Month: December 2020

The Frequency of “I”

Editing the new, digital version of the text proved remarkably tedious. I was given two different novels to edit: the end of “The Parable of the Talents and the beginning 150 pages of “Fledgling.” I corrected the errors from the last few pages of “the Parable of the Talents” extremely quickly: there were not many extra characters and the separation of the paragraphs was kept intact. All I had to do was correct misspellings. After this easy experience, I was expecting the rest of the project to be finished extremely quickly.

Then I moved on to correcting the new, digital text of “Fledgling.” Unfortunately, my scanning process was more complicated than I would have liked. Because my BYU ID had an old, unused email address, I could not access the scanned files using my own account. I borrowed my husband’s ID to scan and send the digital files: after receiving the files he emailed them both to me. While the first file, the end of “The Parable of the Talents,” sent easily, the 15o pages of “Fledgling” could not send as a normal PDF, so he compressed it. I believe this was the cause of the extremely large amount of errors in my new, digital text of “Fledging.” Paragraphs were separated incorrectly, quotation marks were irregularly interchanged for the its singular form, words were misspelled, words were omitted, etc. The most blatant and annoying error to correct, however, was the mis-recording of the word “I.” It was marked incorrectly more than half the time it appeared. On some pages, it was almost every time it was written. It was often interchanged for marks such as “|” , “{” , or “[“. Sometimes a J was inserted in its place. Sometimes a “L.” In any case, it was a mess to correct.

Despite it being extremely tedious and annoying to edit, the incorrect recording of the word “I” made me make some interesting conclusions about the text. I have just finished writing a 10 page paper about Derek Walcott’s epic poem “Omeros.” In my paper, I addressed the idea of representation: in the poem there is a self-inserted poet-narrator that interjects in the narrative. He writes his feelings about each character, creating the plot through which their motives are shown, their character and personality explained. Essentially, he controls the characters he writes. In the poem itself, the personal pronoun “I” is hardly ever used. It only manipulated when the meta-narrative of the poet-narrator interjects. Indeed, this creates some problems in terms of giving certain characters proper representation. The females in the narrative especially lack depth of character are written as merely objects and metaphors to further the poetic motives of the writer. Thus, the lack of the pronoun “I” in the narrative means that the characters do not get to express their feelings themselves. It can be concluded, therefore that the characters are not representatives of true human expression.

What does this mean about Octavia Butler’s “Fledgling”? “I” is included extensively: nearly 20-30 times as page in the most extreme examples. With the brief skimming I did of the text, this means that there is more dialogue. There is more internal dialogue. It means the main character thinks a lot about her feelings, her actions and her motives. Because of these narrative devices are used more extensively in the text, it could be concluded that characters are represented properly. The main character especially forms her own opinions, speaks her mind, and thinks about herself.

I suppose this is a mini-study of the project we will be completing for the final. However, in the short survey I did of the interjection of the personal pronoun “I” in Octavia Butler’s “Fledgling,” I can conclude that studying the frequency of words within a text can help us draw conclusions about the character of the book and its author.

Reactions to Octavia Butler

The name Octavia Butler was familiar to me when I read it on the booklist. My only guess is that my sister mentioned it at some point in time: she is an English major and we frequently discuss literature. However, I didn’t know anything about her before picking up “Bloodchild and other stories.” I was shocked to discover I was reading science fiction. It definitely was not what I was expecting. I was even more shocked after looking up Octavia Butler online. Not only did I discover that Butler was black, but that she was a black female publishing science fiction in the 70s and 80s. After reading more from her memoir included in the collection and reading some about her wikipedia, I was impressed by her tenacity, persistence, and passion. She worked her way into a white-male dominated field, and, from the sense I get from her autobiographical writing, she did it with unflinching confidence in her ability as a writer. Immediately she became a kind of heroin in my eyes.

I am also extremely impressed (and excited) about her work. Bloodchild is progressive. (This is true today, however, it was extremely true considering the time it was originally published in 1984.) This is mainly because of its male pregnancy narrative. I am always curious when creators attempt to capture or understand a man’s reaction to this particular female experience. I think that is, firstly, because it is something men will never be able to experience. Therefore, it is always hypothetical, always imaginary. Secondly, I think it is because there are two extreme negative male reactions to pregnancy and birth (as far as I can see as portrayed in popular media): one is the reaction of disgust and fear, the other is the downplaying of the intensity or pain. Thirdly, because we live in a male-dominated society, to think of men preforming the role of the repressed gender flips our societal structure on its head. In the case of “Bloodchild,” the male must choose to house and eventually breed in an act of love, selflessness, and sacrifice. Thus, the male must take on the qualities that are often classified as feminine, qualities that are considered lesser because the represent subservience and therefore weakness. At the end, the narrator understands the pain he must endure and the sacrifices he will have to make in order to house and raise the children of T’Gatoi, but in the end he chooses to give his life to her because he loves her.

Also interesting to me is its exploration of human subservience. Historical narratives, like colonialism, display the earthly struggle of dominance and control. Broadly speaking, our existence wrapped around the fight for control. In “Bloodchild,” humankind willingly sacrifices their control and power for resources, thus contradicting popular science fiction stories of the time that told stories of otherworldly colonialization. However, not only does Butler’s peaceful story of subservience break the norms developed in the genre, but it also contradicts most western narratives that parade the success and glory of colonialism. However, after doing some reading, I discovered that the story is not attempting to be a metaphor for slavery. Rather than attempt to show the humankind as slaves to this new superior race, Butler is attempting to convey a kind of peaceful cohabitation.

Overall, I am intrigued by Butler’s use of science fiction to address real-world controversial social issues. Creative plot devices often successful give new and clear insight onto the human condition in ways that I not considered before. I am excited to read more of her work.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén