty uiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdf ghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm