Archive by Author

A Woman’s Voice in Butler’s “Speech Sounds”

18 Apr

Octavia Butler is one of the outstanding black feminist writers who write science fiction toward a utopian society. However, Butler’s short story “Speech Sounds” can be read as a depiction of a dystopian or anti-utopian society that represented by misery, violence, and disorder. Butler seems to be criticizing her own society through her depiction of the society in her story that Rye is a woman that has the ability to speak among other people who are not able to communicate with each other because of the illness that Butler describes as pandemic.

A pandemic, as represented in this story, is a disease or a condition that influences the population. Butler describes this disease as, “A new virus, a new pollutant, radiation, divine retribution….The illness was stroke-swift in the way it cut people down and strokelike in some of its effects” (96). This disease affects people’s communication and Butler represents Rye, the protagonist, as a woman who has the ability to speak. It seems that Butler wants to represent Rye’s ability to speak among the others who cannot as a way to emphasize on a dominant woman presence in the society. Without having Rye’s ability to speak, women’s voice may not be heard. Butler also wants to show the reader that language is important to a culture and without communication and human speech the breakdown of the social structure will affect people’s lives as seen in the story.

Butler’s “Speech Sounds” can be read as a feminist work in which only women are able to speak. As a matter of fact, usually people are heard in the society as long as they speak and language is the tool of those who hold the power. It could be argued that Butler is giving Rye a role to hold the power by her ability to speak.  However, she was not able to speak in a society where isolation is prominent theme between people. Butler describes Rye by saying that “Illness had stripped her, killing her children one by one, killing her husband, her sister, her parents” (95). The isolation has accompanied the illness that had unpredictable feelings of frustration, jealousy, and caution of mistrust others.  Therefore, Rye did not speak for several years because if her voice is heard she will be in a threat of being killed.

I believe that Butler as an African American women is criticizing her own society that time in which black women were not able to present their voice in a white male dominant society. It seems that Butler is portraying that African American women were not given the option to hold the power. Therefore, we can see in the story that when Rye identifies that the two children are able to speak she decides to abandon them to protect and teach them. She may not have the power to speak in public, but she has the power to protect the children from the jealousy and violation in that society.

Rejection of the Male Dominance in ““The Women Men Don’t See” and “When it Changed”

7 Mar

Reading Tiptree’s stories at the time he writes his stories makes the reader ambivalent of the author’s perspective as if being a tough, mysterious man, sympathetic to feminism. The stories could make the reader question the author’s persona and what might cause Sheldon uses the man’s name to write her stories. In fact, some people when read a story, they try to make sense of the story depending on how and where they see the author. Both Alice Sheldon and Joanna Russ write a complex science fiction stories that complement that portrayal of women. The struggle between genders is kind of the major theme among both “The Women Men Don’t See” and “When it Changed” stories and how the society seems to be struggling by the corruption that is made by men. Inequality between men and women is the direct message by these science fictional stories that embody a feminist lesson.

The dual authorship of “The Women Men Don’t See” by Alice Sheldon represented by James Tiptree Jr could create, what Justine Larbalestier mentioned, “the cusp between the mostly male-authored battle-of-the-sexes texts of the period up to the early 1970 and the mostly female-authored texts of the 1970s” (148). It is an interesting issue when we compare the two authors of our stories today, we see Joanna Russ in her story, “When it Changed”, is portrayed by an unknown narrator that readers may not identify either he or she is male or female until the halfway of the story. Larbalestier refers to Russ argument about that in his book, The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, where she mentioned in her article in 1981, that she calls the later texts feminist utopias. Russ maintains the battle-of the-sexes texts and the feminist utopias of the 1970s(149). It could be part of the science fiction feminist utopias challenge the order of the male dominance.

