The Other and Failing Human Nature

Octavia Butler's novel Dawn shows the collapse of a definite, individualized "human nature" through the coercive, hegemonic actions of an alien "other" known as the Oankali. Human identity in its present form does not survive the entire book, but instead goes through multiple genetic and behavioral transformations. These changes are the product of Oankali intervention, which involves coercion, manipulation, starvation, observation and the administration of behavior-modifying drugs, all of which hearken back to Michel Foucault's concept of the "normalizing" carceral society. The constant watch and control of the Oankali causes physical, mental, and emotional changes in their human captives. The Oankali's actions are covertly oppressive and do not always serve the humans' best interests, which creates an unreconciled ambiguity regarding their alignment as benefactors. Butler uses the ambiguity to force the reader to question the Oankali's motives and true nature. Are the Oankali truly symbiotic or are they parasitic? In contrast, the human characters of the novel react xenophobically to the Oankali and their fellow humans who have had contact with them. Curt, Tate, Leah and many...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1706 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 10771 literature essays, 2703 sample college application essays, 648 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in