The narrator is a fifteen-year-old African American girl named Lauren Oya Olumina.
Tone and Mood
The mood of the novel is rather foreboding in the first half, but that lessens somewhat when Lauren's community is destroyed. The tone is clear and matter-of-fact, without unnecessarily complicated language.
Protagonist and Antagonist
Lauren is the protagonist. General chaotic forces, thieves, drug addicts, gang members, etc., are the primary antagonists.
The major conflict is survival. Lauren's world has suffered economic and environmental collapse - not only is it a struggle to find food and shelter, but Lauren also must defend herself from roving gang members and drug addicts who kill for sport.
Towards the end of the novel, the members of Lauren's group engage in a fierce but ultimately victories battle against the pyros, shorty before arriving at their final destination, Bankole's land - which they find burned down and deserted. However, they decide to build their own small community there.
When Lauren thinks about her religious beliefs after the death of Mrs. Sims, she realizes that she will one day have to share these beliefs with others . "But this thing (This idea? Philosophy? New religion?) won't let me alone, won't let me forget it, won't let me go. Maybe.... Maybe it's like my sharing: One more weirdness; one more crazy, deep-rooted delusion that I'm stuck with. I am stuck with it. And in time, I'll have to do something about it. In spite of what my father will say or do to me, in spite of the poisonous rottenness outside the way where I might be exiled, I'll have to do something about it. That reality scares me to death" (pg. 26). This foreshadows Lauren's journey into the outside world and the eventual establishment of the religion of Earthseed.
The title of the novel is an allusion to a story be Jesus, related in Mark, 4:3-9. In this parable, Jesus describes a number of seeds scatted by a farmer. Some fall on the road and are eaten by birds; some fall on stony ground and cannot take root; some seeds fall on shallow ground, and, although they sprout, they are quickly roasted when the strong sun hits them. Jesus later goes on to explain that these seeds are like different believers who hear the word of God: many who hear the message do not sprout and bloom, but some do.
See "Imagery" section.
The neighborhood that Lauren grew up in is surrounded by a large wall. This wall keeps out thieves, gang members, and drug addicts, but it also attracts their attention. Eventually, the wall is breached by members of a kill-the-rich movement, and most of the people in Lauren's neighborhood are killed. Paradoxically, it was the wall that invited these attacks, even though it was intended to keep them out.
Including Lauren, there are thirteen founding members of the community of Acorn. This provides a parallel to the Biblical story about the 12 disciples and Jesus, who also founded a new faith.
Metonymy and Synecdoche
When Lauren travels through the city streets with her father and other people from the neighborhood, she closely observes the city around her. "Up toward the hills there were walled estates - one big house and a lot of little shacky dependencies where the servants lived" (pg. 9). The people who live in the shacks are dependent on the people who live in the big house, making this an example of metonymy.
Lauren is very critical of the ways in which people personify God. She notes that "In the book of Job, God says he made everything and he knows everything so no one has any right to question what he does with any of it. Okay. That works. That Old Testament God doesn’t violate the way things are now. But that God sounds a lot like Zeus – a super-powerful man, playing with his toys the way my youngest brothers play with toy soldiers. If they’re yours, you make the rules. Who cares what the toys think. Wipe out a toy’s family, then give it a brand new family" (pg. 16). Lauren is disgusted by the ways in which people personify God; she instead advocates a way of interacting with God that emphasizes active engagement.
Parable of the Sower Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Parable of the Sower is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.