Seed Shape Essay

Fractals are mathematical structures that take a seed shape, or a base shape, and build more of that shape onto itself. Fractals can be used by algorithms to create things or, in culture, it can be used in day to day life. For instance, in African culture, fractals are used in architecture to separate sacred structures from everyday ones. In his book “African Fractals,” Ron Eglash talks about how the more sacred areas or pieces of architecture are placed at the center, and are the seed shape, while everything around it builds off of its structure, the sacredness of the areas decreasing with each layer. However, the idea of fractals can be applied to other aspects of life, such as literature. Literature can be connected through the use of fractals. Key concepts can be applied to several other texts, connecting them through one “seed shape” that is found in these similar texts. This course, African American Literature, involves topics that continually build off of each other, are connecting one to the other, and relate back to the beginning. For this reason, the course works similarly to that of fractals. Whereas in fractals shapes are used to build off of each other to create something, in this course, our texts and writings are connected to each other by, and are built on, key concepts. These key concepts, therefore, become our seed shape.

When approaching literature, it is important for people to read with an open mind, and be aware of what is being laid out for them. People can turn a reading into something it’s not, by being unaware of the author’s intentions. Furthermore, people can glance over important details that the author strategically places for the readers. For this reason, it takes close reading skills to be fully aware of what is being laid out for you in the text. This is also why it was so important to use close reading when approaching texts such as “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave” by Fredrick Douglass, and “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. These readings are made up of sensitive text, and therefore it is important to have awareness of what you are reading, and understand how to interpret it. 

Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” is a science fiction story about humans on another planet, where a family is owned by a bug-like creature called T’Gatoi. Although there are many different ideas for why the story was written or what its underlying meaning is, there are a few parts of this story that some people may think could hint towards the story being about slavery. For example, the T’Gatoi has ownership of the family. If they ask something of someone in the family, they do it with no questions asked. Furthermore, the older brother in this text attempts to run away, but fails to do so because there is nowhere left to go. Lastly, the T’Gatoi withholds essential information about the future of the main character’s life involving pregnancy and the contents of becoming pregnant. These three components of this story correlate with many stories about slavery, and for this reason it may be easy for some to assume that it is about slavery. However, this story is followed by the afterword, in which the author explains their intentions for writing the story, and what the main idea is versus what it is not. And Butler explains that this story is not, in fact, about slavery. In her afterword, Butler says “It amazes me that some people have seen “Bloodchild” as a story of slavery. It isn’t. It’s a number of other things, though”(Butler, 30). There are those who would read “Bloodchild” and interpret it as a story about slavery, but because they would not take advantage of the information available and laid out to them, they interpret the text incorrectly. This is just one example underlying the importance of being aware of the information provided to you.

Another example of this key concept is in the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave” by Fredrick Douglass. In this text, Douglas shares his experiences when he was a slave. In his text, Douglass claims to keep information from his readers about how he escaped from slavery, specifically the path he took. The readers, myself included, may have been disappointed in this withholding of information, despite his efforts to make sure people could still use that route to escape by keeping the route a secret. However, Douglass does, in fact, provide this information for his readers. “I will take to the water. This very bay shall yet bear me into freedom. The steamboats steered in a northeast course from North Point. I will do the same; and when I get to the head of the bay, I will turn my canoe adrift, and walk straight through Delaware into Pennsylvania. When I get there, I shall not be required to have a pass; I can travel without being disturbed”(Call and Response, 299). The readers may pass over this text, as he is describing what he would do if he were to escape, but in reality he is explaining the route he took when he escaped. Douglass provided this information to the reader, hiding it in his text. This is another example of why it is important to pay attention to the text, and be aware of what the author is providing in their text.

My last example of this key concept is in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. This story is from a mother’s perspective when her eldest daughter comes home to visit her mother and sister. However, when she returns, she is different. She is dressed differently, and she changed her name, saying she doesn’t want to be “named after the people who oppress me”(Call and Response, 1799). She asks for her grandmother’s quilts that were supposed to be given to her younger sister to use for what they were made for, but she wants to hang them up in her house. In this text, the older sister is depicted as being ungrateful, and wanting to escape her biological culture. However, what the text doesn’t show is the struggles of a Black American woman trying to assimilate to the culture around her, as well as remain true to Black culture. The readers are provided with only the mother’s perspective, and she is an unreliable narrator. For this reason, it is important to be aware of who is telling the story that you are reading, and whether or not that narrator is reliable. This is once again an example of the importance of being aware of what is available and given to you, and to make your own conclusions about the text instead of relying on the original narration. 

This key concept matters because it can apply to future texts, as well as other aspects in life. Though it is very important to be aware of the information given to you in texts, whether that means taking advantage of what the author is giving you or being aware of who is narrating a story, it is just as important to apply this concept to everyday life. It is also important to be aware of what people say, where you get your information, who is giving information, etc. Not everyone is reliable, and at the same time, it is important to look closely at and pay close attention to what people say. Therefore, the idea of being aware of what is laid out for you is an important key concept when reading as well as in real life.

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