‘Wild Seed’ by Octavia Butler (1980)

05Jun05

Anwanyu seems very much a product of the feminism of the 1970s, which, given the novel’s publication date of 1980, she probably is. As this novel’s depiction of the ultimate female or the ultimate feminine, Anwanyu has absolute control over her body — most importantly, probably, control over when she becomes pregnant.

Obviously one of the main concerns of this novel is the relationship between the sexes, explored through the relationship between Anwanyu and Doro. However, neither are defined by just one sex: Doro can possess the body of a woman and bear children and Anwanyu can become a man and conceive children with a woman. Therefore, I think that as well as representing man and woman, Doro and Anwanyu represent masculinity and femininity.

Doro is a rather amoral figure, living for centuries by preying on others, using bodies how, when, and for whatever he chooses. He has gained power by instilling fear in others, killing them if they do not cooperate. Anwanyu, many centuries younger than Doro, has lived relatively peaceably, obtaining her independence by gaining her village’s respect and trust, killing only when she is attacked. While Doro is interested in breeding and even the idea of making a family, he is not the great earth mother that Anwanyu is. From her body she can produce not only children, but medicines to heal and relieve and within her body she can communicate with animals and plants at a cellular level. Anwanyu nurtures where Doro destroys. Through the course of the novel, the masculine and feminine seem to fight each other until the end of the novel when both seem to realize that they exist better when they cooperate and complement each other rather than clash.

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