Archive for October, 2011

Ooloi

I don’t really get the ooloi.  I understand that they facilitate the reproductive process, but I really wonder about their nature as a “gender”.  They aren’t, entirely, a gender.  They’re a bridge so that men and women can successfully reproduce.  I wonder then, why are they considered a gender in that society?  What is the importance of them being genderless?  In particular, I feel like Octavia Butler is trying to make some sort of commentary on the nature of a relationship, particularly since the idea of a man and woman touching without the aid of an ooloi is apparently repugnant to all parties involved.

There’s something definitely there.  In a cursory glance at Butler’s library of fiction, I do notice that she pays special attention to issues of sexuality.  I wonder if the nature of an ooloi is a suggestion that a man and a woman need something else to effectively cooperate and create a successful family unit.  Or, perhaps, she is encouraging the importance of cooperation in her work.  Obviously, humanity is seen as an anathema to itself, partially because of an inability to cooperate with one another.  Are the ooloi a function of cooperation that Butler is suggesting the world take in order to survive?  I feel as if there is some accuracy to that assessment.

I still feel like the gender issue is a strange point, however.  Why can’t an ooloi be a man or a woman?  That is to say, what prevents a genetically different man or woman provide the same capacity as an ooloi in the oankali society?  I think that by observing the other characteristics of the ooloi that I might be able to field a guess.  Specifically the idea that the ooloi can take information or genetic material from any other race and make it a part of themselves.  I believe Butler is trying to say that the spirit of cooperation has to be one with racial motivation, gender motivation, or anything else that can ultimately “stain” the nature of cooperation.  I feel that the importance the oankali place on consensus in regards to settling matters also emphasizes the importance of cooperation.

However, something Butler really succeeded with is showing the use of peer pressure to help resolve conflicts in the oankali society.  Ultimately, peer pressure is a form of cooperation and consensus united against a single person.  I don’t think Butler is necessarily espousing or promoting that as an idea; however, it is interesting to see a link between cooperation and peer pressure.  Perhaps, there’s a warning hidden within it that cooperation can still be dangerous — much like the words of warning given about the tyranny of the majority by Tocqueville.

Whatever the case, this is all a sort of rambling to help me understand the ooloi.  If anyone has any ideas into their nature and why they are what they are, please let me know.

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Freud

As I was reading We3 and looking at the character archetypes of the three main characters, I began to wonder what I was really looking at.

Grant Morrison is pretty big into psychology.  I had a friend tell me about his use of Jungian psychology or something along those lines in his comics.  I have to level with you.  I am not “comics” guy.  I don’t get comics, and I don’t find them overly enjoyable.  I think they’re interesting from an anthropological standpoint (I am so pretentious it is literally stunning), but I’ve never gotten into them on a basic level.  That being said, I don’t have any way to verify the comment I just made.

I am going to implicitly trust the possibly stoned ramblings of my friend and how Morrison loves psychology.

The reasoning is:

The three main characters can somewhat be ascribed to the Freudian ideas of the id, ego, and superego.  Basically, id is the destructive “I want to do this now regardless of consequence” drive in people.  The ego tries to placate the id by offering suggestions or literally shutting down the mind through things like repression or regression.  The superego is the conscience that sort of balances everything out.

That is very basic and probably not all that accurate!  I am an English major with the vague memories of a few psychology classes so please bear with me if I have offended you greatly.

Let’s look at these Freudian ideas and how specifically they relate to each of the characters.

I think we can see the cat, 2, as being the Id.  He’s the killer.  Interestingly, the people seem to be most afraid of him.  And with some reason, an id-driven person could be regarded with some amount of terror!  I think the part that really encapsulates 2 as the id occurs on page 59.  He disagrees with the others, viciously fighting because he disagrees with the idea of a home existing for them.  Freud specifically argues that the id is often in conflict with the superego.  They both desire different things.  He’s aggressive and acts impulsively.  Another example that really spoke to me was on 40 when he kills the bird for food regardless of the situation.  Again, on 82, 2 acts impulsively eating the food offered by the homeless man regardless of whether or not it’s good for him.  These, together, imply 2 as an impulsive creature that seeks pleasure in life, generally through food.  The cat is often seen as an aloof, almost hedonistic animal.  They act on desire and don’t seem to care much about the rules set forth by an owner.

3, the rabbit, is the ego.  And this is really obvious in some of the same panels mentioned above.  He tries to placate 2, the id, as frequently as possible.  He eats grass as if saying, “Hey, id, it’s all right, we can eat but why don’t we eat something good for us?”  In the fight between 2 and 1, he’s trying to placate them, trying to mollify the situation as best he can.  Interestingly, one of the ways Freud describes the ego as chaining the id is by regression.  3 is the character that is shot in the brain, permanently ruining his speech to an almost child-like level.  When I read the pages after he’s shot, I feel like you can really get a sense of a regressing consciousness that’s likewise repressing the events of the world around him.  Indeed, the ego is an entity of anxiety.  The rabbit, or any rodent creature for that matter, comes across as an anxious creature.

1 is very obviously the conscience, the superego.  He is completely consumed by morality: “gud” and “bad”.  Things are black and white to him, and he’s quick to ascribe morality.  He’s also the driving factor that pushes the other two along, much like the superego.  And, indeed, ethics are an important part of the superego.  I think this is echoed by Morrison’s choice of a dog here.  The dog, man’s best friend, is always seen as a trustworthy companion.  Again, referencing the conflict between the 3 on page 59 to reinforce the idea of 1 being the superego.  It’s the superego and the id that fight, both wanting different things: staying and eating, looking for a life of pleasure against the desire to find a home.

One final sort of point I want to bring to the forefront that I found really interesting is how the novel concludes.  While doing a little bit of research on the id, ego, and superego, I came across the concept of a death drive.  In On Metapsychology, Freud says, “the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state” (380).  This is a really fascinating quote directly because of what 1 and 2 do at the end!  They’re shedding the robotic parts of them, the inanimate state of their organic life.  They’re actively rebelling against the death instinct inherent in themselves and choosing to live.  I think that is really the lynchpin of my argument in that I think that’s a perfect analogy and maybe what Morrison is telling the audience.  We have to overcome the desire of death, find a home, and find happiness in being alive.

I think the death drive itself is reflected in 4.  He never speaks.  He exists solely to kill, to destroy.  Indeed, in the one instance of him having a speech bubble, it’s a jagged black bit of art with no words (101).  It’s primal and something that can’t be ascribed with words.  Only when the id and the superego work together can the desire to die be overcome.  And I think that’s a really fascinating interpretation Morrison has encoded within the work.
As I said, I don’t know much about psychology.  Does anyone else see evidence of other forms of psychology in the work?