The Fifth Season: Uncovering Racialization’s Implications

In N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, readers are immediately immersed in a world on the brink of destruction, where a minority group of people controls the natural disasters and outcomes of their world as they know it. Events known as Fifth Seasons wreak havoc. Through vivid storytelling, Jemisin explores various applicable topics to contemporary society such as oppression & survival, hierarchical interactions, and environmental degradation. The process of racialization in The Fifth Season involves a complex intertwining of myth, science, and social constructs, shaping the identities and experiences of characters throughout the narrative. Through the exploration of mythical elements such as eclipses, scientific phenomena, and societal hierarchies, the trilogy delves into how racialization functions as a deliberate mechanism to allocate power and establish societal hierarchies.

In The Fifth Season, Jemisin explores a world where orogenes, and excluded group of individuals with the ability to manipulate seismic energy, are oppressed and controlled by higher members of society such as the Guardians and, Yumenes leaders, and more importantly the system that teaches them from a young age to control their abilities and emotions, the Fulcrum. This oppression is evident in the treatment of orogenes within the Fulcrum, the institution that trains and controls them for the benefit of the ruling elite. Reflecting on her experiences, Damaya, a young girl separated from her family to undergo training at the Fulcrum, acknowledges in two separate instances, “(Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Oregenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends… No one gets expelled from the Fulcrum, after all. Dysfunctional weapons are simply removed from the stockpile. And functional weapons should be smart enough to take care of themselves.” (Jemisin, p. 297 & 298). This quote shows how the Fulcrum treats orogenes as tools, not as people with feelings or friends. It highlights how they’re used as weapons and not given the care or support that children need, emphasizing their harsh treatment and lack of personal connections within the institution as well as reinforcing the idea that hierarchy is reinforced through the dehumanization and exploitation of orogenes. It also reflects how the process of racialization categorizes them as individuals with inherent worth, perpetuating a system where their identities are reduced to how they are used as well as their level of expendability.

Within the narrative of Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, the Guardian’s words to Damaya reveal the pervasive fear and control surrounding orogenes within the society. He reinforces the notion of their inherent danger, stating, ” You cannot control yourself. It isn’t in your nature. You are lightning, dangerous unless captured in wires. You’re fire-a warm light on a cold dark night to be sure, but also a conflagration that can destroy everything in its path-” (Jemisin, p. 95). This characterization serves to justify the harsh treatment and strict control imposed on orogenes, as demonstrated by the Guardian’s admonition by portraying orogenes as uncontrollable forces of nature, the Guardian reinforces societal prejudices and rationalizes the oppressive measures taken against them.

Furthermore, the Guardian also says to Demaya, within the same conversation, that “‘Orogenes have no right to say no. I am your Guardian. I will break every bone in your hand, every bone in your body, if I deem it necessary to make the world safe from you’… Schaffa keeps stroking her broken hand. ‘I love you’, he says… ‘Never doubt that I do, little one. Poor creature locked in a barn so afraid of herself she hardly dares to speak.’” (Jemisin, p. 99). The Guardian’s manipulative tactics further underscore the oppressive dynamic, as he alternates between threats of violence and affection towards Damaya, instilling in her a sense of guilt and dependence. This complex interplay of fear, control, and emotional manipulation highlights the tenuous existence of orogenes within the book. As well as underscoring the dehumanizing effects of societal prejudice and the lengths to which those in power will go to maintain control. This can be connected to contemporary societal norms and racialization as it mirrors the systemic oppression and control imposed on marginalized groups in our own society, highlighting the enduring struggle against dehumanization and the abuse of power in our own government.Top of Form

In summation, N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season offers a profound investigation into power dynamics, dehumanization, and oppression within its fictional world. Through the portrayal of orogenes and their societal treatment, the novel prompts a thought-provoking examination of contemporary societal norms and the process of racialization. The pervasive themes of fear, control, and manipulation experienced by orogenes parallel real-world instances of systemic oppression and discrimination, particularly against marginalized communities. By drawing these connections, The Fifth Season highlights the enduring struggle against dehumanization and the misuse of authority. Hence, the novel serves as a compelling catalyst for reflection on the pressing need to address and rectify societal injustices.


Jemisin, N. K. (n.d.). The Fifth Season

Historical Foundations of Race. National Museum of African American History and Culture. (2021, December 16).

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