Race In The World Of Orogenes

Emilee Coughlin

Dr. McCoy

English 468

May 18th, 2022

Race In The World Of Orogenes

In my first ThinkING essay written about the novel, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, the most interesting/challenging strand I chose was consent and abuse of power. When reading the novel my definition of consent was somebody being fully aware of what they were doing and why they were doing it, and wanting to participate in what they were doing. My definition of abuse of power was when somebody uses their power to negatively hurt others, and these people hurting others for their own gain seemingly without feeling any remorse. When I had first started writing my ThinkING essay I had not even finished reading the first novel in the trilogy yet so I didn’t have much to base my essay on. After meeting with Dr. McCoy I was told to slow down and not put too much pressure on myself. This was a struggle for me while writing my essay. I chose to write about consent because of the Orogenes being forced to breed with other Orogenes to receive a higher rank and better treatment. For example Syenite knew that if she didn’t/ couldn’t successfully have a child with alabaster then she would be forced to continuously reproduce for the Fulcrum and most probably not get a break. So while Syenite knew what was expected of her, she wasn’t fully okay with doing it and she knew that if she didn’t then there would be negative repercussions. I also chose to write about abuse of power because while reading the first novel it was very clear to me that the Fulcrum and Stills physically and emotionally abused Orogenes because they knew that the Orogenes wouldn’t fight back. For example Damaya said that she could control her powers and didn’t need training so Schaffa broke her hand to see if she could control her power while in immense pain. The Stills and Fulcrum also used slurs like “Rogga” to insult the Orogenes. (Further on in the trilogy we learn that the Orogenes will eventually start fighting back). But at the time I didn’t know this. These instances clearly show abuse of power because both the Fulcrum and Stills know that they have power over the Orogenes and throughout the novel they continuously hurt and kill the Orogenes with seemingly no remorse. For my Final Reflection Essay I am going to do something similar to my ThinkING Essay. While for my ThinkING Essay I wrote about consent and abuse of power, after reading the trilogy the most important strand that stuck out to me is race. In my essay I will focus on how Orogenes are called slurs, unjustly killed, and physically and emotionally abused. I will do this by writing about how Jemisin uses race to show the unjust treatment of Orogenes throughout her trilogy. 

In N.K. Jemisins, The Broken Earth Trilogy the most interesting and challenging strand is race. Jemisin published a blog post titled, “Creating Races” where she talks about why she uses the word, “race” to describe Orogenes instead of the word species. In her blog post Jemisin states, “‘Race’ emphasizes personhood, IMO, where ‘species’ emphasizes inhumanity. And in the case of the Broken Earth Trilogy, personhood matters” (Jemisin). In this blog post Jemisin goes on to talk about how it doesn’t make sense to classify Orogenes as a race because Orogenes have no visually distinct features, the things that make Orogenes unique are perceptual and behavioral. But with all of this said Jemisin talks about how it makes sense that a world that has such complicated feelings about Orogenes would fission them off from humanity because in our own world race is a social construct. 

While as humans we often believe that race is a social construct, after reading the Broken Earth Trilogy we can assume that the Stills and the Fulcrum also see race the same way. Even though there are no physical features that identify an Orogene, throughout the trilogy the Orogenes are still treated badly by almost everybody around them. In chapter 3 of The Fifth Season Essun is preparing to go on her journey to find Jija and kill him for murdering their son Uche. In chapter 1 of the novel we found out that Jija killed his son Uche because he found out that Uche was an Orogene. As Essun is trying to leave her home in Tirimo she runs into trouble with the guards of the city. In the text it states, “ ‘Karra,’ he says to the man you know. ‘Everything okay here?’ ‘Was till now,’ Karra says… ‘Tell your people to open the gate for a minute, will you?’ Karra doesn’t take his eyes off of you. “Think that’s a good idea, Rask?’” (53) At this point a lot of the townspeople of Tirimo know that Uche was an Orogene and are assuming that Essun is one as well. They are correct in their assumptions but they are not fond of Orogenes. When Essun and Rask get to the town gate the gatekeeper Karra does not want Essun to pass because she is an Orogene. He won’t listen to Rask which makes Essun and Rask tense as well as the other gatekeepers. Essun is getting ready to leave and gatekeepers decide that they weren’t going to let that happen. In the text it states, “Perhaps he does not see Karra nod to another one of the gate-minders; perhaps he does not see the latter woman quickly shoulder her weapon and orient it on you.” (55) Karra went against Rask’s command and tried to have Essun killed. Essun used her Orogeny to save herself and in doing so destroyed the town of Tirimo and everyone in it. These scenes in the book clearly show that a lot of the Stills are biased against Orogenes, and will even go as far as to kill them for their ‘race’. Towards the beginning of this paper I mentioned how the Stills and Fulcrum often use words like “Rogga” to talk about the Orogenes. We talked about how in class we would choose not to say the word “Rogga” out loud because we saw it as the equivalent of using the N-Word. I stuck by this testament throughout the whole semester. While the word Rogga is used all throughout The Broken Earth Trilogy we see it used right in the beginning of The Fifth Season by Essun herself. In the text it states, “Soon everyone will know he’s a rogga-lover, which is dangerous.” (55) Through out the trilogy the Orogenes are brainwashed to think negatively of themselves and hate themselves. It gets to the point where Orogenes are using insulting slurs towards themselves. To summarize in the book The Fifth Season, Orogenes are negatively targeted for their race (being Orogenes). We see this when the gatekeepers of Tirimo attempt to kill Essun when she tries to leave the city in search of her husband and daughter, and we see this with the use of the word “Rogga” which I see as the equivalent to the use of the N-word. 

