Critical Analysis of the Novel “Clay’s Ark”


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“Clay’s Ark" is a passionate, but terrifying story about a struggle of identity. Octavia Butler in her novel changes the meaning of survival. She predicts that it is going to be very difficult to survive in the violent and lethal future world.

Octavia Butler pays serious attention to the way human beings actually work together and against each other, and she does so with extraordinary well. Her book is primarily about us, people, not about aliens. She is describing how cruel our world is and how some of us survive and some do not. The world described in “Clay’s Ark" is like the edge of cruelty, violence, and domination, which is described in stark detail. Butler is definitely a realist. Her novel “Clay’s Ark" is a very detailed social criticism. In this book she also has created some of the most fascinating female characters in the genre. Butler describes how real women survive when they are caught in impossible situations. Her novel is more than science fiction. It is a study on human relationships and identities.

The deadly entity, alien microorganism that invaded the Earth, attacks like a virus, but survivors of the disease genetically bond with it, developing amazing powers, near- immortality, unnatural desires-and a need to spread the contagion and create a secret colony of the transformed. Now the meaning of “survival" changes. For the babies born in the colony are clearly not human.

The main character of the novel is Eli who is the only survivor of a space ship wreck and is carrying an alien disease and life form. That alien redesigns the human body and is planning to take over all human bodies. The “disease" is highly communicable and the alien life form drives its host to thrive for physical contact. What is interesting here is that Elli strives to keep his humanity by trying to “contain" this disease and the measures he and his “family" must take to “feed" this alien life form. Elli wants to survive even though his live might cost the live of the all humans. Infected with the new organism he runs into the general populace, infecting everyone he comes into contact with. Eventually he creates a family of infected humans. The organism polluting their bodies forces them to pro-create all the time and to find new hosts.

The events of the story rise many questions in reader’s mind. How fast will this organism infect all of humanity? Will there even be the humanity left? Will these infected humans do the right thing and destroy themselves in time? Unfortunately, people are egoistic enough to care more about themselves then the life of the whole human population. Maybe because people are so egoistic are world is so easy to endanger?

Poverty everywhere, rampaging car gangs kidnapping for profit, and a huge schism between the rich and everyone else. It is this world in which live Blake Maslin and his teenaged daughters, Kiera and Rane. While returning to their enclave, they are abducted by two men and driven to a remote ranch. Once there, they learn that they have not been abducted to be held for ransom, but to serve as hosts for an alien microorganism brought back from another planet by one of the abductors.

Separated from one another and pulled inexorably deeper into the mystery, Blake and his twin daughters - the tough, impulsive Rane and the shy, fragile Keira - must each decide whether they want to accept the strange new life into which they have been drawn or to try to escape their fate. Personal as these decisions appear, they find that there are wide-reaching consequences of any choice they make - not only for themselves and the community of kidnappers, but for the rest of the world and the survival of humanity itself.

The group of kidnappers is oriented towards questions of power and dominance-basically, who is stronger, and what are the responsibilities of that role.

We all value the power of logic and rational thought and discount the so-called “animal" urges of instinct and biological compulsion. Clayarks are all biological urges, roaming free, living life in the here and now. The human race has bifurcated, and although a “mute" semblance remains, humans are portrayed as beings where both mind and body are weak and dull.

Only the struggle that Eli continues to endure breaks this action-orientation. The rest of the characters are driven either by the disease or their human nature to respond to the events. The survival instinct of the alien virus is so strong, that the characters are partially excused for their actions.

At the same time, the human society of 21st century North America - the supposed civilization from which the Maslins have been torn - is shown as being capable of producing the same kind of inhuman behavior as the alien organism, giving a nice counterpoint to the struggles of the main characters.

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