Tiptree’s “The Women Men Don’t See” and Russ’s “When It Changed” portrays kind of an extremist feminist view of the society that rejects the existence of the male gender in the utopian world. For example, we can see towards the end of “The Women Men Don’t See” that Ruth decided to take her daughter and leave the Earth and go with the aliens. She believes that she should not belong to the corrupted society by males’ dominance where there is no equality between genders. Therefore, she decided to be part of the utopian world. Another example is almost the same where the women in the utopian planet in “When It Changed” are having the same vision. Russ considers life on Earth is corrupted by the male dominance where no sexual equality between men and women. It is a portrayal of men who are incapable of respecting women’s accomplishments. Therefore, Janet said, “ I doubt very much that sexual equality has been reestablished on Earth” (Russ 774).  She is possibly aware that she needs to protect the planet from destruction of the male dominated universe.


Work Cited


Larbalestier, Justine. The battle of the sexes in science fiction. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 2002. Print.

Black No More a Satiric Science Fiction of Racism

21 Feb

George S. Schuyler promotes the view behind the concept of race in a satiric narrative style. He seems to be depicting the issue of race as something that people performed other than something being fundamentally created with. Black No More is an interesting work that mocks America’s racial caste system and pseudoscience on which racism is based. This work focuses on the reliance on both racist and ostensibly anti-racist organization on the skin color. What makes it really interesting is the use of scientific invention that a scientist is able to transform black people into whites.

Schuyler represents his ideas based on the reality in his time, early in the twentieth century. Racism is a controversial issue in the United States. Schuyler deals with this issue sarcastically is a chance for the black people to portray their needs within the nation wide. People were treated based on their skin color and Schuyler seems to be pointing out what might happen if all people in the U.S. turned to be white! Therefore, the scientific discovery can make that happen. We can see how the protagonist, Max Disher, is rejected by the white women as a result of rejecting his color. This caused him to be one of the first people who run to the scientific breakthrough “Black No More”. This scientific technology can help those black to achieve their goals to be treated equally with the white. This technology can turn black people white in a three days treatment that costs them fifty dollars. The treatment, as Schuyler describes, includes “a formidable apparatus of sparkling nickel. It resembled a cross between a dentist chair and electric chair” (13). This scientific electric chair is the tool that can turn the desire of many black to be accomplished.

I believe that Racism is usually treated as a system that is supported by material and economic conditions at work in a field of either social or political. Therefore, Schuyler satiric treatment of race is portrayed to be primarily based on a business or economic interest. For example, we can see how the scientist, Crookman, has increased entrepreneurial, with regard to his race, throughout the nation. We can see how those people are corrupted by the economics even after being white such as manipulation of the Southern labor. The novel portrays how those colored people once they are white, they has a strong capitalist spirit such as Crookman and Fisher. It is obviously a satiric treatise where he represents these characters as they are turned to have the white motives. It could be argued that Schuyler has a vision that describes the irrational color prejudice beyond the conversion. Therefore, he ends up criticizing and blaming the economic insufficiency.

Based on the provided discussion and examples, it could be argued that Black No More implies more than just satiric science fiction of racism. Schuyler is depicting the issue of race. This work could be a criticism of how racism can be treated as a system that supports the material economic conditions in his time. We can see how the transferred white characters have irrational color prejudice. Therefore, he ends blaming the economic insufficiency.

Gender Equality in Gilman’s Herland

14 Feb

Reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman utopian fiction can give the readers several messages that seem to be delivered to the society. No doubt that Gilman has her own corrupted vision of her society that pushed her to have a better vision of a feminist utopia. When we read Herland, we can feel that Gilam’s main focus in her writing is on the unequal gender status between men and women. It obviously seems that her primary focus is based on the unequal status of women within the institution of marriage. We can see that as one of the major themes in this novel. She portrays the unjust of women’s humanity comparing to men. Therefore, I turned to ask myself what would Gilman writes this novel in this way.

