Race In The World Of Orogenes

Emilee Coughlin

Dr. McCoy

English 468

May 18th, 2022

Race In The World Of Orogenes

In my first ThinkING essay written about the novel, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, the most interesting/challenging strand I chose was consent and abuse of power. When reading the novel my definition of consent was somebody being fully aware of what they were doing and why they were doing it, and wanting to participate in what they were doing. My definition of abuse of power was when somebody uses their power to negatively hurt others, and these people hurting others for their own gain seemingly without feeling any remorse. When I had first started writing my ThinkING essay I had not even finished reading the first novel in the trilogy yet so I didn’t have much to base my essay on. After meeting with Dr. McCoy I was told to slow down and not put too much pressure on myself. This was a struggle for me while writing my essay. I chose to write about consent because of the Orogenes being forced to breed with other Orogenes to receive a higher rank and better treatment. For example Syenite knew that if she didn’t/ couldn’t successfully have a child with alabaster then she would be forced to continuously reproduce for the Fulcrum and most probably not get a break. So while Syenite knew what was expected of her, she wasn’t fully okay with doing it and she knew that if she didn’t then there would be negative repercussions. I also chose to write about abuse of power because while reading the first novel it was very clear to me that the Fulcrum and Stills physically and emotionally abused Orogenes because they knew that the Orogenes wouldn’t fight back. For example Damaya said that she could control her powers and didn’t need training so Schaffa broke her hand to see if she could control her power while in immense pain. The Stills and Fulcrum also used slurs like “Rogga” to insult the Orogenes. (Further on in the trilogy we learn that the Orogenes will eventually start fighting back). But at the time I didn’t know this. These instances clearly show abuse of power because both the Fulcrum and Stills know that they have power over the Orogenes and throughout the novel they continuously hurt and kill the Orogenes with seemingly no remorse. For my Final Reflection Essay I am going to do something similar to my ThinkING Essay. While for my ThinkING Essay I wrote about consent and abuse of power, after reading the trilogy the most important strand that stuck out to me is race. In my essay I will focus on how Orogenes are called slurs, unjustly killed, and physically and emotionally abused. I will do this by writing about how Jemisin uses race to show the unjust treatment of Orogenes throughout her trilogy. 

In N.K. Jemisins, The Broken Earth Trilogy the most interesting and challenging strand is race. Jemisin published a blog post titled, “Creating Races” where she talks about why she uses the word, “race” to describe Orogenes instead of the word species. In her blog post Jemisin states, “‘Race’ emphasizes personhood, IMO, where ‘species’ emphasizes inhumanity. And in the case of the Broken Earth Trilogy, personhood matters” (Jemisin). In this blog post Jemisin goes on to talk about how it doesn’t make sense to classify Orogenes as a race because Orogenes have no visually distinct features, the things that make Orogenes unique are perceptual and behavioral. But with all of this said Jemisin talks about how it makes sense that a world that has such complicated feelings about Orogenes would fission them off from humanity because in our own world race is a social construct. 

