Motherhood In Octavia Butler's Dawn

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Lilith as a Challenge to the Stereotypical Notions of Motherhood In Octavia Butler’s “Dawn” the protagonist Lilith serves as a mother figure in a variety of ways. Lilith is one of the few humans that have survived a nuclear war, and has been rescued by an alien race named the “Oankali.” These mysterious aliens have elected Lilith to lead the first group of humans in their return to Earth. In “Dawn” Lilith is both a literal mother to a deceased son Ayre, and a metaphorical mother to both a young boy named Sharad, and the group of humans. However, Lilith does not behave in ways in which we typically expect of mother figures; instead of a soft and gentle character we see a strong and independent female character who is in fact a mother, but not exclusively defined by motherhood. This is not to say Lilith is a “bad” mother, but rather an unconventional mother. Throughout “Dawn” Butler uses her characterization of Lilith to challenge societal stereotypes of mothers and to call into question what we consider maternal. Lilith is…show more content…
Lilith does seem to “mother” Sharad, singing to him, teaching him English, and begging for his return when he is taken from her (Butler 8-9). However, these actions seem to result from a desperate need for human contact, rather than from any kind of maternal drive. Lilith herself admits Sharad is not like Ayre in “appearance or temperament,” but she is grateful she is able to touch him, expressing that, “She could not remember when she had last touched someone” (9). Lilith does not seem to be trying to replace Ayre or mother another son, but is instead only yearning for interaction with others. In this passage Butler again places Lilith into a mothering role, yet Lilith’s actions still seem to differ from what we typically associate with mothers, as they stem from the desire for human contact rather than from motherly
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