In the Broken Earth Trilogy Orogenes of all ages were physically and emotionally abused. We first meet Damaya in her room in the barn. Her family kept her out there when they found out that she was an Orogene. She didn’t have a coat, slept on straw, and used the restroom in a bucket. When Schaffa takes her from her home Damaya believes that she is finally safe. But Damaya quickly realizes that when she does something that Schaffa doesn’t like, then there is painful punishment. In the text it states, “ ‘And anyway, I don’t need you to control me. I can control myself’….. ‘ Can you really?’….. ‘Schaffa!’ It hurts. He knows it hurts. But he does not stop. ‘Now, now- calm down, little one. There, there.’….’ Be still, and be brave. I’m going to break your hand now.’” (97) Damya tells Schaffa that she doesn’t need his help and that she can control herself. Schaffa didn’t like her saying that so he broke her hand. He said that he did it to see if she could control her powers even while in excruciating pain. Schaffa took advantage of his power over Damaya and broke her hand the minute she did something that he didn’t like. Schaffa as well as the other guardians and the Fulcrum believe that they can physically harm any Orogene who does something they don’t like. They clearly don’t care if it is a child or adult that they hurt, they just care that they are Orogenes because they know that most Orogenes are too scared to fight back or stand up for themselves. 

In closing, while writing my first ThinkING essay I believed that the most important strand in the book was consent and abuse of power. While writing my first ThinkING essay I was struggling both physically and mentally, I wasn’t doing well in any of my classes and had no motivation or energy. Due to this I rushed my first essay and didn’t turn in an essay that showed my best work. Dr. McCoy offered me grace by giving me permission to rewrite my essay. At this point my health was continuing to get worse and I wasn’t able to rewrite my essay or show Dr.McCoy the kind of student I am and what I am capable of. While my health has not really been getting better, I utilized office hours, the writing learning center, and my peers, and was able to write this final essay and be proud of it. After reading the Broken Earth Trilogy the most important strand that stood out to me was race. Jemisin posted a blog on why she used race instead of species to describe the Orogenes in her trilogy. In my essay I talked about how the Orogenes were physically and emotionally abused due to their race. 

The abuse of power and blurred consent we see all throughout our lives

The abuse of power and blurred consent we see all throughout our lives

In N.K. Jemisins, “The Fifth Season”, we see many forms of blurred consent and abuse of power. In the novel the Fulcrum rules over all of the people of the world; if you don’t follow their rules then you are exterminated before you can cause them problems. While the Fulcrum abuses their power, the Orogenes are the people who suffer. The Orogenes have powers connected to the earth, and if those powers are not used in a safe way, it can be detrimental to the safety of everybody. To maintain their control over the world the Fulcrum forces the Orogenes to do many things including hard labor and forced breeding. The abuse of power and blurred consent in the novel can also be seen in real life pertaining to the building of houses and buildings on dangerous land. Abuse of power and blurred consent can be seen all around us in real life as well as the novels we read; we can see this in, “The Fifth Season”, with forced breeding and hard labor, and in real life with letting people buy houses or build houses on dangerous land. 

In the novel, “The Fifth Season”, written by, N.K. Jemisin we meet a character named Syenite who is an Orogene. She works for the Fulcrum and she is a breeder. To be seen as useful she is forced to breed with other orogenes to produce babies for the Fulcrum. “He inhales to start shouting, she has no idea what but she doesn’t want to hear it, and before he can she snaps, ‘I’m here to fuck you, Earth burn it. Is that worth disturbing your beauty rest?’” (The Fifth Season, page 69) Syenite is instructed to breed a baby with the ten ringed Orogene named Alabaster. Throughout their journey it is made clear that both parties don’t want to have sex, but it is a mutual understanding that they have to follow orders. In chapter eight of the novel we find out that Alabaster has had many children and often does not get to see them when they’re born. Later on in the chapter Syenite finds out that the reason Alabaster quiets all of the little shakes he feels is because he wants to give the node maintainers a break from their duties. And when Syenite questions this, she is shown the horrors that the node maintainers are put through. Not only are the node maintainers forced to quell all shakes in their surrounding areas, but they’re also put to sleep during this process. It also comes to light that many of the guards and bystanders at the node station often assault the node maintainers while they’re asleep and helpless. These scenes with syenite, Alabaster, the Fulcrum, and the node maintainers clearly show abuse of power and blurred consent. The Fulcrum is abusing their power by forcing the Orogenes to breed. The Orogenes know that if they don’t obey then they will be punished and lose their rank. And the node maintainers lose their free will and are sexually asaulted.

While we clearly see abuse of power and blurred consent in the novel, we also see it in real life. One common instance we see these in is construction, and house buying. Oftentimes people will buy houses and be informed by landlords that it is a perfect home in a perfect location. But buyers are often misinformed. There are many cases when people will pay a lot of money for homes, and then later on through disasters find out that they bought a house on a natural disaster hotspot. Through the texts in class we have seen the destruction that earthquakes and volcanoes can make. In the video titled, “Kilauea Lava Flow Activity In Lower Puna May 19, 2018”, we can clearly see how destructive lava can be. In the video we see the lava flowing very quickly. We also see dead trees and fire all around the area. According to the center for research on the epidemiology of disasters, natural disasters affect 218 million people each year, and claim over 68,000 lives per year. So when realtors act in bad faith and sell people houses knowing that these people are gonna be living on natural disaster hotspots, it becomes an abuse of power. Many people who buy these homes don’t know that they are in a bad place until a disaster occurs. 

In both, “The Fifth Season”, and in real life we see many instances of power abuse and blurred consent. In the novel Syenite and Alabaster are forced to breed a child with each other. And while they became free for a short time, the Fulcrum still came back and while trying to survive lost their baby in the process. And in real life house buyers are often manipulated by realtors who abuse their power and are money hungry, this often leading to many people losing their homes or their lives.