Blog: Dawn

This week’s reading was the book Dawn by Octavia E. Butler. The book follows the journey of Lilith after humans were captured by the extraterrestrial beings called Oankali. They captured the humans to genetically engineer them and then to hopefully let them live back on earth once they have learned to survive the new environment. The book is broken up into four parts. The womb, family, nursery, and training floor. The captors held her in a cubicle and asked her many questions about her. They would put her to sleep for days, months, or years at a time and each time she woke up signified an Awakening. Lilith discovers a long scar across her abdomen that she acquired between her second and third awakening. She wondered what had been done to her, had she lost anything, gained anything, and why it was done. Lilith was one of few English speakers who never considered that she was taken by extraterrestrials. One time she woke up with a boy and they taught each other their native languages and songs but on her next Awakening, the boy was gone.  Her next Awakening was with a strange creature that wanted to take her outside to begin a new life. She is talking to the creature, Jdahya, about what is happening and asking questions when she states that she wants to see Sharad, the boy she was with during one of her Awakening. The ooloi are the “doctors” of the Oankali, they are neither male nor female and had studied dead and dying bodies to figure out what is normal and abnormal in the human body. They were the ones who gave Lilith the scar because she had cancer which they had to treat through inducing the body to reabsorb the cancer. Once Lilith was able to lose the fear of being near Jdahya, she was able to go out and see its family. Lilith was to live with Jdahya and its family to learn and work. This would allow her to teach and help a small group of humans on how to deal with Oankali and how to survive when they go back to earth. She was going to teach the group survival skills, how to live in a forest, build their own shelters, and raise their own food. They will be given tools, food, and simple equipment until they are able to make and grow them on their own. The three groups of the Oankali are the Dinso who stay on earth and leave generations from now, the Toaht who leave in this ship, and the Akjai who leave in the new ship.

The second part is about Lilith being with her new family. The ooloi bring Lilith to see Sharad who was in a green oblong plant. The ooloi had to massage the plant with its sensory arms for it to open.  The plant is where the humans are kept and the plant is able to keep them young and well. Lilith meets Nikanj, who is a child, and it is going to replace Jdahya. Lilith hoped for human interaction and thought of herself as an experimental animal. Nikanj was more demanding about learning and teaching each other than Jdahya was. Part of the Oankali teachings was to keep Lilith ignorant and they wanted her to prefer Nikanj over Jdayha. Lilith begged for writing materials so she could remember all that Nikanj was teaching her about Oankali but they refused to give them to her. Nikanj had to drug Lilith to be able to make a tiny alteration in her brain chemistry so she can remember better. When she woke up, she was able to respond to Nikanj in Oankali without having to think about it. Also, Lilith learns more about the bodies of the Oankali and how their arms protect their sensory organ, sensory hand. Now that Lilith has an eidetic memory, Nikanj starts searching for an English speaking human. He finds Paul Titus who was awakened young and kept awake because he was willing to stay with his Toaht family. Paul tells Lilith how the Oankali use them to created more humans while they were asleep. Titus wanted Lilith but she refused so he pushes her to the ground and kicks her until she is unconscious. Titus is this way because he was captured as a boy and has never been with a women so he was frustrated when Lilith would not be with him. When she awoke after this encounter she had the ability to open the walls in the ship.

The nursery was all about meeting other humans and interacting with them. Lilith was looking through folders of humans to choose potential allies to teach to bring to earth. She had to be strategic in who she awakens and when she awakens them. She decided not to wake up men first so they do not over power her. She choose to awake Tate first because she was least likely to kill her, least likely to fall apart, and most likely to helps others as they are awakened. She started to awaken two people every two days and was no longer worrying about men but she did awaken more women in hope to minimize violence. Nikanj thought that Joseph and Lilith were very similar so he offered them the opportunity to each other but they decided to choose each other. The Oankali made Lilith strong and fast which was supposed to help her get as many humans as possible back to earth. The humans were starting to gather against Lilith and the Oankali.

The training floor was about putting what they have learned to see if they can survive on earth.  The training floor was made to look earthlike with blue sky, clouds, muddy ground, wide rivers, and tree lines. The humans will explore and see for themselves that they are in a forest that is on an island. Lilith knows that this is an illusion but she knows that the other humans believe that this is earth. The humans have to learn how to feed and shelter themselves in the environment so they are self-sustaining. Once this is accomplished, the Oankali will take them to earth and let them go. If the humans can adapt and are nonviolent then they will be allowed to go to Earth. Lilith began showing the group how to make shingles, determine the best trees to cut, and how to build a cabin on stilts. The Oanklai provided them will tools and food but now they have to learn how to cultivate their own gardens. People started to leave the settlement and Tate asks Lilith to come with her group. Joseph convinces Lilith to leave with them. Lilith believes this is the final test, people leave the camps when they are ready, live the best they can, and if they are able to sustain themselves then they can go to earth. Lilith only left the settlement because Joseph wanted her there and because he wanted to explore the environment they were in. Lilith tells the groups to settle by the river and create shelter and then to search for others the next day. Curt and his people find them and he hit Lilith on the head breaking out a fight. Lilith is knocked unconscious and woke up alone. Lilith decides to go back to the settlement to get the Oankali for help. Nikanj led her to Joseph who is dead. Curt thought that Joseph was not human so he killed him with the ax. The Oankali found the camp where Curt and his group are staying. The Oankali warns the others that if they kill like Curt then they will leave the training room and be placed in a Toaht family for the rest of their lives meaning they will not go back to earth. A fight breaks out between the humans and the Oankali. Nikanj is severely wounded and needs to be healed by Lilith. Once Nikanj is healed, it informs Lilith that she is pregnant with Joseph’s child through his sperm not print. Lilith argues that her child will be a thing not a human but Nikanj informs her that Ahajas is also pregnant. Its child will also be her and Joseph’s child. Lilith realizes that she will not return to earth now and is devastated but Nikanj informs her that she will be able to come back to the training floor with the next human group to teach them as well.