Parable Series by Octavia Butler Conversation 2: Parable of the Sower Chapters 1-8

Parable Series by Octavia Butler

Session 2: Parable of the Sower Chapters 1-8

Readers Underground participants:

Geoffrey Edwards
Johnny Davis
Marco Morelli
Dona Abbadi
Douglas Duff

Recorded 15 August, 2018

The group discusses themes and characters of the book:

  • The significance of the wall in the book and in human existence
  • Various understandings of God (transcendent and immanent)
  • The passions of Lauren, her father and brother Keith…are they all speaking/seeking the Truth or truths?
  • Guns and modes of power
  • Empathy, sympathy, compassion and psychic powers

Seed Questions (posted before the call):

  • What do we think about Butler’s religious ideas? Are they viable? What do they tell us about both the power of religion and its limitations?
  • Butler paints a bleak portrait of the future. Do we agree that this is a likely future? Or is it overly pessimistic?



About Octavia Butler : "Octavia Butler passed away on February 24th, 2006 at the age of only 58, leaving behind a body of work whose influence cannot be exaggerated. Butler was a Black, female genre writer at a time when science fiction was still seen by many as the territory of white men. Her writing centered on women of color in a way few narratives then did, and posited that empathy could be humanity’s saving grace. As today’s environmental and human rights crises make painfully clear, Butler’s work is only going to become more relevant and necessary as time goes on. " - Carolyn Cox, The Portalist, 2018, URL :

Upcoming sessions

All sessions will occur 10 AM- 12PM MDT; 12 PM - 2 PM EDT

In your timezone: 4:00:00 PM6:00:00 PM


Week 8 (Sept. 26th): Parable of the Talents - Ch. 13-21 + Epilogue
Week 11 (Oct. 17th): Parable of the Talents - Wrap-up
(skipped the 10th week because of the Gebser conference)


For more information about Butler and her books, refer back to the announcement thread..


2:20 - Hellos, Weather Talk, Participation Reluctance and other icebreakers + mention of forum discussion

Opening Reflections

11:45 - John: Forum discussion on God, Butler’s simple sentence structure yet thematic complexity
14:35 - Geoffrey: an immanent God, experienced as it is encountered. Understands Katina’s POV, the unconventional simplicity of the novel.
16:40 - Marco: Use of the word God
Katina contrasting the two ethics: the Christian karitas vs the Sower’s Nietzschean sense…
21:27 - Doug: Passion of Lauren; waiting vs changing
25:14 - Geoffrey: a moral tale between two idealogies + Butler 's choice of naming (journals use Olamina vs Sower’s Lauren)
28:45 - Marco: Lauren/father akin to “further to the Left” Progressives/Moderate Liberal

The theme of the Wall

30:33 - Dona: sees from a different perspective. Theme of the wall as most prevalent in book and society. American and Arab - psychologically, religiously, historically. Importance of action in Keith character.
34:24 - John: Berlin wall; culture clash
Adolescent boys and tendency for violence
Whale formation - males, young on outside; older then women and children
40:10 - Marco: the wall and intertextuality - in The Dispossessed (+ reading)
42:55 - Doug: Revolution (tv series) similarities + personal “walling”
45:40 - Geoffrey: sees the wall as a main theme in the first half of the book.

49:57 - Marco: the tangible wall vs metaphorical wall…Butlers is real, and a reflection of the world.

52:46 - John: “ain’t no wall big enough” for the environmental disasters; Houston experience; the quickness to approach madness; introduces book Mirror Touch

Gun Debate

1:02:24 - Marco brings in the guns
1:05:14 - Geoffrey: sewing for Gettysburg reenactment; discussed guns, backward Conservatives….they hounded the black woman and lifestyle; Shooting rabbits?!
1:11:30 - John - Gettysburg dream; Intensification
1:15:17 - Dona- Weapon culture used to exercise power. The clash between the father/Keith and guns…are guns necessary?

Geoffrey: the gun still serves as a virtual wall
Marco: Sloterdijk and walls; guns dont solve the issue.
Dona: wall as an ancient idea. But walls now are different. The Crusaders built walls, castles, cities….but free enough to cross borders.

Empathy, Sympathy, Compassion

1:21:26 - John: Lauren does not have a wall; empathy in a world that is unclear.
Geoffrey: in the Sower culture…the empathy is missing from the society; the violence is a way for Lauren to reduce her empathetic pain.
John: Brown film, etc. Empathy is disappearing
1:32 - Geoffrey: studying vulnerability
Two components: in danger of being damaged and in order to grow, be aware of vulnerability….difficult to address in work, education…; Notion of sympathy - older idea
Marco: Lauren feels the pain of others but not empathetic in the emotional sense?
Empathy, sympahty and compassion - three flavors of feeling what the other feels. All different
Geoffrey: the rare use of the pleasure empathy
John: psychic abilities and functioning in society

1:42:45 -closing remarks


This is a super job, @Douggins. Kudos on taking the time to do this!


Yes, this is really helpful for memory & integration!


Boy, did I miss out!

The condition @johnnydavis54 mentions, “mirror touch synaesthesia” appears to be related to a slightly more general condition called “pain synaesthesia”. In mirror touch synaesthesia, the pain is mirrored to the same part of the body. In pain synaesthesia, this is not necessarily the case, but people still feel other people’s pain in their own bodies. By the way, I think it quite likely that Octavia Butler had read something about the condition. She was very widely read and followed development in the sciences that interested her.


Interesting that you mention this. Also , that Butler associated this malady with the side effect of an addictive drug abused by Lauren’s mother.

Audio alone does not seem to work. Listening now to video version. Can someone check the audio recording and see if it’s just me or not? Thanks!

Many thanks. PLus, I did get the audio player to start going, although the volume is very low.