University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - Gender in Dystopia: The Persistence of Essentialist Ideologies in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
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If we were living in a dystopian society, we might view gender, sexuality, and race differently. When survival is on the line, it would be a privilege to fight back against any remaining bigotry. Octavia Butler's novel Parable of the Sower provides us with possible answers to these situations, as well as a look into the future of society if we do not change. In this essay, I situate Octavia Butler's dystopic novel in the context of gender. Laura Olamina, the protagonist, is seemingly forced to perform a new gender and sexual identity. My goal is to queer the straightness presented in the novel in order to argue Lauren's perpetuation of dominate ideologies, such as the essentialization of heterosexuality, compulsory sexuality, and essentialized ideas about masculinity and femininity. While others have argued that Lauren overcomes these ideologies, I argue the opposite. Lauren must conform to these ideologies in order to ensure her safety, yet her conformance to these ideologies is part of a wider institutional problem. Lauren herself does not necessarily challenge these ideologies; rather, other characters in the novel challenge the paradigm. I explore the ways that these ideologies affect behavior, especially when survival is on the line. These resulting behaviors include the performance of gender, which I relate back to Judith Butler's theories on the matter, situating the novel through the lens of queer theory.

KEYWORDS: Parable of the Sower; Octavia Butler; Gender; Queer Theory

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