Core Essay ENGL 111 – Anna Duerheimer

Throughout my time in the English 111 course, I have grown as a student and writer, as well as deepened my understanding of course concepts and The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. This trilogy is a science fiction trio that encompasses themes of racialization, seismic events, and geological thinking, intertwined with fantasy elements. Previously to this course, I had never encountered all of these concepts and elements together, but I have grown as a student and reader through a deeper dive into these three novels. I believe my thinking has not necessarily changed or shifted from my original Lithosphere essay, since I still have many commonalities now at the end of this course. I do believe that I have slowed down my thinking process in order to create deeper thoughts and ideas regarding the texts. I had to expand my thinking on the characters and the relationships they formed across the entire trilogy. 

While referring back to my Lithosphere essay, I highlighted the main themes throughout the first novel of the trilogy, The Fifth Season. N.K. Jemisin conveys messages regarding the deeply rooted racism within the United States, through the use of her characters. In the Stillness, where the trilogy takes place, there are a few different groups of people who inhabit the area. The two main groups are orogenes, who possess special, unique powers that can control and manipulate seismic events, and then stills, who do not possess any power whatsoever. Since orogenes are different from the stills, “this group is feared and disrespected by the powerless people of the Stillness, making orogenes the minority group that is oppressed and discriminated against”, as stated in my Lithosphere essay (Lithosphere Essay – Duerheimer). This discrimination and maltreatment towards orogenes is the basis of all three novels within the trilogy and even has roots within the orogene community.

I believe that my thinking has significantly deepened my understanding of the different levels of being an orogene within the Fulcrum. The Fulcrum is the training ground for orogenes and is run through a systematic hierarchy where orogenes can gain rings based off of their control and usage of their seismic manipulating powers. As stated in my Lithosphere essay, “orogenes begin their training process as “grits” or have one-ring and eventually can reach the level of ten-rings”, where ten-ring orogenes are worshiped and are treated as superior (Lithosphere Essay – Duerheimer). Many one-ring orogenes are treated as the bottom of the totem pole and often are ridiculed for their status by higher-ringed orogenes. Higher-ring orogenes are viewed as “better” and get many more privileges than one-ring orogenes or “grits” that are just starting out. For example, Damaya a “grit” training in the Fulcrum states, “their ringed fingers flick and flash as they gesture freely, of turn the pages of books they don’t have to read, or brush back a lover’s curling hair from one ear” (The Fifth Season, page 196). Damaya is amazed and in awe of the higher ranked orogenes and how they can hangout with other people freely and not read the books required to her. 

I did not think about this idea much while reading previously and writing my first essay. Taking your feedback from my first essay to reflect on real world places where this concept may be present, I deepened my understanding of the novel through the connection of the high school and college settings. Damaya’s feelings about higher-ringed orogenes reminds me of how freshmen feel walking through the halls of a high school, or around a college campus. Many freshmen look up to upperclassmen, like juniors and seniors, and are also in awe and amazed by how many friends they have and how they can go about their days freely. I believe that N.K. Jemisin may have used the dynamics of a high school setting and a college setting to create the atmosphere within the Fulcrum in her three novels. Applying your feedback in this way opened up my thinking and allowed me to comprehend and deeper absorb Jemisin’s motives behind her trilogy. This helped me grow as a reader and consumer of literature because I took feedback from my own interpretations and dove deeper into the messages hidden within the texts.

Additionally, I have slowed down my thinking and reflected on different characters throughout the trilogy. From my first essay, the Lithosphere essay, I had only read one of the novels, The Fifth Season, and had no other stories to base my thinking on. Now, I have read all three novels within the trilogy, The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky. Through this, I was able to look at how characters have changed or evolved across the trilogy, and how my opinion on them has potentially shifted. More specifically, initially, I was unsure about how I felt about Essun. In the first novel, she came across as extremely closed off and quiet, due to all of the deaths and tragedies she faced. Jemisin wrote, “these people killed Uche. Their hate, their fear, their unprovoked violence. They. (He.) Killed your son. (Jija killed your son.)” (The Fifth Season 58-59). Essun was distraught and felt lost because her husband, Jija, killed her son, Uche, solely on the fact that he is an orogene and possesses powers. Jija then took her daughter, Nassun, and ran away. She was left with no one and this led to her being detached and isolated. 

Throughout The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky, it became clear that Essun is a much more complex character than I thought she was in the beginning. I was always confused by her intentions and why she was traveling so far to find her husband and daughter. During chapter 13 of The Obelisk Gate, Essun begins to train students in Castrima on how to use their patterns. She used the same techniques to train her daughter and this sparked an idea for me. I fully began to understand that Essun’s main goal is to reunite with her daughter and she would do anything for the people she loves. I discovered her caring and compassionate side through her helping out the students within Castrima. She wants all orogenes to not be ashamed of their powers, but learn how to use them in the correct way and with good faith, including Nassun, her daughter. And I began to love Essun even more for the fact that she sees so much of herself within her daughter. Her main goal is for Nassun to use her orogeny for good and I was enlightened with this idea through the final scene at the corepoint. Essun is trying to help Nassun decide what to do and even risks her own life to help her out. In order to make all of these discoveries and connections, I had to think deeper about the true meaning behind the novel. I was able to do so through cross checking across all three novels within the trilogy. I had to think about the events that took place in each book, and make connections to how the characters actions and feelings have progressed over time and even changed. I also interpreted your feedback and that allowed myself to think deeper about Jemisin’s allusion to high school and college settings through the setup of the Fulcrum within the trilogy. Cross checking and applying your feedback enabled me to, as Professor McCoy would say, “slow down and keep thinkING”, about the deeper meaning behind literary texts (Professor McCoy).

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