The second section of Dawn, "Family," opens once Lilith has arrived at Jdhaya's home. Jdhaya's family gives Lilith a feast of human food, which fills Lilith with "pleasure so sharp and sweet" (45). Lilith meets the other members of Jdhaya's family: Tediin, Jdhaya's wife; Kahguyaht, Jdhaya and Tediin's ooloi mate; and Nikanj, the family's ooloi child. (Remember that Oankali relationships traditionally occur between three individuals: one male, one female, and one ooloi). Jdhaya's family eats with Lilith and she realizes that she had not seen Jdhaya eat anything until that moment. She asks Jdhaya how long he was in her room. His answer, six days, shocks her. Kahguyaht explains to Lilith that her body has drifted away from Earth's 24-hour day. Lilith is put off by Kahguyaht's demeanor and thinks of it as "one of the creatures scheduled to bring about the destruction of what was left of humanity" (46). Lilith also notices that even though Jdhaya claims that Oankali are not hierarchical, he and the rest of his family seem to defer to Kahguyaht. Lilith asks why the Oankali can eat human food and Kahguyaht tells her that they have adjusted to the foods of Earth. However, Lilith has not fully adjusted to Oankali foods and has to be careful about the foods she eats around the ship. Lilith asks how the Oankali learned to eat human food and Kahguyaht responds that they learned by studying humans for whom it was not poisonous. Lilith wonders aloud if that means that all Oankali are impervious to being poisoned. Kahguyaht responds that the elderly, children, and injured people can still be poisoned. Lilith asks what foods in particular would poison these individuals and Kahguyaht asks why she wants to know. It tells Lilith that she has not yet learned not to ask dangerous questions.
Kahguyaht brings Lilith to see Sharad. It touches walls with one of its sensory tentacles and those walls open to several different corridors. Finally, they emerge in a large corridor where many Oankali are going about their lives. Lilith sees that they are driving vehicles that seem to float an inch off the ground. Lilith asks what the vehicles are carrying but Kahguyaht does not answer her. Instead, it grabs her arm with one of its sensory arms. Lilith asks Kahguyaht what those arms do and again Kahguyaht responds with silence. It tells Lilith that she will get answers "as you need them" (50). Lilith pulls free from Kahguyaht's grasp but quickly gets lost in the mass of Oankali bodies. Finally, she has no choice but to hold onto one of Kahguyaht's sensory arms in order not to lose it. Finally, Kahguyaht and Lilith emerge in a corridor that is empty. Kahguyaht traces one of its arms on the wall in front of them and a green oblong shape emerges from the wall. Kahguyaht tells Lilith that it is a plant and Lilith deduces that Sharad is sleeping in there. The plant opens and Sharad's head emerges; he is deep in sleep. Kahguyaht tells Lilith that Sharad and his family will not be Awakened for a long time—the man who will be tasked with leading them back to Earth has not begun his training yet. Kahguyaht closes the plant around Sharad and convinces Lilith that he will not be harmed by it. Lilith touches the plant once it is closed and notices that her fingers sink into it. When she tries to pull them back out, they hurt sharply. Kahguyaht releases Lilith's fingers. Lilith asks Kahguyaht if she had been in one of these plants for the 250 years that she had been asleep. Kahguyaht does not answer, but Lilith knows that she has.
Kahguyaht informs Lilith that they found this plant in the wild where it used to capture prey and give them a slow death. The Oankali genetically engineered it so that it suited their purposes. Lilith accuses Kahguyaht of harming other species by genetically altering them as is the Oankali custom. Kahguyaht tells Lilith that they have been around for millennia and they have never harmed another being. Kahguyaht brings Lilith back to Jdhaya's home and puts her in the care of Nikanj, the ooloi child. Kahguyaht suggests that they teach each other—Lilith can teach Nikanj English and about humans; Nikanj can teach Lilith about the Oankali. Nikanj suggests that they go outside. Lilith requests that it show her how to open the wall. Nikanj takes Lilith's hand and secrets a liquid on her fingers that allows her to open the wall. Lilith realizes that the walls change according to chemical stimuli that the Oankali manufacture in their bodies. This makes Lilith feel like a prisoner. Nikanj asks Lilith if it can show her to other Oankali who have never seen a human before. Its friends, who are all children, poke and prod Lilith and ask her through Nikanj if she can take off her clothes. Lilith gets the impression that they would have enjoyed dissecting her. The children communicate with each other by touching their sensory tentacles together. Lilith gets fed up with feeling like Nikanj's pet and tells it that she wants to return home. Nikanj leads her to a room she has never been in before with a raised platform meant to be a bed. It tells her to sleep. She is irritated when it stays in her room and does not give her privacy. Eventually, out of exhaustion, she falls asleep even though Nikanj is still there. She wakes up in the middle of the night to see that it has laid down beside her in bed. Her first instinct is to push it away from her, but she follows her second instinct, which is to fall wearily back to sleep.
