Study Guide

Minor Characters in Parable of the Sower

By Octavia E. Butler

Minor Characters

Lauren's Mother

We never learn the name of Lauren's birth mother—it seems that maybe Lauren doesn't like to think much about her. We know she was from Texas (12.64), but we don't know much else. Lauren does say that her hyperempathy syndrome was caused by her mother's drug abuse: "Thanks to Paracetco, the small pill, the Einstein powder, the particular drug my mother chose to abuse before my birth killed her, Iʼm crazy" (2.27). So it seems that while this woman didn't get to raise Lauren, she did leave Lauren with the syndrome that possibly instills a lot of compassion in her.

Marcus Olamina

Marcus is one of Lauren's brothers. Lauren describes him as "trustworthy" (7.22), and he's the one who mutters about how he'd like to leave the family (8.48). Lauren also describes Marcus as "beautiful" (11.42), saying girls stare at him when they think he's not looking. He's attached to Robin Balter, but she gets killed when Robledo is destroyed (14.70).

Welp, that's Marcus.

Gregory Olamina

Gregory is another of Lauren's brothers, but he isn't super important. Sorry, Gregory. Lauren describes the kid as a "clownish smartass of a baby brother" (14.52). He gets gifts from Keith (9.38)...but you know what? We never learn all that much about Gregory. Lauren looks for him in the ruins of Robledo, but she never finds him. And that's all she wrote.

Bennett Olamina

Bennett? Well, Bennett is yet another of Lauren's brothers, and we don't learn all that much about him, either. He's just there to be cute, we guess. He receives gifts from Keith (9.38) and plays on the KSF truck that comes to pick up the Garfields (13.11). And that's about where it ends.

Alicia Catalina Godinez Leal

Alicia of the many names is the astronaut who dies on Mars but inspires Lauren.

Alicia's story is kind of awful. She totally kicks the bucket on Mars, and she's asked to be buried there. Yeah, well, it doesn't happen: the Secretary of Astronautics says no, since her body might be a contaminant (3.12-14). So Alicia doesn't get to be buried on Mars.

The point is that Alicia and her mission to settle on Mars inspire Lauren and encourage her to get to thinking about the Destiny and the ultimate purpose of humanity. We learn that Alicia was a chemist who devoted her life to getting to Mars, trying to figure out how to terraform it and establish a community there (3.20). It's a kind of paradigm for what Lauren later tries to do by gathering followers for Earthseed.

Jay Garfield

Jay's one of the adults who's supposed to be saving the day in Robledo. He's a white guy (4.28) who's another community leader, like Lauren's father; he's also the father of Lauren's best friend, Joanne.

Jay helps lead the target practice in town, and he even helps look for Reverend Olamina when he goes missing, even though the Garfield family is already preparing to leave for Olivar (12.39). These actions lead Lauren to describe him as a "good man" (12.39), so it seems his role in the novel is to provide another fairly positive example to Lauren of what a community leader looks like.

Phillida Garfield

Ugh, parents. Always getting in the way. Phillida Garfield is Joanne's mother and also Jay Garfield's wife. Joanne tattles to her about Lauren's survivalist ideas, and Phillida tells Jay, who then tells Reverend Olamina, who makes trouble for Lauren. Eventually, the whole Garfield family goes to Olivar.

President William Turner Smith

No one in this book much likes presidential candidates. Not much new there. One of these candidates, the incumbent in 2024, is President Smith. He ultimately loses the election to Donner (3.53).

Christopher Charles Morpeth Donner

This guy wins the presidential election in 2024 (3.53), though Reverend Olamina didn't vote for him. According to Lauren, Reverend Olamina said that "politicians turned his stomach" (3.56).

Dunn Family

Yeah, by the "Dunn family", we pretty much just mean Tracy and Amy. Tracy (4.9-10) is a young woman who's only a year older than Lauren. She gets impregnated at age twelve due to her rapist Uncle Derek. Then, at age thirteen, she gives birth to Amy, another Dunn nobody much cares about except Lauren. The main point of Tracy and Amy Dunn seems to be to show what could have become of Lauren had she stayed in Robledo and been less lucky in terms of the quality of her family. Other, unimportant Dunns include Silvia, Edwin, Allison, Marie, and Christmas.

Balter Family

The main cat of the Balter family is Harry, who you can read about separately. This is just here to say there are some other Balter family members, too, none of whom are all that important in the grand scheme of things. They include Lisa, Robin, Jessica, Jeremy, Drew, Caroline, and Russell. We think we named them all.

Moss Family

Richard Moss is the main boss of the Moss family. He takes three wives, the youngest of whom is Zahra. You can read all about how bad this dude is in Zahra's character analysis. Aside from Richard and Zahra, there are other Moss family members, including the kids Aura and Peter, the wives Karen and Natalie, and Zahra's kid Bib, who is shot to death during the destruction of Robledo.

