Earlier in the year, I had made a blog post in relation the concept of free-will. I evaluated this concept through Butler’s work, “Fledgling”, but now, I want to look at it through “Dawn”. This is not to say that the other two parts of the Lilith’s Brood trilogy are unimportant, but that I feel that this question is best analyzed through the first book. I would like to say that this is all based on my own personal thoughts and not based in some book I read. However, I did state in my previous post that biased knowledge can change perspective; therefore anything I have read could have led me to this conclusion. Regardless, this post is not intentionally based on anyone else’s work and is just my thoughts on the matter.
In this post, I talked about how free-will that we experience is not in a complete form. That because others are given free-will and have the ability to affect us, no one can truly make a decision free of foreign influence. Additionally, when we as people make decisions, we may not have all of the information we need to make the best decision we can. Therefore, this prevents us from having true free-will as we are being inhibited by a lack of information. It is this second form of free-will inhibiting that I find to be present throughout “Dawn”. Across all three books of the Lilith’s Brood trilogy, the Oankali are manipulative to both humanity, and their own people. The practically brainwash Lilith into becoming their human liaison as they not only prevent her in having a choice in the matter, they prevent her from having any human contact. That is until she meets a single human male named Paul Titus, who, in the end, attempts to rape her. The Ooloi, Nikanj claims that it tried to prevent this, but that its elders did not believe there was any danger and that Lilith and Paul would have sex willingly. This is a refusal and denial of information respectively and by doing so, both actions rob Lilith of her free-will. If Nikanj’s elders had accepted his concerns, even as a possibility, they still may not have warned Lilith about this possible danger. It is not the dismissal of Nikanj’s concerns that led to Lilith’s denial of free-will, but the fact that no one had shared this lack of concern with Lilith. They could have told her the situation was perfectly safe, but even that could have let Lilith make her own conclusions. She would still not have total free-will at this point, but at least it would be a slightly higher degree of free-will. Changing information allows for the recipient of said information to make their own conclusion based on whether or not they believe what they are being told. Otherwise, they are not given the opportunity to deny or accept a truth or lie being told to them. Denying information doesn’t even let the recipient of information even know there is a choice to make.
There are other instances within “Dawn” that illustrate a denial of information such as when we learn that (Spoiler if you have not finished Dawn), at the end of the work, Lilith is unknowingly impregnated by Joseph through Nikanj. She knows that she is having some kind of sex with Joseph through Nikanj, but is not told that she may or will become pregnant. Maybe she understood this subconsciously, but we as readers are not privy to this information. It is acts like this that show how the Oankali manipulate humanity through a denial of crucial information. Every time they do this, it impacts major scenes both as they happen, or later on in the work. This denies humanity free-will, but it’s not like humanity doesn’t already do this to itself. I’m sure not everyone knew about the war that would destroy the world which then led to the Oankali’s “saving” of humanity. So this denial of information is not exactly a pure Oankali trait. It may even apply to any sentient beings for all we know. Regardless of who the bigger liar is, regardless of whether there is a denial of information or a change in information, both possibilities prevent one from having total free-will. But what do you all think about this? Does this seem right to you, or should the idea of free-will not be taken so literally?