Lilith wakes with two goals: first, to speak to another human being, and second, to catch the Oankali in a lie. The second goal is extremely hard; more often than not, she catches them in half-truths. Nikanj grows on Lilith; she can tell that it has taken a liking for her. Nevertheless, Lilith feels more and more like an experimental animal whose rights are being abused. Lilith's desire to see another human being intensifies as she wishes she could share these feelings with them. Meanwhile, she and Nikanj spend every waking minute together. Nikanj wants to learn as much as it can about human history, language, and culture. Lilith realizes that the Oankali probably put Sharad in her room in order to test how she relates with children. Lilith has a harder time learning Oankali than Nikanj does learning English. Lilith realizes that her memory is much slower than Nikanj's memory—everything she tells him, he remembers, whether he understands it or not. One day, Lilith asks Nikanj if the Oankali ever keep records of their memories via reading or writing. Nikanj does not understand her, so she takes it outside to demonstrate writing in the dirt. Lilith suggests that she can write down the Oankali words Nikanj teaches her so that she can more easily remember them. Nikanj suggests that Lilith can simply do as she is doing and keep a record in the soil with her finger. Lilith tells Nikanj that she needs something more permanent, something like the books and records that humans used to keep in the past. Nikanj tells Lilith that it knows about books and there are some books on the ship. However, all humans are forbidden from accessing them. Finally, it tells Lilith that it will be unable to give Lilith tools for writing and reading because the Oankali have decided that it would not be allowed.
Nikanj sits down next to Lilith on the ground and tells her a story about Oankali history. Eventually, it goes back into its home to bring them both food. Lilith takes the opportunity to wander away from Nikanj. She looks around for a while before Nikanj reappears abruptly beside her and tells her not to leave its side. Nevertheless, Lilith begins slipping away whenever she gets the chance to do so. Eventually, Nikanj gets used to her wanderings and allows her to explore for several hours before going to retrieve her. Lilith starts bringing food with her for her explorations and Nikanj tells her to bury any uneaten food so that she can feed it to the ship. Sometimes, as she wanders, other Oankali come up to Lilith and try to have a conversation with her. However, she cannot understand them and often resorts to body language. Nikanj tells her that if she ever gets lost all she has to do is go up to an Oankali and tell them her new name: Dhokaaltediinjadhyalilith eka Kahguaht aj Dinso. This name is very similar to Jdhaya, Nikanj, Kahguyaht, and Tediin's names because it specifies which family unit she is part of. The "Dinso" part of her name tells us that she is part of the group of beings who are going to stay on Earth and produce genetically mutated half-human, half-Oankali hybrids. One day, as Lilith is walking, she hears two Oankali use the Oankali word for human, "kaizidi." She slows down to listen to them and they immediately descend into silence. A few walks later, she hears another group of Oankali talking about a kaizidi named Fukumoto. She approaches them and everyone falls silent, which frustrates her. Lilith wonders why the Oankali are talking about Fukumoto and what had happened to him. She wonders if somehow she can reach him and decides to go to his neighborhood, Tiej. She does not go back home and ask Nikanj or its family if she can go to find Fukumoto. She assumes that their answer will be "no." She thinks about what the Oankali might do to punish her for setting off alone but decides that the possibility of speaking to another human outweighs the cons.