Tracing her autobiography, I found that Gilman had suffered cruel moments in her first marriage in 1886. She had been treated as the powerless wife and a mother of an innocent child of being subject of the husband who was made to be the master and she was the unpaid servant. She also suffered a severe case of depression after that marriage. Therefore, she tends to write her analysis about women’s status in her society. Her feminist utopian world is an important part of her criticism of the traditional power structure of the family. It is a treatise of how can we see the perfect society where men and women are equals.

Gilman presents the utopian feminist worlds in Herland that is inhabited by only women. To me, it seems kind of an extreme imagination where men seems to be excluded from being in that land. Although Terry, Jeff, and Van had that chance to access this world eventually, but Gilman’s concept of a utopian world with no men could be a result of negative attitude from her domestic society. Those men who had been to that world were not totally admitted to be part of that society. They need to be evaluated before they have the chance to be enrolled as new members to that land. Among those men, Gilman represents Terry as a man who was not able to adjust himself within the world where men and women are equal. He seems that he is a rough man who believes that men are superior to women. His ideas from his domestic society still there with him in Herland and he cannot accommodate himself in the equal society. Therefore, he rejects Herland and insists on his male rights.

Interestingly, Gilman represents Van, the narrator, as being more critical character in his approach to Herland than the other males. He likes how Harland is more civilized than his domestic world. He is more successful with his relationship with Ellador comparing to the other couples. He has a rational approach that helps him in his relationship with Ellador comparing to the others. I believe that Gilman chooses Van to be the narrator among the others as the rational character who is welling for change. Van is able to accommodate himself in the feminist utopian world and able to portray Gilman’s message to the society that both genders have an equal role in the society with no superiority between men and women.

A Better Vision for a Better Future in Bellamy’s Looking Backward

7 Feb

Reading Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward can give the reader some sense of the old utopian fiction that portrays a perfect human society. Although we read this work as fictional story, Bellamy seems to imply a message that carries his ideas for a better social reform. His readers in his nineteenth century were impact by the economic and political ideas. I believe that his work is more like a proposal to his audience to imagine a better future with ideal society. Therefore, he tries to touch upon some sensitive issues like separation between gender and personal freedom among the individuals without any change to the social order. It is a representation of an ideal image that portrays a better future maintaining the equality between citizens in the utopian twentieth century. Bellamy’s protagonist, Julian, can be seen as the representative of the nineteenth century who is migrated to twentieth century and readers see how he is in a utopian flexible society with a better personal freedom. We can see how Julian is flashbacking to his past in the nineteenth century as a nightmare as a cruel and inhuman world. In fact, industrial system of private capital was a sign of nineteenth century. The production of wealth was associated with the few privileged and the rest of the society was the sufferers from the poverty and hanger. Bellamy seems to criticize the economic system in a fictional utopian mode were he leaves his audience dreaming for that better society in a better future.

Among the selections from Philip Wegner, it was discussed how Bellamy has his own vision through his narrative utopia that produced by the multiple “legacies of memories” that impact the realization of any American nation (63). As Wegner argued that, for Bellamy, the modern American nation can be seen through a collective act of forgetting the past and reorientation toward a single future. Bellamy leaves his readers think of what might feel once they live in the utopian world and dreaming of the past as a nightmare. I believe it is the case that we all are living in a kind of a welfare state in our days and once we think about our grandparents’ life, we may consider it a miserable life. This feeling might be applied to what we read and watch in the science fiction books and movies. It is the representation of the future world with a better life with modern technology and always a better welfare state than the current one. Therefore, we see Julian in this novel is feeling so sad and considering his life back in the nineteenth century is nightmare.

Looking Backward can be read as one of narratives that gives the read sense of what might feel to be transferred form the current world to a utopian better future where the social, cultural, and economic class is much better. It is a world that both men and women are equal. These what Wegner describes as the “symbols of wealth”, “Born to expect guardianship and support, without either being the result of personal forethought or experience, they could not now, suddenly, appreciate the need of individual reliance upon themselves” (86).