Education is often defined as the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction or as an enlightening experience. In respect to Parable of the Sower, the theme of education can readily be found within its title. A parable in itself is defined as “a simple story used to illustrate a moral of spiritual lesson.” Its origins come from the original Parable of the Sower, where a sower is spreading seeds along a rough, barren path but regardless of its appearance and quality, the seeds still grew once if it fell on good Earth. Many scholars interpreted the original parable thinking that it was meant to be an encouraging, positive message telling people that everything will work out despite hardships along the way. Just like in the original parable where the seed faces a hardship when it falls along a rough path, it turned out to be successful once it bloomed. Jesus teaches in parables because it will dismiss those who are not true followers; only his true followers will fully understand his parables. This relates to Butler’s novel because Lauren herself is trying to find true followers for Earthseed. In education, you teach everyone, planting seeds of knowledge everywhere regardless of whether you think it will grow and that is what Lauren did with others.
Due to the fact that education is considered a rarity throughout the novel, people who are educated are already placed in a higher social standing than those who are not. The importance of possessing an education in this type of dystopian society is shown in the novel explicitly when it saves Keith’s life outside the walls of Robledo. Keith is considered an asset to the group, who takes him in on the outside because of his ability to read and write. This is shown further when Keith says “Because I can read and write and none of them can”, after Lauren asks him why the outsiders took him in.
“They’re all older than me, but not one of them can read or write anything. They stole all this great stuff and they couldn’t even use it. Before I got there they even broke some of it because they couldn’t read the instructions.”
Unlike Keith, Lauren uses her educational background in a positive manner as she attempts to develop and spread her religion Earthseed. Lauren’s father encouraged her at a young age to teach kindergarteners about plants, which later on proved to be very useful for Lauren in teaching others about the primary aspects of Earthseed. She, like many others, knew the true value of education and tried to impart wisdom whenever she could. Lauren highly prioritized self-defense and survival classes, such as target practice, because she believed them to be of extreme usefulness in defending Robledo from thieves and gangsters. While other citizens did not want to deal with the reality of needing such a class, Lauren’s eagerness to learn and preparation saves her life in the raid that destroys the town and kills her family. Lauren uses this event as a means of completing her mission of promoting Earthseed by recruiting followers. She learns a lot on the outside through experiences that shape her and help her grow as a person.
Butler demonstrates a divergent path between how both Keith and Lauren use their education that they have been taught. Growing up in the same household and being raised and educated together, Keith uses his education for violence and rebellion. Keith’s arrogant personality and actions are seen as stupidity in Lauren’s eyes, claiming the fact that there is a fine line between education and intelligence.
Octavia Butler makes it evident in this novel that she is an advocate for education. She puts the protagonist, Lauren, into drastic situations in which she has to find her own unique solution. Butler is showing her readers the importance of education because without education, without being able to learn and without being able to teach, Lauren would not be able to adapt to these situations. It is because of Lauren’s ability to learn from her surroundings that allowed Lauren to survive, continue traveling and spread Earthseed.
Mandela Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/nelson_mandela_157855?src=t_education.
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Shmoop Editorial Team. “Parable of the Sower.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/parable-of-the-sower/.
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