Study Guide

Parable of the Sower Compassion and Forgiveness

By Octavia E. Butler

Compassion and Forgiveness

In Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina, has a funky hyperempathy syndrome that makes her acutely aware of the pain or pleasure felt by other people. Translation: if someone around her feels pain or pleasure, she feels the very same thing—even if that thing terrible, like getting beaten up or shot.

Like a lot of people with a real-life condition or disability, Lauren has a unique relationship with her syndrome: she sometimes sees it as a good thing, and sometimes as a bad thing. The syndrome also affects her ability to open up with other people, since it's difficult for her to gauge when and how she should inform other people about the condition. But basically, it makes her totally aware of other people's emotions, and that gives Lauren a unique perspective on compassion and forgiveness.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

  1. Lauren's never 100% sure whether her hyperempathy syndrome is a good thing or not. In what ways does it benefit her? In what ways does it disadvantage her?
  2. Lauren often wonders if the world would be a better place if others had to experience hyperempathy syndrome, too. How would Keith have been different if he had been a sharer? What about their father? What about Cory?
  3. What does it mean for doctors to refer to Lauren's hyperempathy syndrome as an "organic delusional syndrome"? Is Lauren's sharing real or delusional? If the sharing is a mental experience, is it possible at all to conclusively declare whether the things she feels are true or false?
  4. What's the significance of the fact that Lauren has her hyperempathy syndrome because of her mother's drug abuse? Would it be different if she had it due to some other reason—say, faulty genes?

Chew on This

The world would be a better place if more people were "sharers" like Lauren.

The world wouldn't be a better place if more people were "sharers" like Lauren.

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