Cruz Family

The Cruz family is one of the families that get robbed by outsider thieves when Robledo is going downhill. This family consists of Lidia, Dorotea, and others. The inclusion of so many families in Parable of the Sower, when we don't even learn much about them, depicts a world where social relationships are pretty important, even if you don't always know for sure who's who. Social relationships, building community, and saving the world all turn out to be really important to Lauren once she's on her own.

Hsu Family

The Hsu family consists of George, Robert, Gary, and others. They're another Robledo family that at one point gets robbed by outsiders. But hey, Robert Hsu gives astronomy lectures (8.53), and that's pretty unique. Unfortunately, those lectures aren't enough to save Robledo from the fate Lauren foresees.

Montoya Family

The Montoya family includes, among others, Juana, Alex, Alejandro, and Bianca. They teach "martial arts classes" (6.118) after Lauren manages to wake up the Robledo residents just a little to how badly they all need help. But it's too little, too late.

Yannis Family

The Yannis family charges admission for people to look through their Window, a big TV-like thing (3.7), until the picture finally goes dark. It's an unsettling sign we see early on in the novel about how the futuristic United States is falling apart. Yannis family members include Layla Yannis and others.

Michael Talcott

Michael Talcott is the brother of Curtis, Lauren's boyfriend. Lauren says she got in a fight with him once and had to be really rough since her hyperempathy made her especially vulnerable. During one of the target practice sessions, Michael is almost shot by Aura by accident. Lauren says that it's a "pity" that Curtis is stuck with Michael, and that no one gets to choose their siblings (9.4).

Wyatt and Kayla Talcott

Wyatt and Kayla, the parents of Lauren's (initial) boyfriend Curtis, aren't super important, but isn't it nice to read a science fiction novel where characters actually have families, rather than just being super-duper heroes with no plausible backstories to accompany their hero-dom? That's because Octavia Butler is focusing on social change and how communities and relationships help or hurt people who are trying to thrive.

Jorge Iturbe and Bianca Montoya

This is the couple whose pregnancy strikes Lauren as a sign that maybe she should be thinking about getting out of Robledo and finding a better future for herself (8.2-8). Bianca is 17, and Jorge is 23—and, well, they're unmarried, so it's scandalous. Lauren's not interested in the scandal, though. She's just looking at them and thinking, Meh, that's the future I want for myself.

Mrs. Sims

Mrs. Sims shoots herself really early on in the novel. She's very religious, so in that regard, she functions as a contrast to Lauren. Mrs. Sims is all about being judgmental: she "talked about everyone who wasn't as holy as she thought she was" (3.23). And yet, for all her self-righteousness, she totally ends up killing herself. That prompts Lauren to wonder if Mrs. Sims really even believed any of her religion after all (3.37-38). Maybe her God demanded too much of her, Lauren thinks (3.38). From Lauren's perspective, Earthseed is a much more manageable faith.

Wardell Parrish and Rosalee Payne

Wardell Parrish and Rosalee Payne inherit Mrs. Sims' home after she kills herself. They move into Robledo and are very suspicious of everyone (4.14-27). Reverend Olamina tries to explain that Robledo is a community of people helping one another, but these folks aren't having any of it. During one of the eventual attacks on Robledo, Wardell gets really freaked out (13.89), and Cory helps take care of him (13.99), but he eventually can't stand it and has to go home to wherever he was from prior to moving to Robledo (13.106). Seems communities can't always welcome everyone, or be the right fit for just anyone.

Hector and Rubin Quintanilla

The Quintanillas are another Robledo family that gets attacked by outsiders. Man, these people need to get out Robledo, right? Why won't they listen to Lauren? Anyway, Mrs. Quintanilla gets killed by attackers who Hector and the Rubin brothers just barely fight off (11.4). Poor Robledo—doesn't sound like a safe place, does it?

Reverend Matthew Robinson

Robinson is a colleague of Reverend Olamina who helps out sometimes. His church is where Lauren and other youths get baptized (2.6), and he preaches the funeral for Reverend Olamina (13.1). It's good to have colleagues, we guess. It's just another example of how social relationships are important in this novel. Lauren doesn't grow up a loner—she grows up as a person in a world where community matters.

Sharon

Sharon is Bankole's wife (21.43), who has died. That's all we know about her, because Bankole's a mystery man.

Dominic/Domingo Douglas

Travis and Natividad have a kid, and that kid is Dominic (or Domingo). He's important because he helps Lauren sympathize with the Douglas family, and that sympathy inspires her to risk helping them. As a result, the Douglas family joins Lauren's group.

Justin and Sandra Rohr

Justin is the orphan Lauren's group rescues; he attaches himself to Allie. Sandra was his mom, but she's already dead by the time the Earthseed crew finds him. We don't ever learn a whole lot about Justin; he's around mostly to show how Lauren's group is able to show compassion for suffering people when the time is right.