“He had spoken of this before. Of incest, of mating her own children together with doglike disregard for kinship. And in revulsion, she had led him quickly from her land. She had saved her children, but now…who would save her?” (113).In this scene from chapter 5 of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed (1980), we witness Doro goading Anyanwu into a truly undesirable position. Doro—the spiritman—threatened to intermarry her children in order to breed stronger, supernaturally powerful beings for his creation camp. In an attempt to save her children and future generations, Anyanwu willingly leaves her village in West Africa, placing herself in harms way.
The scene implies that a mother will do anything to save her children, even if it means placing herself in harm's way. Butler exposes the complications surrounding motherhood, more specifically black motherhood and how the maternal need to protect, in some instances, can be detrimental. Now, vulnerable and alone, Anyanwu realizes that she may need help, but there is no one who can assist or save her.
Butler reveals how the mandate to protect offspring for black mothers is problematic. On the one hand, maternal parenting continuously demands self-sacrifice of mothers for their children. A black mother, in this case, seems to suffer in silence in hopes that her children will have a better life. On the other hand, Butler allows Anyanwu to express vulnerability and the need to be saved despite her strength and resilience.
• Troubled Relationships in Wild Seed (pt 2)
• Troubled relationships in Wild Seed (pt 1)
• The Nature of Family in Wild Seed (pt1)
• 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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