Grappling with Clay’s Ark

Leading into reading this novel, I was internally struggling with how I was going to get through this class. I am not a fan of science fiction, and the syllabus felt overwhelming, especially when considering the entire class was centered around science fiction novels. However, since the first chapters (Past 1, etc.) I have been extremely interested in the narratives that Butler has created.

I have found myself becoming immersed in the reading, and not wanting to put it down after I had finished the sections assigned for each class. I often found myself conflicted with the ideas of how I felt I should have been feeling based off of the things we discussed in class, such as the concepts of consent and humanity. In a way, I often found myself being disturbed because I was more comfortable with the super-natural beings in the enclave who often defied the laws of consent and “ruined” so many peoples’ lives and I found myself annoyed and uncomfortable with other characters such as Blake. Why am I finding myself being more accepting of these characters that are so destructive in their ways and wishing those who are victims of these people to disappear? I am interested in the ways that Butler’s future novels that we read will lead me to conflicting feelings once again.

My first impressions of this class were clearly wrong, and I’m happy to have found another English class that leads me to think about class discussions and the themes in the books we read long after I have left the class. It also doesn’t hurt that I look forward to reading in between classes.

Colonialism in Clay’s Ark

On Friday, Dr. McCoy pushed us to remember that it isn’t Eli waking up and scratching the original inhabitants of the enclave that set the world up for an epidemic, it’s that people went to Proxi Two and were exposed to the disease in the first place. This seemed to suggest that colonialism, not an individual, is responsible for what ultimately happens to Earth. Once this idea took root in my head, it was hard not to read Clay’s Ark through that lens.

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A Better Way?

Jonathan Kalman

In the world of Octavia Butler’s “Clay’s Ark”, those infected by the Proxi Two symbiont have strong sexual urges that cannot be easily restrained. According to Stephen Kaneshiro, a resident of the Clay’s Ark enclave, the symbiont makes you, “like having kids. Makes you need to have them” (Butler, Page 532). As far as the readers are lead to believe, these urges are hardwired, rather than environmentally driven. Converting others is not exactly a want, but it becomes almost a need. Eli, patient zero states, Continue reading “A Better Way?”

The Infection of a State of War

Eli and Ingraham’s choices to engage in Locke’s society of autonomy and capitalism in relation to the rule of law forces them to enter into a state of nature. Both Eli and Ingraham took more than they needed the day they kidnapped Blake, Keira and Rane from the roadside. During this period, in accordance with Locke, they entered into a state of war. Locke states that, “In transgressing the law of nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equality” (Sect. 8, Chapter 2). Here, that occurs in this scene between kidnappers and the kidnapped. When Blake informs them Eli and Ingraham that Keira is sick, Ingraham states, “Shit . . . What are we supposed to do with a kid who’s already-” (Butler 464), to which Eli responds, “If we’ve made a mistake, it’s too late to cry about it . . . Sorry Doc. Her bad luck and ours . . . Well, you take the good with the bad” (464). This passage indicates that they are taking more than what is necessary, and that they are aware that this is the case. Their taking of “the bad”, Keira, with “the good” Rane and Blake” indicate their grievances with after they enter a state of nature.  The indication alone that she was sick with leukemia and not in the best health indicated their reluctance and lack of need for her. Need is the basis for Locke’s treatise – to take what a person can work with, without crossing the line into greed.

Locke also takes it a step further and states that “Every man has the right to punish the offender and be executioner of the law of nature” (Sect. 8, Chapter 2). In this case, although Locke states that a person can take what they need, it does not necessarily account for the subjugation of freedom from fellow human beings. As a result, this results in the state of war that Locke references throughout his treatise. Both Blake and Rane never come to terms with their denial of freedom, and Keira’s end choice to remain with the infected people in the enclave is not necessarily a choice made from the freedom to consent. Her consent is ultimately derived from duress of familial death, and the stress of being infected, and therefore, perhaps, not truly consent by definition.

“P.O.W: Prisoner(s) of War”

“P.O.W”

  1. “Prisoner(s) of War”
  2. The title of the second section

     As I was reading Clay’s Ark, I wondered how much control the infected individuals had over themselves. Blake, in his analysis of the organism in Meda, feels that the organism, “Had left her no longer human” (498). This contrasts with Eli who continues to eat cooked food because he feels it’s a “human thing” he can cling on (515). Blake believes the organism takes away one’s entire humanity; Eli believes he still has some control/self autonomy.

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My Geneseo “English Class” Rule

When I first decided to double major and add the English major to my course schedule here at Geneseo, I was told by a friend who was an English student to take your English classes slowly. When I asked her why she stated, “English classes are all different, the professors are different they ask for different things, you expect different things from each class”. So that is precisely what I have been doing, since my freshman year I have been taking one English class a semester, slowly getting through the English major and very quickly getting through my Communication major. Continue reading “My Geneseo “English Class” Rule”

From Vice to Virtue: How We Confront Amoral Experimentation

In reading both Medical Apartheid and Home, readers are confronted with a slew of injustices committed against African-Americans. Perhaps none are as gruesome and distressing as the experimentation in female anatomy carried out by white physicians against unwilling black victims. In her novel, Home, Toni Morrison shows us one such grim scene through the eyes of Frank as he looks upon his nearly dead sister, an unwilling victim of “research.” Her life and death struggle is made all the more immediate through Franks calculated approach to helping her, checking for pulse, breathing, and temperature with the familiarity of one who knows things about the dead. (Morrison, 111) However, this scene pales in comparison to the one painted by Harriet A. Washington in describing the exploits of Dr. James Marion Sims. Here, readers are forced to imagine the pain and terror helpless, enslaved women went through under his knife. The details of vesicovaginal fistula are particularly graphic, as are the descriptions of Dr. Sims carving the vaginal region and sewing it up, only to force it open once more as physicians gazed in awe while slaves screamed. (Washington, 64-65)

This brings me to the main argument of this blog. Although this was only one example of abuse, it is symptomatic of early research in the field of Gynecology. Although this may seem strange coming from a male, gynecology has played an important role in my family. Both of my parents are Obstetrician/Gynecologists and although this makes an impartial view of their work impossible, I can attest to the good they have done. Are town is not large and few days go by without strangers thanking my parents for delivering their children or helping them through surgical intervention. It is distressing to learn just how much of my parents field of practice was built upon the pain and brutalization of voiceless women. It brings to question how exactly we can square the good that has come from medical research with the inhumane methods it was derived from? The same question has been raised across history and is well documented in books and media sources, not least of all in critically acclaimed television series like Star Trek: Voyager and games like Mass Effect. My own view on the subject is that such practices are barbaric and should be left in the past, especially with advances in technology making research less invasive and scaring. However, the hardest question is often what to do with research obtained through these immoral means. Some advocate its destruction to discourage others from advancing science at the cost of human life and suffering. I disagree. People willing to sacrifice their humanity for scientific gain are unlikely to be concerned with what others think of their methods. Regardless, there may always be wicked people willing to profit off the suffering of others. Unfortunately this seems to be part of the darker side of human nature. Destroying such research would guarantee that the victims of experimentation died in vain, that nothing good came of their suffering. People who commit these acts should be punished to the full extent of the law for it is truly a crime against humanity, but punishing their victims with obscurity and pointless suffering is an insult. I’m curious as to what other people think? Feel free to comment or bring it up in class.