Excavating Old Rock Layers

Something that I couldn’t shake from the back of my mind when reading The Fifth Season was the treatment of Alabaster’s children–otherwise known as the node maintainers.

Learning that they are sedated and used for the ability to quell shakes is disturbing. However, what’s even worse is learning that the affluent stills use these sedated orogenes for their own twisted pleasure.

This situation as a whole has parallels to American slavery. The first being the separation of young children from their parents. In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass explains that he was taken from his mom at a young age, and was only able to see her four or five times in his life. Throughout the novel, Jemison discloses to us the magnitude of grief Alabaster has for his children who he is torn from.

The next salient connection being sexual abuse and exploitation of people who are enslaved. One of the reasons why Douglass was taken from his mom at such a young age was because he was biracial, and many speculated that he was the master’s son. If this theory is true, that means the slaveholder likely forced Douglass’s mom to have sex with him. This sexual abuse was common, and is what Jemison may be alluding to describing the abuse of the node maintainers.

Alabaster’s children stationed at the node maintainers are sexually abused for the entertainment of wealthy stills. I can only imagine the helplessness Alabaster feels knowing his children are suffering and there is nothing he can do to prevent it. It’s probably similar to the way Douglass’s mother felt after he was taken. Perhaps that is why she snuck out to see him several times despite the risk of severe beatings. Perhaps that grief and helplessness is why Alabaster intentionally set off  a season.



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