Study Guide

Parable of the Sower Poverty

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Parable of the Sower is set in the not-so-distant future. We're talking 2024-2027, and what Octavia Butler gives us is a United States that's falling apart—and where poverty is widespread. That's, um, not very far off the mark: even in 2015, according to a Federal Reserve Board survey, almost half of all people in the United States reported that they couldn't come up with $400 to meet an emergency. Ouch. So what does that forecast for us? Through the eyes of her heroine, Lauren Olamina, Octavia Butler takes a look at what may come.

Questions About Poverty

  1. It's never entirely clear, but it seems the pyro addicts in the novel may be masquerading as a help-the-poor, eat-the-rich movement. Is it helpful to accuse certain segments of the population of wrongdoing, or does such a strategy just create others, a convenient target for people to aim their anger at, without solving any societal problems?
  2. How do attitudes toward the poor differ among various characters in the book? How does Lauren see them, before and after the collapse of Robledo? How does Zahra see them? What about Harry or Cory or Bankole or any other character of your choosing?
  3. How does Lauren change as a result of becoming one of the street poor? How does she stay the same? Track her attitudes toward money before and after the destruction of Robledo.
  4. How does Keith experience poverty once he leaves Robledo? What does he do at first, and what does he do later? How does his sudden influx of income affect his relationship with Cory? With Lauren?

Chew on This

Lauren's experience of poverty is a necessary stage in her growth as a person.

Poverty is romanticized. It's not necessary for Lauren to go through poverty in order to understand how to improve the world through her work.

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