Lilith reaches Tiej and begins looking for Fukumoto. She notices that the trees look different in Tiej than they do in her own neighborhood, Kaal. After searching for Fukumoto for quite a while, she grows tired and sits down against a tree to eat two oranges that she brought with herself for a snack. She realizes that her search was futile. There are no signs aboard the ship—the Oankali use scent markers to find their way. She decides to go back to Kaal—if she can find her way back. She digs a hole in the ground to bury her orange peels, expecting the ship to absorb them the way that it does in Kaal. Instead, to her surprise, the soil turns into mud and changes the same color as the peelings. The soil begins to smell, which draws two Oankali. Their tentacles are pointed towards Lilith in a sharp point. As the muddy spot grows, Lilith tries to communicate with the Oankali, but they speak Japanese, not English. More and more Oankali come to watch the changing ground. When the bubbling earth reaches a plant that turns black and lashes as if in pain, Lilith realizes that she is causing the ship harm. Lilith asks the Oankali to help fix this and an ooloi steps up and places its sensory arm to the soil. Soon enough, the soil stops bubbling and returns to its usual color. Lilith realizes that the ooloi is Kahguyaht. It tells her that she has finally found something to poison. It asks Lilith what she is doing in Tiej, and Lilith does not answer. However, Kahguyaht deduces quickly that Lilith came to Tiej to find Fukumoto. Kahguyaht informs Lilith that Fukumoto has died recently, which is probably why she overheard Oankali talking about him. Kahguyaht tells Lilith that Fukumoto was 120 years old when he died and did not speak English. He had been living on the ship for almost 60 years and in that time had only seen another human being twice. Lilith asks Kahguyaht if it ever occurred to them that such a thing was a cruelty. Kahguyaht responds that according to its perception, Fukumoto was doing perfectly fine. Kahguyaht tells Lilith to learn the Oankali language. When she does, it will take her to meet another human who has decided not to return to Earth and instead live out the rest of their life aboard the ship. Then it reveals that it had been tracking Lilith ever since she started out on her journey towards Tiej.
Kahguyaht puts Lilith on a vehicle that takes them directly back to Kaal. It stays silent throughout the trip and Lilith gets the impression that it is angry with her. Once back home, Kahguyaht takes Nikanj to a separate room so they can speak privately. Tediin and Jdhaya are in the dining room eating Oankali food. Jdhaya brings Lilith a meal and she asks him how much trouble she is in. Jdhaya says that she is not in much trouble and that Kahguyaht is merely worried about Nikanj—this is a difficult time for both Lilith and Nikanj. He also tells Lilith that if she is not learning from Nikanj, she would be learning from Kahguyaht. This thought makes Lilith shudder. Lilith asks why Jdhaya can't teach her and he says that normally the ooloi are teachers. Tediin asks Lilith if she prefers Jdhaya to Kahguyaht, and when Lilith says yes, she asks whether Lilith prefers Jdhaya to Nikanj. Lilith can't answer that question because Nikanj has grown on her. Lilith tries asking Jdhaya for writing materials but he quickly refuses her request. Jhdaya tells Lilith that Nikanj can help her learn without writing or reading. Jdhaya opens the wall for her and Lilith steps into a room where Nikanj and Kahguyaht seem to be arguing. Kahguyaht leaves the room in a huff and Nikanj lays down on the bed, crossing its arms around itself. Lilith asks Nikanj if they are going to let her have writing materials and Nikanj tells her that she is going to learn their way, not hers. Nikanj tells Lilith that Kahguyaht was upset because Lilith is not learning fast enough. The faster Lilith learns, the sooner Nikanj will be allowed to mate.
Nikanj tells Lilith that its sensory arms are growing in, whether or not it begins to mate. Nikanj's mates would prefer for it to grow in its sensory arms after they have mated as is Oankali custom. Nikanj says it does not know if there will be trouble with its mates because it is putting off mating in order to teach Lilith. It also tells Lilith that it has been told to do something to her that will help her memory. It tells her that there will be a "'tiny alteration in [her] brain chemistry'" (74). Nikanj tells her that it wanted to wait to perform this alteration until it is fully mature but Kahguyaht is pressuring it to do it now. Lilith adamantly does not want to be changed, but Nikanj assures her that the essence of who she is will not be changed. Nikanj insists until Lilith flees to hide in the bathroom in order to escape his gaze. In the bathroom, she remembers how her husband and son passed away before the war. A young girl who was not supposed to be driving alone with her driver's permit rammed into their car. Her son died immediately but, according to Lilith, her husband "only half died" (75). He stayed in the hospital with brain damage for three months before he finally passed away. Lilith is afraid that what happened to her husband would happen to her as well. She wonders if they would let her die if Nikanj's operation went wrong or if they would keep her stuck in her mind. She suddenly realizes that Nikanj had entered the bathroom and was sitting across from her. He has never intruded in her space in this way before. Nikanj tells Lilith that it will not do anything to harm her. It also warns Lilith that she must accept that it will perform the procedure on her or Kahguyaht will surprise her with it. Nikanj wants to wait for Lilith's consent before doing anything to her; Lilith laughs bitterly at this and asks what stopped the Oankali before. She leaves the bathroom and lays down on the bed, eventually falling asleep. She wakes up in the middle of the night to see Nikanj sleeping beside her. She wakes him up and tells it to do whatever it has to do. Nikanj performs the procedure.
