Lithosphere Essay

In the first book of the “Broken Earth” Trilogy, “The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin, we are met with the manipulation of myth and science in both, good faith and bad faith ways that racialize orogenes. Orogenes are individuals that have the ability to feel the seismic activity, which gives them the power to control such things as earthquakes and volcanoes. Orogenes are feared by the rest of the population because of this power that they hold. In order for the non-orogene individuals to be able to feel safe from the orogenes, they are kept under close watch by Guardians. Guardians have a power that negates that of the orogenes, causing their seismic power to have little to no effect. Throughout this novel, we learn and understand that the orogenes are treated extremely unfairly because of their ability, and face oppression in emotional and physical ways. Our course epigraph explains how the term “race” is not used to describe how an individual appears or looks but rather a ranking in society based on essentializing a specific group of people, or race. These social rankings, are recognized as essential in the function of our society and is why there has always been a pronounced power dynamic, throughout history. Throughout “The Fifth Season” we are met with several examples of racialization, which can also be tied to real-world events and scenarios.

In “The Fifth Season” there is a caste system that has been established, keeping the orogenes at the very bottom. It is seen that orogenes are mistreated in several ways by other individuals of higher power. At the beginning of the book, Damaya is a young girl who is found to be an orogene by her parents. After finding out that Damaya was an orogene, she was forced to sleep in a barn outside of her family’s home. Even though Damaya had a family that loved her, orogenes are so frowned upon that the people closest and dearest to her pushed her away for the simple fact that she was an orogene. In chapter 2, Schaffa says to Damaya “Not all parents do the right thing … by the time a Guardian arrives a mob has carried the child off and beaten her to death. Don’t think unkindly of your parents, Dama. You’re alive and well, and that is no small thing” (The Fifth Season, Chapter 2). This excerpt exemplifies the fact that the orogenes were extremely oppressed, and families would even abandon or kill their children after hearing that they were orogene. Another quote that backs up this point is when Essun says to herself  “House empty, too quiet, tiny little boy all bloody and bruised on the den floor” (The Fifth Season, Chapter 1). Essun who is the oldest version of Damaya, is looking at one of her two children dead in her own home because her husband Jija found out that their son Uche was an orogene. Physically and emotionally, orogens experienced the absolute worst treatment by other individuals of different castes. They were beaten and tortured, and if not killed, they were given the worst possible living conditions. Later in the book, we learn that all orogens have different levels of strength when it comes to their power, a 10-ringer being the strongest. Stronger orogens have more important jobs but are still treated poorly, and do not get any special treatments for having these more important tasks. Later in the book, Damaya changes her name to Syanite, which is done to detach her from her past life as Damaya, and now as someone who works and does jobs for the Fulcrum. During one of her adventures, she comes across something called a node. The book states “It’s the sort of thing they give to orogenes who’ll never make it to the fourth ring—the ones who have lots of raw power and little control. At least they can save lives, even if they’re doomed to spend their own lives in relative isolation and obscurity” (The Fifth Season, Chapter 8). Although the purpose of using nodes was done mostly in good faith, to protect the Stillness and keep it safe from detrimental seismic activity, orogenes are kept in these nodes, stuck underground for the rest of their lives controlling seismic activity in the location that they are stationed in. These orogenes experience extremely inhumane treatment by the individuals who put them there, with no choice but to serve the Stillness as a tool instead of as an individual and a living working being. As we can see from these examples, orogenes were not treated with respect or fairness by anyone, not even by other orogenes. If there was no oppression from guardians or other caste members, it was by other orogenes who were constantly in competition with one another. This helps keep the hierarchy where it is by turning people against one another because it makes it hard to trust one another. This can be seen in the real world throughout history and still today in the present time.

As media becomes a larger and larger part of our daily lives, more and more information is at the end of our fingertips. People are becoming more and more polarized from one another, creating tension between individuals, or groups of people. This polarization and inequity creates beliefs that form systems and laws that allow some groups to be treated differently; better or worse than others. In our course epigraph this is explained when it is said “My understanding, thus, is that race is a structural relationship for the articulation and management of human differences, rather than a substantive content” (Passage from page 27 of Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.) Race has been used as a factor in creating and maintaining a social hierarchy throughout history and even still today. As you can see in a majority of major cities, there are very distinct lines of segregation between different racial groups, with those who are part of a lower class in the system, living in the worst-kept parts of the cities. (A City Divided) This holds the individuals living in these areas to stay at their “spot” in the social hierarchy. Furthermore, it prevents these individuals from having the same opportunities that other individuals have in the nicer, safer, and more up-kept parts of the city because of where they live and the conditions they are almost forced to live in. This gives a perfect example of why we live in a hierarchical system, providing benefits in numerous ways to those who were chosen to be at the top of this system. While those individuals who are not as fortunate at the bottom of the system, are faced with more daily challenges than those who have reaped the benefits throughout history and their daily lives.

Throughout the first novel of the “Broken Earth Trilogy”, we are introduced to several examples of racialization. “The Fifth Season” gives us a unique perspective on how the social hierarchy is truly a long-enduring issue in the real world. Not only does it paint a picture in our head of what the extreme scenarios of racialization and a set-in-stone caste system could lead to, it also allows us as individuals to be more aware of the hierarchical social issues we are currently enduring, and the same issues that have been ongoing for several generations.

Work Cited

“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin

Mini-Collaboration 1

A City Divided:

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