Dawn by Octavia Butler is a story about Lilith’s abduction and different Awakenings. Before her abduction she lead a life on Earth, that is until it was destroyed in a nuclear war. Lilith was ‘saved’ by the Oankali. During these Awakenings she meets her captors and is made to learn their culture and language and also teach them hers. Through out she has a difficult time dealing with some of their differences, inculding the inclusion of a third gender, ooloi. The Oankali’s main goal for having Lilith and the other humans on their ship is first to breed with them and make a sort of hybrid race, second to show them how to adjust to Earth’s new climate after the effects of the war.
The story outlines more than just a War of the Worlds kind of vibe. There are the issues she has with Jdahya’s outward appearance which she really has no rational reason to dislike, it is just something unfamiliar, as well as the notion that the Oankali bred the humans that they abducted while they were asleep for 250 years without their consent or knowledge. This raises the issue of rape and bodily autonomy as well, from both sides. The use of the human’s body’s to develop more of them because there apparently “was not enough” is troubling because that is a huge burden to put on a body as well as needing to take the actual DNA from each parent. The human men also see Lilith as a threat, constantly disrespecting her.
The Oankali are upset by the human’s instinct for violence and disrespect. It really is a testament to human nature because violence and destruction is what got them into this situation in the first place. If there was no nuclear disaster to save them from the humans probably would not be in this situation to begin with.