Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels by Marlene Dietrich Allen


Although fiction distances itself from reality in many ways, Octavia’s article embraces science fiction as well as the Black culture. Science fiction acts as a powerful figurative tool, allows for making an allusion of the current state of the African American culture in the realm of the present-day U.S. society, at the same time remaining within the boundaries of the novel. Thus, the author of fiction should remain attentive to historical contexts in incorporated I the novel in order not to distort the objective vision of the present. Fiction also helps in defining alternatives to the suggested method of solving a specific cultural or social conflict.

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In Allen’s (1353) article, the author explores how science fiction allows writers such as Butler to question narratives of history and to study scientific theories that are integrated into the texts discussing in racial and gender-based social issues. In Butler’s work, the writer uses science fiction conventions such as encounters with aliens and prospect situations that allow her to picture fictional futures dealing with wounds inflicted on the marginalized. In her critique of Butler’s article, Allen studies these past injustices as well as the alternatives found in future settings. The ways in which Allen treats Butler’s concept of change will be the focus of this study, as it allows the reader to study politics in parables.


Allen (1365) states that Butler’s work represents African-Americans’ concerns with identity and displacement. In her opinion, Butler’s parables trace the ways, in which a more educated, religious, and all-encompassing society with racial and sexual freedoms as a norm rises. Allen narrates about America’s transformation and explores economic differences with a racial and religious bias to explain Butler’s opinion about the marginalized always being used as disposal resources for the socially empowered to gain individually. The themes in Octavia Butler’s work mainly revolve around the concepts of genetically enhanced bodies and multi-ethnical subjects that make the readers revisit nationalist, sexist, and racist issues. Allen (1357) praises Butler’s work for her consistent interrogation of politics founded on the mythic field of race and gender in the twentieth century. Furthermore, Allen argues that Butler’s work is a radical revisionary that interacts with anatomical idioms.


After reading her texts, I agree with Allen about Butler carefully building on contemporary slavery that centers on economic as well as political connections. Her work is a meta-narrative that views stricture as a way of limiting the oppressed population’s ability to overcome structural barriers to success. Butler’s work also invites readers to reclaim the sense of self-identity that enables her characters to move past laid down social functions, allowing them to locate their identity and come to grips with it. However, in reality, Butler acts as a teacher specializing in African-American history and integrates this history in her texts by creatively portraying this history in new and original ways using science fiction. In my opinion, Butler tends to plunge deep into the fantasy that she loses touch with revealing everyday life. Additionally, Butler’s work frequents otherworldly themes and characters using fantasy and, thereby, rendering her work as socially disjunctive. This approach turns her work into race-blind science fiction.


I agree with Marlene Allen that Octavia Butler’s work is evidence of her passion for science fiction as well as fantasy tales. Just as Allen (1356) notes, Butler’s passion makes her work a noteworthy representation of the genre, since she introduces African-American women, as well as those of many colors, in her stories as strong female characters with leading roles. Additionally, Butler’s texts complicate the traditional science fiction themes of power struggles by incorporating the gender, ethnicity, and class difference related problems into the plot. Butler’s works may also be interpreted as narratives that efficiently blend science fiction with ideology using relative cannons of African-American and mainstream literature. Although she includes other unorthodox impediments, Allen (1357) asserts that Butler’s work fits the conventional expectations of science fiction literature that white men wrote to their counterpart adolescents before. Indeed, science fiction used to be obscenely white, with female characters being used either as a foil for the male characters development, or the objectification targets.

On the other hand, men of color rarely took part in writing science fiction novels and stories as well; therefore, Butler introduces two key innovations into the genre, cleansing it of both gender-based and racial prejudices. As far as the class difference is concerned, Butler’s tales include writers who devote their work to writing and teaching others. For instance, in one of Butler’s tales, Kindred is a character, who teaches reading and writing to Maryland plantation slaves at the risk of losing her life and that of the slaves. Another prominent character, Lauren Olamina, creates Earthseed, a religion based on equal access to education by the future society as its basic principle. Olamina does this in an environment, where only the wealthiest of Americans receive a formal education. These works question the politics founded on the mythic field of race and gender, therefore, shaping them towards the ones that are acceptable to people of both genders and all races.


Butler’s texts envision a progressive community that supports living behind outdated communal conceptions. Her parables refer to concepts such as embracing differences, diversity, and pluralism to construe the politics of community and identity as a progressive vision. Therefore, by labeling Butler’s novels as postmodern, Allen misses the crucial literary history shift that the author projects in her texts.

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Works Cited

Allen, Marlene Dietrich. “Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels and the “Boomerang” of African American History.” Callaloo 32.4(2009): 1353-1365. Print.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels by Marlene Dietrich Allen." November 1, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/octavia-butlers-parable-novels-by-marlene-dietrich-allen/.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels by Marlene Dietrich Allen'. 1 November.

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