While as humans we often believe that race is a social construct, after reading the Broken Earth Trilogy we can assume that the Stills and the Fulcrum also see race the same way. Even though there are no physical features that identify an Orogene, throughout the trilogy the Orogenes are still treated badly by almost everybody around them. In chapter 3 of The Fifth Season Essun is preparing to go on her journey to find Jija and kill him for murdering their son Uche. In chapter 1 of the novel we found out that Jija killed his son Uche because he found out that Uche was an Orogene. As Essun is trying to leave her home in Tirimo she runs into trouble with the guards of the city. In the text it states, “ ‘Karra,’ he says to the man you know. ‘Everything okay here?’ ‘Was till now,’ Karra says… ‘Tell your people to open the gate for a minute, will you?’ Karra doesn’t take his eyes off of you. “Think that’s a good idea, Rask?’” (53) At this point a lot of the townspeople of Tirimo know that Uche was an Orogene and are assuming that Essun is one as well. They are correct in their assumptions but they are not fond of Orogenes. When Essun and Rask get to the town gate the gatekeeper Karra does not want Essun to pass because she is an Orogene. He won’t listen to Rask which makes Essun and Rask tense as well as the other gatekeepers. Essun is getting ready to leave and gatekeepers decide that they weren’t going to let that happen. In the text it states, “Perhaps he does not see Karra nod to another one of the gate-minders; perhaps he does not see the latter woman quickly shoulder her weapon and orient it on you.” (55) Karra went against Rask’s command and tried to have Essun killed. Essun used her Orogeny to save herself and in doing so destroyed the town of Tirimo and everyone in it. These scenes in the book clearly show that a lot of the Stills are biased against Orogenes, and will even go as far as to kill them for their ‘race’. Towards the beginning of this paper I mentioned how the Stills and Fulcrum often use words like “Rogga” to talk about the Orogenes. We talked about how in class we would choose not to say the word “Rogga” out loud because we saw it as the equivalent of using the N-Word. I stuck by this testament throughout the whole semester. While the word Rogga is used all throughout The Broken Earth Trilogy we see it used right in the beginning of The Fifth Season by Essun herself. In the text it states, “Soon everyone will know he’s a rogga-lover, which is dangerous.” (55) Through out the trilogy the Orogenes are brainwashed to think negatively of themselves and hate themselves. It gets to the point where Orogenes are using insulting slurs towards themselves. To summarize in the book The Fifth Season, Orogenes are negatively targeted for their race (being Orogenes). We see this when the gatekeepers of Tirimo attempt to kill Essun when she tries to leave the city in search of her husband and daughter, and we see this with the use of the word “Rogga” which I see as the equivalent to the use of the N-word. 

In the Broken Earth Trilogy Orogenes of all ages were physically and emotionally abused. We first meet Damaya in her room in the barn. Her family kept her out there when they found out that she was an Orogene. She didn’t have a coat, slept on straw, and used the restroom in a bucket. When Schaffa takes her from her home Damaya believes that she is finally safe. But Damaya quickly realizes that when she does something that Schaffa doesn’t like, then there is painful punishment. In the text it states, “ ‘And anyway, I don’t need you to control me. I can control myself’….. ‘ Can you really?’….. ‘Schaffa!’ It hurts. He knows it hurts. But he does not stop. ‘Now, now- calm down, little one. There, there.’….’ Be still, and be brave. I’m going to break your hand now.’” (97) Damya tells Schaffa that she doesn’t need his help and that she can control herself. Schaffa didn’t like her saying that so he broke her hand. He said that he did it to see if she could control her powers even while in excruciating pain. Schaffa took advantage of his power over Damaya and broke her hand the minute she did something that he didn’t like. Schaffa as well as the other guardians and the Fulcrum believe that they can physically harm any Orogene who does something they don’t like. They clearly don’t care if it is a child or adult that they hurt, they just care that they are Orogenes because they know that most Orogenes are too scared to fight back or stand up for themselves. 

In closing, while writing my first ThinkING essay I believed that the most important strand in the book was consent and abuse of power. While writing my first ThinkING essay I was struggling both physically and mentally, I wasn’t doing well in any of my classes and had no motivation or energy. Due to this I rushed my first essay and didn’t turn in an essay that showed my best work. Dr. McCoy offered me grace by giving me permission to rewrite my essay. At this point my health was continuing to get worse and I wasn’t able to rewrite my essay or show Dr.McCoy the kind of student I am and what I am capable of. While my health has not really been getting better, I utilized office hours, the writing learning center, and my peers, and was able to write this final essay and be proud of it. After reading the Broken Earth Trilogy the most important strand that stood out to me was race. Jemisin posted a blog on why she used race instead of species to describe the Orogenes in her trilogy. In my essay I talked about how the Orogenes were physically and emotionally abused due to their race. 

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