By: Madison Butler
According to the Book of Revelation, the four stages of the apocalypse are conquest, war, famine, and death. While these four stages can be seen in the literary texts we have read thus far, we can also see these in the real world. It is fair to say that the world is slowly moving at a decline. As we know, everything must eventually come to an end. So if the end is inevitable, it is more a matter of what signifies such an end and to consider it, we must understand the notions of individual versus a major apocalyptic event. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler and American Desert by Percival Everett both represent individual and major apocalyptic events. Which leads me to think, are we in the midst of a global apocalypse? And if so, what individual events have or will lead us to the end of the world?
In Octavia Butler’s book, Wild Seed, we see the main character, Anyanwu, go through her own individual apocalypse and how that affects the rest of the world around her. Anyanwu’s individual apocalypse is the struggles that she deals with while in the grasp of Doro, the antagonist in the book. It is also interesting to think about Doro, and how in his life, his death changed the course of history. With his newfound power, he was able to manipulate and control other individuals which led to their dependence on Doro to take care of them and keep the world in order. Much like today, we depend on people in power to ensure our prosperity and keep our world from collapsing. However, more times than not, it is those within power that affect the apocalyptic events in history that create a chain reaction and may eventually lead to the end of the world. In the real world, we see many individual apocalyptic events on a day to day basis. From mass school shootings, to the war in Ukraine, to the deadly global pandemic due to the coronavirus, it is easy to feel like the world is going downhill rapidly. It is interesting how a single apocalyptic event, like the ones we see in the texts we have read, such as the “rebirth” of Ted Street in Percival Everett’s book, American Desert, tend to lead to a larger, post-apocalyptic event; which in regards to the example from Everett’s book, was the rioting and ultimate chaos that unleashed in the streets after the shocking arisal of the pronounced dead, Ted Street. In life, we have seen time and time again how historical events can lead to the cause of another catastrophic event later in history. In 1993, there was a week-long standoff in Waco Texas, between the federal government and the Branch Davidians, which were an armed religious group at the time. According to the History Channel website, the prophet of the religious group, David Koresh, “was appointed by God to bring about the end of the world.” On April 19, 1993, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the property where Koresh and the other Davidians were hiding and ended up killing 80 Branch Davidians, 25 of which were children. This event led to public aggression and riots, declaring the event to be illegal and barbaric. One of the angered civilians was a former Army veteran named Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh went on to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma city exactly two years after the Waco Massacre. This is a prime example of how an individual post-apocalyptic event has the ability to spark a chain reaction of many post-apocalyptic events and set the world on fire.
Wild Seed, shows the struggles with power and how power can affect the surrounding environment. Doro, being the most powerful character in the story, asserts his control onto everyone in his community and even continues to find new people to breed it. He does this in hopes to find a “good seed,” as Butler writes it, to breed an individual with similar power to his, but still make it so that they would be unable to overthrow him. He takes Anyanwu in order to breed her, due to her supernatural abilities. Doro, feels a little threatened by Anyanwu, leading him to relegate her to a basic form of slavery. Throughout the entire book, we see Anyanwu struggle with Doro’s authority over her and the community. The ending of Wild Seed proves that even the almighty have weakness’ and that no matter what, there is always a way to avert power. This is true in the world today. We are sorted into different classes, with each class being more powerful than another. In the United States, if you are rich, you automatically have more power than if you are a part of a low income class. In many places around the world, if you are a woman, you are considered less than in society. Even in Iran today, riots are breaking out in the streets because of the death of Mahsa Amari. Groups around the world are being targeted one by one. From the rape and murder of Native Americans, to the enslavement and slaughter of African Americans, to the control and murder of women, and to the genocides and discrimination of many other minority groups, people within these groups are being targeted and eliminated slowly over time. If you turn on the news, it seems like every story consists of kidnapping, murder, war, disease, and so on. The quest for power is, once again, what drives our society and our world into the ground. It is arguably the cause of most every historical event that has led us to this point in time. The cause of slavery was the assertion of power onto African Americans. Each catastrophic event in history is leading us closer to the unpredictable future.
When an individual’s apocalypse happens in the world, each apocalypse can add together to create the ultimate apocalypse. Based on the ideas presented in the book Wild Seed, as well as the other literary texts we have discussed and analyzed so far, they have questioned the ideology of what an apocalypse is and how it can occur. With these texts, it is easy to see the parallels between fiction and reality and to ask ourselves the same questions that some of the characters in our books may be questioning as well. It’s easy for us to be blind to our own ignorance which will ultimately lead to us not paying attention to the compounding nature of all of these individual apocalypses which could lead to the end of the world. This will lead us to focus on each individual event rather than the effect they will all have on the world. Which leads me to believe that the world may be in the midst of an apocalyptic time period and that it is only a matter of time before another individual apocalyptic event leads to the extinction of all humankind.