Apocalypse Through the Lens of Butler and Kaplan

When scrolling through English classes to take at the time of picking classes, Black Apocalyptic Fiction caught my eye. Maybe I was fascinated with the term apocalypse, or maybe I was fascinated seeing Octavia Butler’s name on the syllabus reading list, as her writing has spoken to me since I have read Parable of the Sower. I think the term ‘apocalypse’ stood out to me the most while analyzing different English classes to take. My wandering mind immediately thought of the stereotypical associations with apocalypse; such as zombies, saturated land, a dystopian world on fire, and the complete destruction of the land. Until I read the first novel on our reading list, Wild Seed by the same author I admired most before coming into this course. While observing the novel in its entirety and thoroughly examining all of the pieces and parts that make up the novel in the entirety, I kept questioning myself on “why is this novel apocalyptic?” This question stood out to me the whole time while reading, and was wondering this up until the end. After examining my experiences while reading Wild Seed, I was able to build a list of why I think this novel was apocalyptic, and my essay will analyze my experiences while reading Wild Seed and unpacking my thoughts about why I think this novel is truly apocalyptic in the end. 

Wild Seed in depth was very hard to unpack, as a reader trying to understand where the apocalypse is coming from. I mean, I am still working through my thoughts on this one. One ultimate reason I believe this novel is apocalyptic is because we see both of our main characters, Doro and Anyanwu, have endings of their world. I believe Anyanwu’s world ended when Doro came into her world, making her life a living hell; having to be controlled to act and be a certain way, being forced to be under manipulation and intimidation to just survive the world Doro has created. It all starts when she essentially meets Doro, “You belong with me, with the people I’m gathering. We are people you can be part of– people you need not frighten or bribe into letting you live” (Butler 23). This act of manipulation, knowing deep down he had to do the event of killing her, is itself an apocalypse created in the world of Anyanwu- facing her with the challenge of leaving her world and the people she essentially raised on the land. The event of Doro killing Susan was a point where Anyanwu knew she had to end her world by suidice (a topic talked about later in this paper), because she realizes this will eventually be her world for the rest of her life,“He had settlements everywhere, families everywhere. She had only one, and he was taking it… She could live on and on and have nothing. He would see to it” (Butler 241). Anyanwu realizing there was no other option was heartbreaking as a reader, realizing she was giving up on the humanity she once loved. She had also lost a sense of peace when Susan died, and even a grip on reality, thinking this tight grip on her will never end. To contrast, Doro’s world ends, to me, in an interesting evaluation. Anyanwu IS Doro’s world during the entirety of the novel; he is in control of her every movement, every child she has, every interaction she makes. When Anyanwu decides she needs to die by suicide, this itself was the ending of Doro’s world, to the point where we actually see a side of humanity from him, that was completely nonexistent throughout the rest of the novel. The ending of Anyanwu’s world is practically going to be the end of Doro’s world, and I found that troubling to unpack at first. One world ending possibly leads to the ending of another world? That is something that was troubling to unpack in my brain, until Santana Kaplan unpacked this for me in the article published, “fundamental function of revelation, which shows that the World needs to end because it is cast in error”(81). How I interpreted this was just basically meaning one’s world needs to end to see the change in another’s world- Anyanwu needed her world to end to see the change in the bigger aspect of the world. This fact to me was a connection I wasn’t able to connect until going back to reread Santana Kaplan’s article, as this idea was still stuck in my mind, unable to be revealed. Through the realization that Doro and Anyanwu had endings to their worlds, does in fact make this an apocalyptic novel, as described by Santana Kaplan as well. 

Doro’s actions created a scene of different apocalypses for certain characters in the novel. As mentioned before, Doro was in complete control. Not only looking at Anyanwu here, but everyone involved in Doro’s world. Issac, one of the characters I so dearly held out hope of life for, knew Doro and his abilities. He knew he had to be under complete control of Doro, and obey all of his rules, or there would be an ending to his world. Issac had his own apocalypse throughout the novel, trying to create peace between Doro and Anywanwu before his final breath. This to me was a thought of an apocalypse I had never thought of; Issac using all his might and power to reunite people together that is so broken and toxic. Trying to struggle your entire life to be “good enough” for Doro was a constant end people had to meet. They would go to extreme measures to protect their “leader,” including having to marry Anyanwu and breed with her, even if deep down you believe it will only hurt you in the end, which Isaac later realizes is the end of his life. Anyanwu constantly has to change who she is; through her name, her culture, her clothing, and even her name, Sunwomen. Through the chaos of her world and constantly having to change is creating inner apocalypses, as some may know it’s not easy constantly changing to meet the needs of a higher up power. But does this really create a sense of apocalypse? If what I have been explaining has been defined as the apocalypse, we would be able to make another connection to bigger world concepts like poverty, racism, and even your average middle school classrooms, where we constantly see people trying to change themselves to be a better version of themselves for a higher up power. This creates a sense of inner apocalypse, trying to change the chaos in your own world in response to the chaos of another. 

Through the use of apocalypse on smaller scales, and even the bigger scale throughout the novel, I gained a better understanding of apocalypse through the lens of Butler and Kaplan. Although the ideas were pretty scarce and dense in the beginning where I felt pretty confused on the definition of apocalypse through this novel, I was able to get a better understanding of the term apocalypse through a different lens, and not the stereotypical views of zombies, burning buildings, and a dry and gray land. I appreciated this novel as a different perspective of the apocalypse for me to understand and grapple with the many apocalypse I viewed and took into consideration. Butler giving me this lens helped me improve and make connections to the article published by Santana Kaplan, which was so hard to read at first, but so easy to make connections to.