Prior to registering for “Black Apocalyptic Fiction”, my association with an apocalypse began and ended with a sepia dust field screen, zombies, and a core group of characters with spirited personalities who overcame the end of the world through television shows like The Walking Dead and The 100. I was initially intrigued to see what broader implications a walking dead-esq novel would have on the world around us, but as we began to explore the course texts, I recognized that “apocalypse” had a fluid definition which required me to shift my perspective on what an apocalypse really entailed.
I can attribute most of my success in recognizing a new perspective to Andrew Santana Kaplan’s “Notes Toward (Inhabiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Apocalyptic Thought.” In this article, Kaplan aimed to deconstruct the pop-culture definition of apocalypse, instead defining it as a “World that needs to end because it is cast in error” or primarily to “un-cover.” Using the definition of apocalypse provided by Kaplan, within Wild Seed, we see two personal apocalypses from Anyanwu and Doro as their world either metaphorically or literally ended. As we explore these personal apocalypses, I was left thinkING about whether it is a powerful individual’s apocalypse or a compounding of individual’s apocalypses that creates a greater impact on the world around us through an exploration of Wild Seed.
Despite being alive for nearly 300 years, Anyanwu’s journey to “uncover” began only after she was approached by Doro. While she was used to experiencing life on her own, being worshiped by the humans around her, and was the most powerful being to her knowledge. Now, after going along with, she had to report to Doro: “Completely out of character, she looked terrified…He felt her shudder. That power will not harm you either. I have accepted you as my wife. You have only to obey me.’’ (Butler 42). This interaction is a complete reversal of what she was accustomed to. Anyanwu was typically the one terrifying those around her, and she was always the wisest in any given space. As the pair traveled together, Anyanwu wanted to distance herself from his reign, ultimately wanting to be freed from his control and she found this escape in transforming into a dolphin. Following the death of Isaac, her husband and father to her children, she needed an escape: “She was a dolphin. If Doro had not found her an adequate mate, he would find her an adequate adversary…And she would never be his prey.” (Butler 211). When Anyanwu transformed into an animal she was free from Doro. She literally ceased existing as a human that Doro could take control of, and in that sense, it was an uncovering of who she truly was. Her world had ended as she formerly knew it, sparking a metaphorical apocalypse.
Although a personal apocalypse can revolve around one’s own death, an apocalypse can also be spurred through the world or life ending for someone closest to them, and in this case, Anyanwu spurred the personal apocalypse of Doro. Following the death of Louisa, her children and Isaac, Anyanwu was grieving, and she truly believed Doro would not change. After over a hundred years, she was resigned to the fact that she could not escape Doro: “In spite of all his talk he was betraying her. In spite of all the joy they had just given each other, he could not forgo the kill…So be it; she was tired.” (275). Anyanwu no longer wanted to progress in the world and was resigned to die by suicide, and yet this realization seemed to have the biggest impact on Doro. As Anyanwu prepared to shut down her body from the inside, Doro began his final plea to spare her life. He says, “There isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to be able to lie down beside you and die when you die…Sun Woman, please don’t leave me.” (296). This is the first time within the novel that Doro admits to wanting to end his life. He was so attached to Anyanwu because he found a genuine life partner in her. Of course, Doro could not literally die seeing as how he shifted from body to body, even involuntarily, admitting that he wanted to die was the closest he could get to dying, or effectively ending his world. Only after effectively ending his world, through acknowledging that he wanted to die, did Anyanwu opt to stay alive and change the world for better: “There would be no more Susans…He did not command her any longer…there would be no more threats to her children.” (297). Ultimately, it is through Anwanyu’s perceived death by Doro that his world was able to metaphorically end, finally exacting the change she wanted to see to make the world a better place.
After exploring the personal apocalypses of Doro and Anyanwu, we can see that the causes of their apocalypses are created for different reasons. While Anwanyu’s word ended due to the compounded deaths of those closest to her, Doro’s ended because he believed the person he was closest to in his life would die. This got me thinkING about a very important question: Is it the power of the individual that can create an apocalypse, or is it simply many individuals that can create an apocalypse? We can take a look at a few modern examples of instances where the individual versus many individuals spurred an apocalypse. One prominent example that comes to mind is the Me-Too movement wherein a once esteemed Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein was disgraced after over 80 sexual harassment claims were made against him. He is disgraced from Hollywood and is now serving twenty-three years in prison. His behavior was uncovered, and due to his high status in our society, his downfall meant that no one else in his position could be a protected abuser. The world ending of someone powerful marked an apocalypse wherein it is expected that people can vocalize their sexual abuse and be heard. On the other hand, when we take a look at the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020 can be related to a number of unjust killings of black people including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Prior to their murders, they were not known to the world, and yet following their deaths, they spurred a number of global protests not only seeking justice for them, but for all racism in all facets.
Ultimately, I can make a case for that, like for Doro when an important person’s world ends it can start an apocalypse. Likewise, we can also see that for people like Anyanwu, her apocalypse began after a number of deaths for those closest to her. As we progress throughout the semester, I am still trying to figure out what it truly takes to start an apocalypse, even at smaller scales to create change for the better.