Final Self-Reflective Essay, ‘Parable of The Sower’ and The 2008 Expulsion and Housing Crisis

After engaging with ‘Parable of the Sower’ by Octavia Butler, and with the knowledge of the 2008 global financial crisis in mind whilst reading, I have found that many course concepts connect in different ways to this novel as well as the others we have read in the class. Concepts like trust and expulsion especially stuck out throughout the course. While many believe the 2008 expulsion and housing crisis to be caused by homeowners who “did not read the paperwork”, there are truths that lay beyond this. In Michael Lewis’s novel ‘The Big Short’, wealthy investors are seen playing a sick game with the homes and mortgages of many during this time. Grown men are seen betting against subprime mortgage loans and profiting off the little guys, homeowners. “The subprime mortgage machine roared on. The loans that were being made to actual human beings only grew crappier, but, bizarrely, the price of insuring them the price of buying credit default swaps fell. By April 2006 Lippmann’s superiors at Deutsche Bank were asking him to defend his quixotic gamble.” (page 90 of The Big Short). After encountering ‘The Big Short’, it’s clear to see where trust was broken for homeowners who were eventually expelled from their homes because of the corruption on Wall Street that directly affected the lives of real people. 

While it is not easy to see right away that the contents of ‘Parable of The Sower’ has much to do with the expulsion and housing crisis of 2008, themes and concepts are clear to pick out of this dystopian read. Expulsion is one concept I find not only the main character can relate to, but also those who reside outside of walled communities like the one Lauren has lived in. Early on in the novel, the picture is painted clearly of how life was for individuals who did not have the protection of walls and a tight-knit community with, apart from robberies, a reliable food supply. While out with her brothers, father, and four other kids, Lauren describes what and who she sees outside her walled community. “Crazy to live without a wall to protect you, Even in Robledo, most of the street poor- squatters, winos, junkies, homeless people in general- are dangerous. They’re desperate or crazy or both. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous.” (page 10). It’s clear in Lauren’s world that if you don’t have a safe home (walled community), it is near impossible to survive, much like how it is in our own world. “Then there were the pitiful, unwalled residential areas. A lot of the houses were trashed burned, vandalized, infested with drunks or druggies, or squatted in by homeless families with their filthy, gaunt, half-naked children.” (page 10). The people Lauren encounters outside of her community walls have been expelled from “luxury living” even though Lauren doesn’t consider her way of living a luxury, home is not something that is accessible for those stuck on the outside. During the expulsion and housing crisis of 2008, millions lost their homes, their source of safety and comfort. Much like how it’s difficult to place blame on the characters in ‘Parable of the Sower’ struggling to survive, the homeowners that took what loans they were offered in 2008 were merely trying to hold on to shelter and stability, and trying to keep their families generational homes. Many who were expelled from their family homes had to disperse, and with family living in different states, the feeling of expulsion was present in not being around those who have always been around. Lauren went through a similar expulsion when she had to leave her home behind. “It had occurred to me, though, that I should get back to my garage before someone else settled there. I wasn’t thinking very well It was as though that garage was home now, and all I wanted in the world was to be there.” (page 166).

After reading anything, it’s common to gain a better understanding by relating their own personal experiences to these stories. For me, when I read ‘Parable of the Sower’ it became clear that I could relate to the main character in a religious sense and, in a less severe case, her hyper empathy. After identifying this connection, I was able to see that I could understand, on some level, the expulsion Lauren had to feel and face. In the book, we get to know a lot about our main character, Lauren. We find how she has struggled with a disorder that came from prenatal exposure to a drug her mom used at the time. Lauren finds it difficult to travel outside the walls of her home because of the sickness, pain, and drug epidemic that affects the people outside. This is especially difficult for Lauren because through her hyper empathy she can feel what those who are suffering do just by looking at them. Although I don’t suffer from a prenatal birth defect, I have found that I tend to put others needs over my own, which is something that. A quote from ‘Parable of the Sower’ that stuck with me in this sense was when Lauren found out about her brother’s death, and how he was killed. “​​If hyper empathy syndrome were a more common complaint, people-couldn’t do such things. They could kill if they had to, and bear the pain of it or be destroyed by it. But if everyone could feel everyone else’s pain, who would torture? Who would cause anyone unnecessary pain? I’ve never thought of my problem as something that might do some good before, but the way things are, I think it would help. I wish I could give it to people.” (page 115). I suppose this quote puts into words the philosophy I stand behind when it comes to how I interact with those around me. As for how Lauren feels about religion I feel I can especially relate. Coming from a very religious family I’ve struggled with a lot of things that have to do with my faith, every day I am tested with questions that push me in every direction, just one example is wondering whether I should base my actions on what I think God would want or what I know people would want. It’s funny because in The Bible we (Christians) are told not to be of this world yet here we are. Circling back, I feel Lauren’s father and I share the same God, I also think her father and mine would get along great because of the similarities I see between them wanting to protect and prepare family for troubles to come. Although I can’t say I have experienced the trauma Lauren has, I do know that because of the religion I was brought up in, and the way I have always put others’ feelings before mine, I am influenced in a way that has made me feel expelled to some degree. I have found it difficult to gain my own understanding of having a “relationship with God” because of all that I have been conditioned to understand about Him from the congregation and from my family. This plays a big part in my need to please people, especially my parents, if I don’t stick to the moral obligation my religion demands from me, I’m not who they want me to be. All this makes it hard to feel a sense of security, in a way, I am expelled.

Because I feel somewhat of a personal connection to Lauren and the expulsion she has come to face throughout the novel, I am able to understand the concepts that are presented between the lines of Parable of the Sower’. The common theme of expulsion is one not to take lightly, how we understand the concept of being expelled will prepare us in truly recognizing the reason for the 2008 expulsion and housing crisis.

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