Lauren's father is a Baptist minister, and he has a deep commitment to God as understood in the Bible. Lauren's understanding of God is different: God is change, and though God shapes the universe, the universe also shapes God. This difference in understanding leads to tension between Lauren and her father, but it also provides the spark for a new religion.
Compassion is a difficult trait to have in Lauren's world, where a moment's hesitation can get someone killed by gang members or the desperate poor. Lauren has a great deal of compassion because of her hyperempathy: she can literally feel the pain of others, and because she knows how bad it can be, she will do anything to help people.
Lauren's compassion, coupled with her intelligence and planning, proves to be a boon. She builds a strong and loyal community of people who support each other.
Community is immensely important in the novel. It is the only way to survive in a hostile world, but it is also filled with challenges. Lauren's old neighborhood was still divided by petty disagreements and arguments, and it took a very strong personality - her father's - to make people come together and see the value in acting as a community.
In Earthseed, Lauren seeks to build a community according to the truths that she has noticed in the world. She realizes that life (and God) is change, and she wants people to adapt themselves to this truth. The people she takes in - usually struggling, honest people - also have need of the safety and comfort of community. Lauren is able to establish a healthy community by encouraging questions and mutual commitment.
As a young girl in a dystopian wasteland, Lauren struggles with the impact of her gender. Like her brothers, she is expected to learn how to handle guns and protect the community. However, in this world gone mad, she faces a serious danger of sexual violence, and her status as a woman alone makes her vulnerable. It is for this reason, in part, that she starts to build her community. She eventually becomes a female founder of a religion, a rare accomplishment in history.
The novel is also sensitive to the challenges that men face because of their gender. Lauren is suspicious of Grayson Mora at first - she thinks he is shifty and untrustworthy. She eventually realizes that he is a sharer, a hyperempath like her. She realizes that a man - who is shamed for showing emotion - must have a particularly hard time sharing other people's pain.
Weakness and Strength
In the novel, weakness and strength are not always as straightforward as they may seem, even in a world dominated by violence. Lauren's group, which is full of women and children, may seem weak at first. However, they have a number of strengths: many of the women in the group (such as Lauren, Natividad, and Zahra) are skilled at handling guns, and even the children know many tricks for hiding. Moreover, because they do not present a threat, they are able to pass by the police with little suspicion.
On the other hand, Lauren's bother Keith is determined to prove his manhood by being part of the violent gangs outside, but his attempted show of strength just earns him enemies and gets him violently murdered. Additionally, the walls of the neighborhood - which seemed so strong - are breached and the community is destroyed. When Lauren ventures out on the open road, this dangerous place actually gives her the opportunity to build the community of which she has always dreamed.
Lauren lives in a violent world, and The Parable of the Sower is filled with many disturbing descriptions of the horrors people commit against each other. Unlike many of the other gangs that roam the harsh landscape of California, Lauren's little band of survivors does not rape, rob, or murder for pleasure. However, it is not possible to be completely nonviolent in this vicious world: Lauren's group will still violently defend itself.
Lauren's group is able to use violence only when necessary, and they are never carried away in the enjoyment of violence like the pyros or gang members. They forge out a middle way, refusing to be victims of the violence of others but also refraining from committing excessive violence themselves. Still, violence seems to be an unfortunate necessity in this world.
One of the central tenets of Lauren's religion, Earthseed, is that life is all about change. Change is the only constant in life, but we do not have to be at the mercy of change. Lauren's own personal life reflects this: her time in the walled neighborhood is an ongoing series of changes, many of them terrible losses, such as the deaths of her brother and father.
After the greatest change in Lauren's life - the burning of her neighborhood and the slaughter of everyone she knows - she takes charge of this change to exercise all the survival skills she has learned and to begin to establish a group based on the tenets of her religion, Earthseed.
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.