Olivia Butler writes in the afterword of “Bloodchild” that the story is not about slavery. Using evidence from close reading to support her statement, Butler uses human form as a vehicle to show the mechanical function we serve to ourselves and others. The process of defamiliarization is able to reveal our passive nature and ultimately highlight the human allowance for manipulation. These behaviors are reflected upon by showing a lack of respect for human life, an unbalanced relationship between the Tlic and the humans, and Gan’s stripped cognitive process.
The humans are identified as not respecting the intrinsic value of actually being human. “And toward the end of his life, when he should have been slowing down, he had married my mother and fathered four children” (Butler 3). Gan observes his father’s lifespan, but is not phased that he does not adhere it. If a human body is looked at as a machine, reproduction is its function. If function is a human’s only goal, they should simply reproduce until they die. Instead of valuing the human life cycle, Gan’s father chooses to run out his life like a machine.
With the ingestion of eggs, it is possible to further treat the human body like a machine. “The eggs prolonged life, prolonged vigor” (Butler 3). Eggs make humans last longer, much like oil does for gears. Gan’s mother is force-fed the rejuvenating substance, and “after a few moments some of the lines of tension began to smooth from her face” (4). Eggs have the ability to renew humans from every angle.
Gan’s mother is not as willing to alter her body with the eggs, and her acceptance of naturally maturing is ridiculed. “But my mother seemed content to age before she had to” ...
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...hy I suddenly felt afraid” (Butler 13). Gan feels something T’Gatoi didn’t imbue, so he knows that must be wrong. Gan now has a feeling he knows what “afraid” is, but he’s still unsure of how to express that. As readers, we identify with the human form and the learn of the mechanical function we serve to ourselves and others. The characters in “Bloodchild” behave as part of a process and show a lack of respect for their human qualities. As they desensitize their bodies, they allow the Tlic to engage with them in an unbalanced power relationship. The Tlic then interact with humans in a sheltering way and inhibit their thought process. Butler effectively conveys a notion that the way we treat ourselves dictates how others treat us. As the afterword said, “Bloodchild” is not about slavery; it’s about the relationships we take on because we allow ourselves to be used.
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