Chapters 7–9

Summary: Chapter 7

Lauren settles on a name for her new God-is-Change belief system: Earthseed. She wants to prepare herself, and others, to be seeds that will carry humanity to wherever life take them. She assembles a survival pack with non-perishable food, tools, money, and other essentials. She also includes raw seeds. Her father denies her request for a gun; Lauren suspects he worries about her half-brother Keith finding it. When she brings up the possibility of the entire family leaving to go north, her father rejects the idea. He intends to stay in Robledo, where he has a job and knows his neighbors. “A tree cannot grow in its parents’ shadows,” Lauren writes in her notebook. After she reads about planets orbiting nearby stars, on her sixteenth birthday she has another thought: “The Destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars.”

After Amy Dunn died, her mother, Tracy, was depressed and spoke of wanting to die, too. Yesterday, she went outside the wall, and she hasn’t been seen since.

Summary: Chapter 8

A friend of Lauren’s is pregnant and is making wedding plans with her boyfriend. Lauren wonders how anyone can be thinking about marriage and children with the world the way it is. Lauren likes Curtis, but she would rather kill herself than face the kind of future her friend has ahead of her.

During another target practice outing, the group comes across a woman’s maggot-eaten body. Aura has had enough and doesn’t want to shoot anymore. Although Lauren doesn’t enjoy shooting, she is disgusted at how the Moss women dodge responsibilities others are taking on, like learning to use a weapon for the community’s sake and taking turns standing watch at night.

Meanwhile, Keith, at thirteen, is eager to prove himself a man and has been upset at being excluded from the shooting trips. He steals Cory’s gate key and goes outside the wall alone. He returns just as Lauren’s father is preparing to go look for him. Keith is scraped and bruised and wearing only his underpants. Five guys jumped him, he explains, and took the gate key. His father is furious, because he will have to buy new clothes for Keith and get the gate lock rekeyed. Keith stubbornly insists that what happened was not his fault, but the next morning, in church, his father makes him apologize to the congregation, in detail, for his behavior. The sermon is on the Biblical commandment to honor one’s father and mother and to not steal. Lauren says that Keith has always been Cory’s favorite child.

Summary: Chapter 9

Hoping to satisfy Keith’s desire to feel manly, his parents give him his own BB gun. Soon after, he again leaves the neighborhood. His father looks for him and also calls the police, even though the family can hardly afford the investigation fee. After two days, beside herself with worry, Cory shouts that if her husband’s “precious Lauren” were missing, he would find her. Lauren’s father apologizes on behalf of Cory for this statement, but Lauren knows Cory doesn’t love her like she loves Keith.

A week and a half after Keith left, he saunters back into the house, wearing expensive new clothes. When he refuses to say where he’s been, his father beats him bloody. Because of her hyperempathy with Keith, Lauren vomits and passes out. A month later, Keith leaves again, taking Cory’s gun. This time, his father refuses to go look for him. Lauren hates Keith for what he is doing to their family. When Keith returns a week later, he waits until his father is out of the house, hands Cory a huge roll of money, and leaves again before his father returns. Keith says he won’t let his father beat him again, and he expects to make more money than his father ever could.

Analysis: Chapters 7–9

As Lauren establishes the roots of Earthseed, its fundamentals draw parallels to the Underground Railroad and the moon landing. The goal of her belief system is to spread humanity’s “seeds” by seeking out new lands and worlds. But before readying humanity’s dispersion among the stars, Lauren contemplates escaping to the north. There are clear allusions to the Underground Railroad in the narrative’s subtext, with “desperate” people who “have nothing to lose” searching for the promised land. As a Black woman, Lauren in her role as a guide can be likened to a twenty-first century Harriet Tubman. Lauren is also a staunch proponent of space exploration, viewing herself as a voyager on a dangerous mission to new worlds. As new and potentially life-bearing planets are discovered, Lauren says she finds it “more exciting and encouraging than I can explain.” It’s no surprise then that Earthseed’s ultimate objective is to colonize the stars, despite the country’s dismantling of its space program. It should not go unnoticed that Chapter 7’s final entry on July 20, 2025, coincides with the anniversary date of the moon landing — July 20, 1969.

Lauren begins to develop her own personal set of ideals and morals that will shape the tenets of Earthseed. Survival takes on a greater importance in Lauren’s world than feelings of love. She feels a palpable disconnect with anyone choosing to get married in a world thrust into chaos and violence. Even the thought of having babies with her boyfriend Curtis repulses her. When Aura Moss exhibits an unwillingness to shoot a gun, it also appalls Lauren as self-defense is a skill she has come to value highly. Like all of Richard Moss’s daughters, Aura is exempt from fulfilling duties both have decided are the domain of men, like shooting a gun. Such restrictively outmoded thinking runs counter to Earthseed’s foundational tenet to accept change and willingly adapt. When Keith steals his mother’s key and leaves the neighborhood compound only to return bloody and degraded, Lauren shows little sympathy, faulting Keith’s ego, stupidity, and stubbornness — qualities that, again, stand in opposition to Earthseed’s ethos.

The dynamics and allegiances between parents, children, and siblings play out to painful conclusions in Chapter 9. Butler draws a stark generational and moral contrast between Keith and his father, yet the behavior of the leading male figures in the family cause irreparable damage in the household. Butler employs the father-son conflict archetype to demonstrate how it can fracture a family. Keith’s egotistical behavior, and willful desertion, enrages Lauren, who shows allegiance to her father. Her father’s violent tendencies create a rift between him and Cory, who is loyal to her son. The family’s fracturing will have a profound effect on Lauren as she establishes the tenets of Earthseed. Such divisions and infighting will be shown to be antithetical to the principles of Earthseed. Butler also employs the sibling rivalry archetype to underscore the opposition of Keith and Lauren. Keith’s repeated desertion from the family and the compound is necessitated to support a criminal lifestyle. But as much as Lauren wants to escape, a fleeting life like the one Keith leads poses no temptation for her. Rather, Lauren’s departure will ultimately have a benevolent purpose and a lasting permanence.