In "Family," Lilith interacts with and gets used to more Oankali. She is living with Jdhaya and his family members. For most of these pages, she spends her time with Kahguyaht and Nikanj. She also spends much time alone, exploring the Oankali ship. As a result, Lilith grows increasingly comfortable with the Oankali and their way of life. She muses that it is "[s]urprising how quickly the Oankali had become people to her. But then, who else was there?" (56-7). Lilith distances herself from some of the Oankali, including Kahguyaht, whom she finds condescending and rude. However, she grows closer to others, including Jdhaya and Nikanj. Nikanj, in particular, becomes her friend. She finds it hard to place it: "Nikanj was appealing—probably because it was a child. It was no more responsible for the thing that was to happen to the remnants of humanity than she was. It was simply doing—or trying to do—what the adults around it said should be done. Fellow victim?" (70). Lilith quickly dismisses the idea that Nikanj is a victim: "No, not a victim. Just a child, appealing in spite of itself. And she liked it in spite of herself" (70). The thought that Nikanj is innocent and plays no part in the Oankali's greater purpose will become more complicated as "Family" progresses—as Nikanj matures, it will gain more responsibility.
Nikanj is an ooloi—the third Oankali gender. Throughout the novel, Butler uses the pronoun "it" to refer to oolois rather than "he," "she," or "they." Oolois have thick sensory arms which distinguish them from male and female Oankali. Because Nikanj has not yet reached maturity, its sensory arms have not yet grown out. The sight of Kahguyaht's sensory arms disgusts Lilith. In fact, the sight of Kahguyaht makes Lilith think that the pronouns Oankali use for the ooloi are appropriate: "Looking at Kahguyaht, she took pleasure in the knowledge that the Oankali themselves used the neuter pronoun in referring to the ooloi. Some things deserved to be called 'it'" (47). Part of Lilith's emotional response to Kahguyaht is the fact that they do not set off on the right foot: "she did not like the ooloi. It was smug and it tended to treat her condescendingly. It was also one of the creatures scheduled to bring out the destruction of what was left of humanity" (46). Lilith wonders how anyone—human or Oankali alike—could find Kahguyaht appealing: "How had Jdhaya connected himself with such a creature?" (46). Lilith's distrust of Kahguyaht leads her to bond with Nikanj. The Oankali make the situation clear to Lilith from the beginning: either she bonds with Nikanj, or Kahguyaht will be in charge of Lilith's education.
The ooloi hold an important role in Oankali society. They are the ones that study humans, perform surgical procedures, and perform genetic mutations. Their special organs, called sensory arms, help them with many of these tasks. Their status, as well as the fact that male and female Oankali seem to defer to them, makes Lilith question Jdhaya's claim that Oankali are not hierarchical: "And in spite of Jdhaya's claim that the Oankali were not hierarchical, the ooloi seemed to be the head of the house. Everyone deferred to it" (46). There seemingly is a hierarchy in the household that places Kahguyaht at the top. Later, Nikanj treats Lilith in such a way that makes her understand she is on the bottom of this hierarchy: "'You must stay with me,' it said in a tone that reminded her of a human mother speaking with her five-year-old. That, she thought, was about right for her rank in its family" (62).
