When one hears the word “Apocalypse“, they are quick to associate it with the movies or tv shows, such as The Walking Dead. A majority of these associations are put with zombies, or the ending of the world. When registering, I was aware that I needed to take a literature class at the 300-level, and ill let you know that I instantly skipped over this class. Black Apocalyptic Fiction, who would want to study a whole semester on the destruction of the world? Well, to my surprise when I was making my schedule, this class was the only one that fit. I gave it some time, I thought it out, and primarily thought on the idea that other people wouldnt sign up for this class if it was that bad. But then I was worried they knew something I didn’t about it. All this being said, I was eager to find out and even more eager to get into the classroom. When the syllabus was released, I instantly went to look at the required books, and was instantly taken back as they seemed to be the complete opposite of what I thought. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, has bright colors on the cover, and a figure with wings. Doesn’t really define my idea of apocalyptic.
So far, every article we have read or discussed has been somewhat related to an apocalyptic event, but in each way, they all contain different circumstances when related to the end of a world. One of the first articles we read ‘Notes Toward (Inhabiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimisms Apocalyptic Thought’ written by Andrew Santana Kaplan, discusses the meaning of apocalypse and how it corresponds to the ending of the world, and in an individualistic realm. He explains that anything apocalyptic comes with a list of errors and mistakes that are often made within that said world. Looking back on this article, I found it rather challenging to understand. I found myself rereading it multiple times, and often searching words to try and understand their meaning in the context. Thankfully, when this article was discussed in class, I was relieved to know that some of my peers were also struggling to understand the meaning. With what was discussed in class, I took away from this article that in order to end something, the current world must be destroyed. The example used, was the discussion of racism and that for it to be removed from society, the world must be destroyed indefinitely. I can say though, that after reading this article, it opened a new perspective for me when understanding the world apocalyptic.
It wasn’t until we fully read through Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, that I felt helped broaden my understanding of the word apocalypse. From the quick shift of Kaplans article to Wild Seed, I felt that it set up a better structure when thinking about the different definitions that come with a strong word like apocalypse. In Octavia Butlers book, we see apocalypse being used in multiple ways, as said characters, begin to transition, which in this story is the time period that the characters have before they begin developing their special powers and begin taking notice to the changing worlds around them, as they continue to switch lives. In this story, we see Doros world come crashing down, as well as Anyanwus. We get to see apocalyptic being used in two different ways. Doro, who we understand went through his first transition of life at the age of thirteen, has a sudden realization that “he could have and do absolutely anything” (Butler). Throughout his long lived life, he noticed how destructive he was to everyone around him, and the lives of his children. Doro begins to notice that in order for him to keep Anyanwu in his life, he needs to dramatically change his ways. By doing this, Doro will begin to see the life he knew get destroyed. Anyanwu begins to see her life change as Doro shows her all the unknown aspects of life. She’s been pulled away from her home, lost multiple children, and watched as everyone around her continued on. She was used to breed, in hopes that a new life could be created with the powers she has. Although her life wasn’t destroyed, she faced a personal apocalypse as she struggled to free herself from Doro.
If I was to walk away with something from this book, it would be the understanding of the struggles that power has on the world. Doro, in this story as we know, holds the most power. He uses it to take complete control over everyone in his community and searches for new people to constantly breed. He remains consistent with his complex of superiority and continues to view himself as the best man to walk the earth. Its interesting to see how Doros view on life changes. He wishes he could be better, and avoid hurting the people that walk beside him. He repeats and emphasizes “You belong with me; with the people, im gathering. We are people you can be part of-people you need not frighten or bribe into letting you live” (Butler 23). In the ending, we see Anyanwu recognize the two sides and tries to move forward in the situation that could’ve turned apocalyptic. She knew that she no longer wanted to live and knew that the only way for death was suicide, “Despite all his talk he was betraying her. Despite all the joy they had just given each other, he could not forgo the kill… So be it; She was tired” (Butler 275). For the first time, I saw death being included with apocalyptic in a book that didn’t involve anything horror.
Moving forward, we’ve elaborated and explored, and primarily concluded a majority of the apocalyptic terms. All these stories leave me curious as too if now there’s a difference between a personal apocalypse or a total apocalypse. For the remainder of this class, I want to continue expanding my thoughts on apocalyptic thinking and understand how it can be added to literature in ways that are unique.