A Harsh Critique On Hierarchy And Difference

1477 words - 6 pages

A Harsh Critique on Hierarchy and Difference
Octavia Butler’s trilogy Lilith’s Brood contains a myriad of characters who would be marked as “different” in contemporary American society, whether it is because of their race, gender, sex, or species. Their differences are often the catalyst for conflict between others who see themselves as more normal and, therefore, better and higher ranked in the human hierarchy. Butler’s disdain for human hierarchical tendencies is clear in Lilith’s Brood as she often calls human intelligence and hierarchy “the human contradiction”. Using the protagonists Lilith, Akin, and Jodahs, Butler criticizes the misconceptions formulated about race, sex, and gender and, through their interactions with others, underlines the illogical harassment that often derives from the fear of what we do not yet understand.
Because of her sex and gender, resisters found it easy to thrust Lilith into the role of a scapegoat. Because the resistors essentially only “want someone to focus their frustration on”, they lash out on the one person who is most visibly different, from her physical characteristics to her enhanced abilities (147). They never really stop to try and understand why Lilith chooses to, in their eyes, betray humankind. Lilith learns that, in order to eventually return to Earth, she has no choice but to be the mediator between humans and the Oankali. Unfortunately, the humans abhor Lilith for choosing this position. They see her power and believe that “she was not human, or not human enough” (180). Their fear and uneasiness has them cast Lilith as an obvious “other”. Lilith’s physical differences, coupled with the humans’ resentment towards Lilith’s status as the “mother” of the group, fuel the growing resistance to cooperate with Lilith. Instead of following Lilith, some begin to turn on her, using hateful lies and insults to lure others to join them. The humans understand that their only hope for survival is to learn from Lilith and “that they are helpless without her” but the Human Contradiction drives them to see her as a traitor to the human species (152). The Contradiction trumps their survival instinct as they would rather try to fend for themselves than to learn from Lilith. Some resistors die or nearly die because of the Contradiction. Lilith also has enhanced strength, which perturbs other humans. After getting hit by Lilith, the resentment of having to rely on Lilith flares up and causes victims to accuse Lilith of not being a woman because “only a man can fight that way” (147). Losing in a fight to Lilith essentially has others place the loser on a lower rank than the betrayer Lilith on the hierarchy. This embarrassment causes humans to be irrational and claim outlandish statements. This statement also examines the preconceptions of the abilities of males and females. Men are thought to be strong because it is a masculine feature. A woman who possesses masculine traits, like strength, must not be a woman...

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