Parable of The Sower by Octavia Butler Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Octavia E. Butler's ''Parable of the Sower'' is a classic work of science fiction. These discussion questions can help your class work through this book and its main ideas.

Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower is a 1993 science fiction novel by American author Octavia E. Butler. The story examines an apocalyptic future of oppression and inequality brought on largely by climate change. The following questions can help you lead your students through a class discussion about this novel, exploring its plot, characters, and themes.

Questions about Plot and Characters

  • In one sentence, can you describe the plot of Parable of the Sower? What is this novel about? What genre does it belong to? Why do you think that?
  • Who is the main protagonist of Parable of the Sower? How are we introduced to Lauren Oya Olamina? What are the first things that we learn about her? How would you describe her? What is she like as a character? How does the author's use of first person help us to understand this character? What are the benefits and risks of a first-person narrative? Is Lauren a reliable narrator?
  • What is Lauren's community like? What do the walls represent to them? What are the dangers of their world? From the information we're given, what do you think happened to the world? How did it get to be like this? How has climate change impacted society? Why do you think a changing climate led to all of these horrible things?
  • What is Lauren's family like? How much of this is a product of the apocalyptic world they live in? How much is a product of normal family strife?
  • What forces Lauren from her home? How does she survive? What does she do? How does she end up forming a new community of outcasts and survivors? What unites all of these people?
  • What is Earthseed? What does this mean to Lauren? How does she present it to everyone else? How does this vision shape her new community? What vision does she have for the future of humanity? How does Acorn become the foundation for that vision? Why do you think the author sowed quotes from Lauren's Earthseeds: The Books of the Living throughout the novel? How does this shape the novel from the beginning? What does it imply about the Earthseed movement?
  • How does Parable of the Sower end? What do you think is going to happen next?

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