Pattern: The Oankali are resistant against humanity becoming independent.

  • “I cannot give you such things. Not to write or to read.” (pp. 61) Nikanj blatantly refuses to give Lilith tools that will help her memory, forcing her later to accept their alterations to her body and make-up. This is just a small act of dependency that forces Lilith to accept their help, and turn away from being dependent.
  • “Within these quarters, everything will open for you.” “And beyond these quarters?” “The walls will let you out and back in again. I’ve changed them a little too. But no other walls will open for you.” (pp. 102) It takes a long time for the Oankali to trust Lilith, to let her even get food by herself. It’s only after she agrees to have her memory capabilities altered that they allow her to feed herself, to leave and come in a restricted area. She’s still not free, entirely dependent on the Oankali to leave outside her quarters.

Hypothesis: It’s not just for the health and safety of the humans; keeping the humans dependent on the good-will of the Oankali means that they don’t have an option to hurt the Oankali. Keeping the humans from independence and freedom restricts the possibility that Lilith, or any of the other Awakened humans, would retaliate.

Reflection on Process of Close Reading: The Oankali obviously are resistant to the humans becoming independent. They appoint Lilith, the one human that they trust the most, to be the leader of the humans and grant her alone the ability to give the others food, shelter, space. It’s impossible to prove this with what we’ve read so far, that this dependency they create is for their safety as well as for their slow acclimation technique that they use to get the humans to go along with their plans. Looking back through the text, synthesizing the hypothesis is the hardest part. What do you think the words are really saying, underneath the context of just the story itself? Reading the text many times, slowly narrowing your focus onto just a few sentences of dialogue, of action, brings you to the meaning you may be looking for in the book.