The fact that Lilith considers her part of the "family" is notable because it indicates that she is getting used to living among the Oankali. Nevertheless, her perception that she is the lowest-ranked member of the family is only one of many different meditations on her complete lack of power in this new world. As literary analyst Naomi Jacobs notes in "Posthuman Bodies and Agency in Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis," once Lilith's isolation is broken, "the worst aspect of her situation is the loss of choice and agency." Thanks to the Oankali actions, she is "infantilized" and left dependent on the Oankali for every facet of her survival. When she first exits her room, she cannot even walk around the ship without getting lost. On top of that, Lilith feels the loss of human company and can find no power in solidarity with other humans. When Kahguyaht takes her to see Sharad, she laments this fact: "Here was the one human being she had seen in those two years, in two hundred and fifty years. And she could not talk to him, could not make him know she was with him" (51). Lilith is unable to open walls or the pantry because in order to do these things the Oankali use chemical signals that their bodies produce. Lilith accepts this fact with despair: "She would go on being a prisoner, forced to stay wherever they chose to leave her. She would not be permitted even the illusion of freedom" (54). In the end, Lilith holds an uncertain status in Oankali society. They want to make her feel like an important piece of the puzzle, but she is subject to their decisions. One day, when she is out exploring on her own, she eavesdrops on two Oankali who are talking about a human. At first she feels guilty for eavesdropping, but she realizes that emotion is senseless when her status in this world is taken into account: "She walked on, ashamed in spite of herself of having been caught eavesdropping. There was no sense in such a feeling. She was a captive. What courtesy did a captive owe beyond what was necessary for self-preservation?" (63).
As Lilith grapples with her lack of power over the course of these pages, she compares her situation to that of an animal. When she is first placed in Nikanj's care, it takes her out so that its friends can see her. These friends, also Oankali children, poke and prod Lilith. Their treatment of her angers her: "She was first amused, then annoyed, then angered by their attitude. She was nothing more than an unusual animal to them. Nikanj's new pet" (55). Lilith, facing the fact that her agency and bodily autonomy have been removed, wonders how animals used to feel on Earth: "She discovered she was trembling and took deep breaths to relax herself. How was a pet supposed to feel? How did zoo animals feel?" (56). Later, Lilith realizes that she is less a pet and more an "experimental animal." The Oankali have very specific directives for what is going to happen with her body: "She was intended to live and reproduce, not to die. . . Human biologists had done that before the war—used a few captive members of an endangered animal species to breed more for the wild population. Was that what she was headed for? Forced artificial insemination. Surrogate motherhood?. . . Humans had done these things to captive breeders—all for a higher good, of course" (58). Lilith's worry about fertility and reproduction will become more pertinent as the novel progresses. The Oankali expect Lilith to reproduce and give birth to a genetically engineered Oankali-human hybrid. The particulars of what that looks like are still yet to be seen.
Throughout all of these developments, the Oankali remain incredibly powerful. Naomi Jacobs writes, "the humans face in Oankali culture an apparently seamless form of power. The humans' genetic codes. . . are not accessible to their own manipulation. Simply put, the humans are outclassed by the aliens' greater capacities." These "greater capacities" include the ability to communicate using nonverbal signals, the use of chemicals to scent-mark locations and display information, the ability to genetically engineer other species, the ability to open walls and pantries at will using chemical signals, an eidetic memory, the ability to kill others with a single sting from their tentacles, and more. Lilith, who does not have any of these tools, is completely powerless in comparison to the Oankali's skills. The fact that the Oankali are seemingly all-powerful means that they do not need to hide their intentions from Lilith. They share and hide information from her at will. This causes Lilith to question everything that they told her, including whether her surgical scar is a result of a surgery to remove cancer from her body: "Had she ever had a tumor? Her family history led her to believe she had. They probably had not lied about that. Maybe they had not lied about anything. Why should they bother to lie? They owned Earth and all that was left of the human species" (57). They seem to be watching Lilith at all times, even when she sneaks away to explore the ship on her own. Nikanj sneaks up on her "occasionally, letting her know that it could follow her anywhere, approach her anywhere, and seem to appear from nowhere" (64).
One manifestation of the Oankalis' power is knowledge: their knowledge of a great many things on the one hand, and Lilith's limited knowledge on the other. For example, the Oankali hide certain information for Lilith that might give her too much undue power. An example of this is when Lilith asks Kahguyaht whether Oankali can be poisoned by human foods. Kahguyaht accuses her: "'Why do you ask, Lilith? What would you do if I told you? Poison a child?'" (48). When Lilith pushes back against the suggestion that she would poison a child, Kahguyaht asserts, "You just haven't learned yet not to ask dangerous questions'" (48). Later, Kahguyaht tells Lilith that she will get information "eventually—as [she] needs [it]" (50). By controlling Lilith's acquisition of information, they are keeping her in a subjugated and dependent position for as long as possible. Meanwhile, they learn as much as they can about humanity in general and Lilith specifically. Nikanj in particular does not Lilith rest because it is constantly asking her questions about her life: "It wanted not only language, but culture, biology, history, her own life story. . . Whatever she knew, it expected to learn" (59).
