Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Nature of Family in Wild Seed (pt1)

By Briana Whiteside

“There had been whispers when she was a girl that her father could not beget children, that she was the daughter not only of another man, but of a visiting stranger. She had asked her mother about this, and for the first and only time in her life, her mother had struck her…” (11).

This scene is from Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed (1980), and it shows the fragile relationships between Anyanwu and her mother concerning Anyanwu’s father. This is the only time we hear Anyanwu question, or even talk about her father in hopes to understand her difference from other kinsmen. Her curiosity resurfaces when Doro—the spirit man—finds her and inquires about her ancestry because to him it is crucial to understanding how much of a “wild seed” she is.

The scene is implying that Anyanwu is the daughter of an unknown stranger, not the man whom she believes is her father. No other person in the village where Anyanwu lived processed the supernatural capabilities that she had, which isolated her from others. Now, face to face with Doro, one who seems to understand her, Anyanwu allows him to get physically and emotionally close to her, which aids in his pursuit to lure her away from her home.

Butler complicates the family dynamic between Anyanwu and her mother to later expose how Anyanwu adopts similar parenting techniques with her children. Anyanwu’s mother withheld important information from Anyanwu just as Anyanwu would do in later years with her children in order to govern over them and protect them. However, this small yet crucial scene calls into question the consequences of mothers, parents, or guardians withholding information from children.

In the case of Wild Seed, withholding information can, on the one hand, serve to protect, but doing so can, on the other hand, lead to a longstanding practice that, among other things, has negative outcomes.

A Notebook on Octavia Butler

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Cultural Front.  

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