So, I’ve officially let Clay’s Ark sit with me for a few days now. I still don’t entirely know what to make of it, but I have definitely felt many emotions across the spectrum while processing the events that unfolded in the novel. In my opinion, Octavia Butler does an excellent job at developing a story with such complex characters who really make us (and themselves) question the concept of humanity and being a part of a community.
I found myself getting upset, and sometimes angry with some of the characters in this novel, and the choices they make. I was, at first, particularly upset with Blake. As Emma previously stated in her ever-so-insightful post, entitled “Dooming the World,” I, too, partially found Blake to be selfish. He does everything he can to save his family from contracting the disease and living among Eli and the family in their deserted town. Eli and Meda try to get Blake to understand their circumstances, yet Blake does not believe them until the very end when he infects the trucker, potentially infecting the rest of civilization.
However, I soon began to feel a bit empathetic toward Blake (and his family). The story begins with Blake and his kids being abducted on the side of the road by complete strangers, who offer really no solid explanation but “This whole thing is going to be hard on you,” and “All three of you are here to stay.” (Page 478) Quite frankly, that is absolutely terrifying. It is not until Present 6, that Blake is offered some sort of explanation. about the disease that has colonized the land. Meda starts by telling him that it’s “something like a virus.” (Page 486) “The organism doesn’t use cells up the way a virus does. It combines with them, lives with them.” (Page 487) Blake sincerely listens, frightened and confused, as Meda says, “I want to make sure you understand that there’s no way to leave here without starting an epidemic.” (Page 489) In Present 8, Blake, being the doctor that he is, tries to piece together the puzzle of this disease by examining Meda. However, despite his attempts, his screen reads “unidentifiable microbes.” Blake then becomes furious when Meda refuses to find help/go to a hospital to find a cure. Blake is confused and terrified of what he’s encountered, rightly so. Nothing about the disease or these people makes sense. The disease itself defies logic. Doctor or not, it is human nature that we fear the unknown. Blake is literally thrown into an unknown environment with complete strangers and a disease that nobody understands. Despite his best attempts, Blake cannot wrap his head around the disease and the actions that these people take. It is natural to be fearful and frustrated and act in ways we normally wouldn’t when faced with something that does not make sense. On top of this, Blake is a father. It is his instinct to care for his children, Rane and Keira. He will do whatever it is possible to make sure they are not in danger, even if it means abandoning the rest of the people on the farm. Because of this, I do sort of feel for Blake and the way he acts throughout the novel.