Dependence in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” Essay
Updated: Aug 24th, 2020
The morality of any type of relationships can be discussed as one of the topics in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild,” the fiction short story that was first published in 1984. In her story, the author discusses how different the world can be in the future. Butler also concentrates on the understanding of slavery with the focus on relations of humans and similarities of past, current, and future problems related to the topics of love, family, reproduction, and life (Thibodeau 263). The reader can view the world and order described by the author as unhealthy, strange, and promoting the ideals of slavery. Nevertheless, although the story depicted in “Bloodchild” is often discussed as being about enslavement, it is more reasonable to state that the main theme of this story is dependence and its different dimensions as Octavia Butler focuses on the interdependence of both Terrans and the Tlic, as well as on their deceptive independence.
From this point, dependence is one of the key themes in the story. In spite of the fact that Butler rejected the idea that she intended to discuss the problem of the humans’ enslavement in her work, it is impossible to ignore the accentuation of the issue of dependence in “Bloodchild” (Jarrett 408). Terrans can be viewed as dependent on the Tlic because the aliens can make them healthier, and their life can become longer. Thus, from the moment of stabilization of relations between humans and aliens, the Tlic provided Terrans with eggs that “prolonged life, prolonged vigor” (Butler 1). Moreover, Terrans are dependent on the Tlic because they can be secured only in the Preserve (Joo 281). Gan, a young male character in the story, described the protection provided by T’Gatoi, one of the Tlic, for his family, and he noted “Only she and her political faction stood between us and the hordes who did not understand why there was a Preserve – why any Terran could not be courted, paid, drafted, in some way made available to them” (Butler 2). Such life has many features similar to the enslavement and absence of rights, and such conditions accentuate the Terrans’ dependence.
However, it is possible to note that the power of the Tlic on the planet is rather questionable, and they are also directly dependent on humans and their ability to give a life to more new Tlic. The author accentuates that the Tlic view male Terrans as containers for their eggs or as reproduction systems to receive the posterity. Female Terrans are viewed as producers of more males in order to guarantee that the nation of Tlic will live on the planet during a long period of time (Lillvis 8). Therefore, in spite of discussing humans as “convenient, big, warm-blooded animals” or “little more than convenient, big animals,” the Tlic are in need of humans (Butler 5). While being so dependent on Terrans, the aliens cannot balance their relations with humans; therefore, their society is divided into those who protect Terrans, and T’Gatoi belongs to them, and those who dream about the complete enslavement of humans.
Another perspective is the focus on the close dependent relations of humans and the Tlic represented with references to the example of Gan’s family and their relationships with T’Gatoi. Their close communication is based on such concepts as love, respect, and care, but they still understand that their existence is not independent (Omry 4). Moreover, the care and respect are temporary as there is a day when the Tlic will choose to put an egg into the member of the family, and there is a moment when the family can reject becoming a producer of new Tlic. However, the relations between humans and aliens are complicated and associated with the concept of family (Lillvis 9; Thibodeau 262). Thus, Gan states discussing T’Gatoi, “She had been taken from my father’s flesh when he was my age” (Butler 19). As a result, it is possible to speak about the strong attachment and dependence typical of such relations.
The independence of Terrans on the aliens’ planet is desirable for them, but it only has a symbolic nature. Thus, Butler notes in her story that Terrans “were necessities, status symbols, and an independent people” (4). Such independence has few similarities with the real freedom, and Terrans, especially those ones who are mature and wise humans like Gan’s mother, understand this fact. They try to protect their children from such unique slavery when their bodies and flesh cannot belong to them anymore. Moreover, it is important to note that Terrans cannot be independent on the planet where they are only strangers (Joo 280; Omry 9). This idea allows viewing the problem of dependence from the other angle, as well as focusing on details that were not discussed previously.
If the reader looks at the problem of dependence of Terrans from another perspective, it is possible to note that humans are only strangers on the planet that is inhabited by large insects. In spite of being only guests or even enemies in these environments, humans try to win the equal rights on this planet (Lillvis 11; Thibodeau 262). Therefore, in the afterword, Butler notes that this fiction story is also about the problem of “paying the rent” (21). While focusing on the Terrans’ position from this perspective, it is important to note that their dependence on the large and mostly peaceful insects is reasonable, and this situation can be easily explained (Lillvis 12). In order to have the opportunity to live a long and healthy life and have vigor and strength, humans need to pay for these gifts with their warm bodies and their abilities to reproduce the new generation of the Tlic. Thus, such distribution of roles seems to be rather predictable, and the only unique factor is the reliance on males as sources of the new life for the aliens.
It is possible to state that the relationships between Terrans and the Tlic presented by Octavia Butler in her “Bloodchild” reflect all the complexity of the humans’ relations with each other and humans’ contacts with aliens. In addition to the discussion of the family relations, the issue of male pregnancy, and the question of the possible enslavement of humans, the author is focused on the problem of dependence in this world. Moreover, while speaking about dependence, independence, and interdependence as specific dimensions presented in Butler’s story, it is possible to state that the depiction of the issue of interdependence is most vivid one. The reason is that both humans and aliens cannot live without each other at this stage of their life cycle on the planet.
Butler, Octavia. Bloodchild. 2012. PDF file. Web.
Jarrett, Gene Andrew. African American Literature beyond Race: An Alternative Reader. New York: NYU Press, 2006. Print.
Joo, Hee-Jung Serenity. “Old and New Slavery, Old and New Racisms: Strategies of Science Fiction in Octavia Butler’s Parables Series.” Extrapolation 52.3 (2011): 279-299. Print.
Lillvis, Kristen. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Slavery? The Problem and Promise of Mothering in Octavia E. Butler’s ‘Bloodchild’.” Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 39.4 (2014): 7-22. Print.
Omry, Keren. “A Cyborg Performance: Gender and Genre in Octavia Butler.” Praxis 17.2 (2005): 1-15. Print.
Thibodeau, Amanda. “Alien Bodies and a Queer Future: Sexual Revision in Octavia Butler’s ‘Bloodchild’ and James Tiptree, Jr.’s ‘With Delicate Mad Hands’.” Science Fiction Studies 39.2 (2012): 262-282. Print.
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