To quote Lauren Olamina from Parable of the Sower, another Octavia Butler novel, “God is Change.”
Since change is inevitable—nothing is stagnant forever—it can be troubling to grapple with and can be extremely frightening. On the flip side, however, change can be positive and comforting. This can be seen through the character of Aaor in Imago when it is as close as construct possible to suicide, meaning that it might dissolve completely. Aaor’s physical body is responding to its mental state—with no possibility of finding human mates, Aaor is out of options and opportunity to thrive. It “almost lost itself” and even “suppressed its scent” (Butler 675), which are mental and physical indicators of its state of emergency. Even when Nikanj brings it “almost back to normal,” it has “no control left” and “drifts toward a less complex form” (681). This can be attributed to not having an opportunity for a change in its life, since it is “deeply, painfully afraid, desperately lonely and hungry for a touch it could not have” (681).
When Aaor meets Jodahs’ mates, laying with them and Jodahs helps bring it back to its original form. Even with the hard work Jodahs, Tomás, and Jesusa do, once they break apart Aaor’s body starts to deteriorate again. Only when Aaor has the possibility of finding human mates does it start to hold its structure and keep itself together. In its narration, Jodahs reveals that it “suspected [Aaor] was surviving now only because of our combined efforts and its new hope of Human mates to bond with” (Butler 691), again showing that the hope for change is positive. Once Aaor finds mates, it “looked better than it had since its first metamorphosis. It looked stable and secure in itself. It looked satisfied” (712), which lends to change as positivity and the opportunity for a better life.
When one lacks the ability to change their situation, that is when desperation sets in. I am very much reminded of this when watching prison documentaries. In high maximum security jail cells, where inmates are locked up for twenty-three hours a day, if they have no opportunity to change their situation or privileges they will act out and often cause themselves physical harm. When given the opportunity to gain back some privileges, the inmates are often kinder to themselves and their mental states seem to be more stable. In extreme environments, the opportunity for change can mean the difference between life and death, or life and suffering.