Octavia E. Butler’s Novel, Fledgling: Societal Fear Of Shori

922 words - 4 pages

“How could it feel so good when it should be disgusting and painful?” (Butler 75) These words spoken by Theodora, an elderly white woman, about her symbiotic and sometimes sexual relationship with Shori, a black “elfin little girl” (Butler 75), express the societal fear that Octavia Butler exposes in her characterization of Shori as a monster. Shori is a monster because her very existence is a testament to the blurring of historically concrete lines. She is androgynous, vampire and human, black and white, a child with adult strength and urges. Shori’s relationship with her human symbionts and other Ina usually defies normal standards of behavior and acceptance by using pleasure instead of pain as a mechanism of control and abandoning traditional ideas about gender, sexuality, and crossbreeding.
One fear that Octavia Butler illustrates in the relationship, between Shori and her human symbionts, is the overwhelming influence that pleasure has over human beings. The euphoric feeling inspired by the venom of the Ina combined with several health benefits cause humans to leave their normal ways of life and adapt to a foreign culture. Brook, a symbiont that Shori inherited from her father articulates this point when she says, “They take over our lives. And we let them because they give us so much satisfaction and…just pure pleasure.” (Butler 127) Another example of the use of pleasure as a means of domination is visible in the way that humans become highly sensitive to the suggestions of Ina once they have bitten them. It is only after Shori bites her proposed assassin that she is able to question him. After exposure to her venom, the man has no choice but to answer her questions. This embodies the fear that people act against their own judgment in order to fulfill a desire to feel delectation. This is an innovation in vampires, Butler’s monsters need not use threats or brutality to manipulate humans; the monsters simply make them feel good.
Another anxiety manifested in Shori is the reversal of gender roles. . The link between Shori and her first symbiont Wright portrays a turnaround in several traditional ideas of gender. There are many occurrences when Wright relies on Shori for protection and provision. An example of this is the time Shori keeps Raleigh from shooting Wright. In addition, there are many times that she shields him from her own carnivorous nature. Wright is unable to keep Shori safe from the people out to kill her but she usually has the ability to keep him out of harm’s way. It is evident that this goes against Wright’s own beliefs in that he protests each time she attempts to assure his safety but he usually recognizes her superiority in this area. The fact that Shori is Wright’s guardian is...

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