The Evening and the Morning and the Night: Analysis & Plot

Instructor: Amy C. Evans

Amy has a BA/MA Criminal Justice. Worked with youth for over 20 years in academic settings. Avid reader, history and mystery lover.

''The Evening and the Morning and the Night'' is a science fiction short story written by American author Octavia E. Butler. In this lesson, we will analyze and examine the plot of this haunting story. Updated: 05/06/2021

''The Evening and the Morning and the Night''

The short story ''The Evening and the Morning and the Night'' by Octavia E. Butler was first published in 1987 in Omni, a science fiction and parapsychology magazine. The story falls into science fiction and is set in the state of California. The main characters are college students Lynn Mortimer and Alan Chim and Beatrice Alcantara who runs a retreat called Dilg. Let us take a look at the plot in which these characters interact.

''The Evening and the Morning and the Night'' Plot

The plot of ''The Evening and the Morning and the Night'' revolves around an incurable disease called Duryea-Gode Disease, or DGD for short. Those who have the disease are referred to as DGDs. DGD was accidentally created by a drug to treat cancer. This drug affected the health of children born to parents who had used it, resulting in an affliction that kills through a process of drifting off, disassociating from reality, and the need to self-mutilate, including digging into the skin with their nails, the gouging out of eyes, severing of limbs, and efforts to eat oneself. Occasionally, victims became homicidal. Restrictive laws and discrimination are part of life for DGDs. DGDs are required to be on a special diet and wear medical identification pendants to ensure the correct care is available in an emergency. Unfortunately, this also makes them stand out in public.

When someone with DGD is symptomatic they're placed in DGD wards where they're basically warehoused until they die and are often treated badly. When Lynn is young, her parents take her to one of these wards to emphasize the seriousness of her condition and she is traumatized. Looking back, she recalls that, ''Even then I could have stood it better if I hadn't felt I was looking into a kind of temporal mirror.''

Those with controlled DDG, that is victims who haven't manifested symptoms, are incredibly talented and focused and tend to excel in their studies in school but they're shunned and treated with prejudice because of their disease; Lynn Mortimer and Alan Chi are two such talented DGD's. They're roommates and lovers and must navigate the perils of having a terrifying disease while at the same time trying to find some sort of meaning and purpose in their lives. Beatrice Alcantra offers them an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other DGs when they visit Naomi, Alan's mother who has an active case of DGD, at the Dilg retreat which is managed by Beatrice.

The Dilg retreat is a humane option compared to DGD wards. Beatrice comments that the only things the DGD wards took good care of ''...were the maggots, the cockroaches, and the rats.'' She created a calming, nurturing environment in a noninstitutional setting. Beatrice explains that at Dilg, DGDs are kept busy, ''...and can create something beautiful, useful, even something worthless. But they create. They don't destroy. ''When Beatrice meets Lynn, it turns out that Lynn is the ideal person to work with DGD's.

Because Lynn is female, and both Lynn's parents were DGD's, she has inherited a pheromone (which is a chemical produced by the body that affects others) that has a calming effect when she is around other DGD's. This pheromone helps them to listen to commands and directions and refocus on activities that aren't self-harming. Beatrice Alcantra would like Lynn and Alan to work for her.

''The Evening and the Morning and the Night'' Analysis

The Evening and the Morning and the Night is a powerful and haunting short story. The themes the story explores include loss of identity, loss of choices and control, hope, purpose and a reason to live, and the humane treatment of those who are sick.

The story asks you to imagine what it would be like to have a disease like DG. Imagine not knowing when the disease will become active, if you will slowly deteriorate in a DGD ward or if the disease will all of a sudden become full-blown. What choices would you make? Would you choose suicide? Would you choose to have yourself sterilized so you couldn't have children? Would you educate yourself and learn as much as you can to find a cure for the disease and other diseases? Or, would you choose to work directly with others who have active DGD? The latter is the choice that Lynn and Alan face.

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