Parable of the Sower Book Summary - Parable of the Sower Book explained in key points
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Parable of the Sower summary

Octavia E. Butler

A Novel

3.9 (147 ratings)
22 mins
Table of Contents

    Parable of the Sower
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    Times are tough

    The year is 2024, it’s July, and the last wall-screen television in the community has just gone out. Lauren, along with some of the town’s other young members, is leaving the walled town to travel by bicycle to a nearby church. They’re accompanied by Lauren’s father, who is the community’s pastor. Even though it’s a hardship, the people of the town have pooled their resources to fill up the church baptistry so that the newest generation can be baptized.

    Lauren is being baptized not out of faith, but out of respect for her father. She no longer believes in his Christian God, or any of the other mainstream religions. She’s been thinking about a new potential God, one based around the idea of change, and forming her own philosophies around this new god. She may even be creating her own religion – but she still has yet to figure out what that entails.

    To get to the church, the group has to cycle past the struggling people who live outside the walls. These are homeless people. Desperate people. Among them are many victims. Naked women and children. Lauren suffers from a rare condition called hyperempathy, which she acquired due to her mother’s drug use during pregnancy. Because of the hyperempathy, Lauren can literally feel both the emotional and physical pain of people and animals near her. One day on an outing to practice shooting, Lauren has to kill a wild dog who is threatening her group. She feels its pain and she feels it die, like she herself is dying, but she does not die with it.

    While the people of Lauren’s community are safe and support each other, times are still hard. Starvation is not far from any of them. And raiders occasionally find their way over the fences, and people are killed when venturing outside the walls.

    Lauren understands what no one else seems to – that life as they know it is temporary. It seems like everyone is content to deal with their misery in the belief that the next new president will bring things back to the old ways. But Lauren knows that something worse is coming.


    When meeting the members of Lauren’s community, we immediately see a generational divide between people who remember what was, and those who only know the world as it is. This idea will develop as we recognize that Lauren’s way of looking at the future is different, and likely more functional, than that of the adults around her.

    Violence in Parable of the Sower is brutal. Outside the walls people are raped, abused, and murdered. There’s no apparent law enforcement or firm denouncement of the behavior. These are just the brutalities that humans perpetrate against one another now. It’s a reality.

    Lauren often talks about change. She talks about God in the same context. She’s beginning to develop what will be her guiding philosophy – that the only God is Change – Change with a capital C. That with a God like Change, you will either experience change yourself, or you will be destroyed. And that, ultimately, you get to choose one of those endings or the other.

    Lauren begins to write verses that come to her that reflect this doctrine. Eventually she faces the fact that she’s forming a new religion, and names it Earthseed. The essence of the Earthseed religion is that God is Change, people have the power to shape God, and people’s destiny lies among the stars.

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    What is Parable of the Sower about?

    Parable of the Sower (1993) is the story of Lauren Olamina, a young woman who lives in a near-future dystopian California. When her home community succumbs to the destructive forces of the world around it, Lauren is forced onto the road in search of a new life. Throughout her journey, she gradually builds a new belief system, as well as kinship with a new community. 

    Who should read Parable of the Sower?

    • Near-future science fiction fans
    • Lovers of Black and feminist literature
    • Fans of Octavia E. Butler

    About the Author

    Octavia E. Butler was the Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of a wide range of near- and far-future science fiction novels. In 1995 she won the PEN Lifetime Achievement Award. Her books, including The Xenogenesis Trilogy and the Parable Series, explore everything from racial injustice to feminism to the impact of climate change. She died in 2006 at the age of 58. Since then, her works have only gained in popularity due in part to the increasing relevance of their subject matter.  

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