The theme of power and knowledge relates to Lilith's desire for writing materials. When she first asks Nikanj for something to write with, she does not expect to be immediately refused. She tells it, "'this isn't anything dangerous'" (60). Nevertheless, Nikanj will not let Lilith write or read. Its explanation does not give her a reason. Instead, it simply says that it has been decided that humans would not be given tools to read or write. When Lilith asks why and Nikanj does not respond, she begins to doubt her companion: "It refused to answer. Did that mean not telling her was its own idea, its own childish excuse of power? Why shouldn't the Oankali do such things as readily as humans did?" (61). In this moment, Lilith's comparison of Nikanj and the rest of the Oankali to humanity is not flattering. Instead, it demonstrates that even though the Oankali see themselves as superior to the human race, they are hardly perfect. In fact, they know how to yield and manipulate power for their own purposes, including keeping intelligent beings like Lilith powerless and subjugated. To Lilith, these writing materials are "small things": "Writing materials. Such small things, yet they were denied to her. Such small things!" (61). They would improve her life because they would allow her to remember words in the Oankali language more easily. However, they would also give her the ability to communicate with others without being overheard, to write her story, or to—perhaps most dangerous of all—remember the power of the human people and begin to fight back against her oppressors. Giving writing materials to Lilith is not worth the risk until she has proven herself and her loyalty to the Oankali cause.
One of the largest ways in which the Oankali exert their power is through genetic mutation. They can take any living being and change it into something else whether or not that being consents. The Oankali did it for the plants that live on the ship as well as the ship itself. When Kahguyaht tells Lilith that they keep sleeping humans in genetically engineered plants, Lilith responds: "'It's one thing to do that to a plant. It's another to do it to intelligent, self-aware beings.'" However, as Kahguyaht tells her, the Oankali drive to make genetic changes is fundamental to their identity as a species: "'We do what we do, Lilith'" (53). As Lilith sees the results of genetic mutation around her (including her own body), she becomes suspicious of the Oankali. She wonders, "What had they modified to get their ship? And what useful tools would they modify human beings into? Did they know yet, or were they planning more experiments? Did they care? How would they make their changes? Or had they made them already—done a little extra tampering with her while they took care of her tumor? Had she ever had a tumor?" (57). Lilith's use of the word "tools" underlines the fact that the Oankali see the living beings they genetically alter as things rather than autonomous individuals. They are willing to use anything and anyone in the drive to cross-breed their species.
In the final pages of this section, Lilith realizes that the Oankali want to keep changing her genetics. Kahguyaht and Nikanj have an argument because Kahguyaht insists on changing Lilith's brain chemistry. This change would improve Lilith's memory so that she can more easily remember the Oankali language. However, Lilith stresses multiple times that she "'[doesn't] want to be changed!'" (74). Kahguyaht cares little about Lilith's wishes and urges its child, Nikanj, to change Lilith without her consent. Nikanj cannot bring itself to surprise Lilith with the change. It tells Lilith, '"There's something wrong with doing it that way—surprising people. It's. . . treating them as though they aren't people, as though they aren't intelligent'" (77). However, what Nikanj ends up doing is hardly better. It tells Lilith that either she can consent to Nikanj doing the procedure or Kahguyaht will surprise her with it sometime soon: "'You know you must accept me or ooan'" (77). ("Ooan" is the word that Nikanj uses to refer to its ooloi parent). This is a false choice; Lilith is not given the option to refuse. So, when she eventually wakes Nikanj up in the middle of the night and accepts the procedure, she is not truly giving her full consent. In fact, she does not even use affirmative language when giving him the "go ahead." Instead, her language is characterized by euphemisms: "'Wake up!' she said harshly to Nikanj. The raw sound of her own voice startled her. 'Wake up and do whatever it is you claim you have to do. Get it over with'" (78). The Oankali's lacking definition of consent will appear again later in the novel, in many different contexts. In the meantime, it might be worth wondering what constitutes a "true" choice, and whether someone can truly make a choice when their options are so severely limited.