Is there such a thing as free will? Octavia Butler’s Fledgling has made me rethink this philosophical debate. Within this work, as those who’ve read it know, the saliva of an Ina bite addicts humans to the Ina’s saliva. This gives the Ina control over the human; however, still allowing the human to make independent decisions. Even without being bitten however, Ina still can influence humans through speech and action. This is no special skill as anyone can do the same regardless of how effective they are in doing so. People persuade, manipulate, and encourage others into doing various actions both intentionally and unintentionally. This mental effect people have on one another is called influence. It can be both passive or active, intentional or unintentional. Regardless of whether we see it, go along with it, or fight against it, influence is always there. If we do notice this influence, we can choose to go along with it, which is actively giving into said influence. If we see the influence and choose to ignore it, that is still giving into the influence as it influenced us to make the opposing choice which we may have not made otherwise.
We as humans may thing we control our thoughts. We think that we are the makers of our own decisions. But our choices are presented to us. After all, they are choices. Choices are limited by what we can conceive of and some choices may not even appear to us outside of hindsight. We only have the choices we can conceive of and the advice given to us by others. The Ina may have their saliva to help make this persuasion more effective, but in the end, there are two minds at work with their own agendas. Sometimes they coincide allowing for partnership, but other times, they conflict and cause problems. Free will can only exist when the end result is not inhibited. How can one be able to do what they want, when they want, if everyone is trying to do the same thing? This is what laws are for. To prevent this conflict in self-interest from destroying civilization. This, although protecting everyone’s interests, limits their free will by preventing them from doing what is prevented from being done to them.
It can be said that there is a false free will or limited free will. Given that we are allowed choices, the options to do what we want within the confines of a fixed perimeter, we are given a form of control. We have the freedom to choose what we want to do, although at the risk of facing the consequences of our actions. We could choose to rob a bank, but run the risk of going to prison. We can choose to study for a test, but run the risk of getting a good grade. Not all consequences are bad after all. Though this is what makes our “free will” incomplete. Free will would have consequence free actions as the fear of facing those consequences limits our ability to go through with our will. In Fledgling, Wright is given the chance to leave Shori and live his own life, but the influence of the saliva, the influence of their growing bond, the influence of his life experiences has led to the limiting of his options. Yes he is given the option to leave, but all of these influences push him towards staying with Shori. Yes, he may choose to stay with her, but to say it is of his own free will would be inaccurate.