Chapters 22–25

Summary: Chapter 22

I-5 has far fewer people traveling on foot than U.S. 101, but there is more truck traffic. Just outside Sacramento, the group encounters four children eating a severed human leg. The travelers pass through the city quickly, resupplying and otherwise trying to look intimidating while remaining obtrusive.

At the next site where the group takes a day to rest, Bankole asks Lauren to leave the group and journey alone with him. At first, she regretfully but firmly says no, because she is committed to founding the first Earthseed community. But as she guessed, he has a fixed destination: near Cape Mendocino, Bankole owns three hundred acres of land on which his younger sister and her husband have built a house. The site is remote and safe, and has water wells. After Bankole declares that he wants to marry Lauren and will let all her friends come, too, if necessary, she eagerly accepts his proposal. When she tells him about her hyperempathy and warns that it may limit her ability to help him if he is injured, he laughs; he still wants to marry her.

Summary: Chapter 23

As another dawn gun battle plays out in the vicinity, two new people stealthily take shelter in the campsite: a mixed-race woman named Emery Solis and her nine-year-old daughter, Tori. They are thin from lack of food. Emery and her husband were farm workers, enslaved by indebtedness to their employers. After the husband died of an abdominal condition and Emery’s two sons were taken from her, she escaped with Tori. The two of them have been drifting north while living off the land. The slavery, Lauren thinks, may explain why they are fearful of human contact, as if at any time they expect to be beaten. Emery explains that the gun battle that caused them to seek cover was between gangs fighting for possession of the area. After some debate, she and Tori are accepted into the group. Because they snuck into the camp during Jill’s watch, Lauren insists that Jill promise to be more alert in the future. 

Two days later, Tori makes a friend on the road, a girl named Doe. Doe and her father, Grayson Mora, also act fearful and withdrawn, like ex-slaves. Grayson clearly likes Emery but otherwise acts oddly resentful; he joins the group only because Doe begs him to. Lauren notices that he has a sleepsack, food, water, and money, which he must have taken from someone.

Summary: Chapter 24

As the group makes a roadside rest stop, pyros attack. When one seizes Tori, Lauren shoots him dead and collapses from a hyperempathetic reaction. After she “dies” two or three more times as attackers are killed, she is grazed by a bullet. When the battle is over and she regains consciousness, she learns that Jill was shot dead carrying Tori to safety. The others have already buried Jill.

By now, the reason for the four newcomers’ odd demeanor is evident: like Lauren, they are hyperempathetic sharers. Emery explains that not all children of sharers inherit the condition, but many do. Slaveowners prefer slaves with the trait, because it makes them more docile.

A firestorm nearly overtakes and kills the group but changes direction at the last moment. Afterward, Lauren and Bankole have a confrontation with a jumpy Grayson. He almost fled with Doe during the gunfight, showed no concern when Lauren appeared to stumble while walking, and now is complaining about not being trusted with a gun. His care for Doe, however, shows that he is capable of unselfishness.

After resupply in Clear Lake, the group takes two days to rest. They talk about what they have been through, and about Earthseed. Finally, the walkers reach Bankole’s property in the Mendocino area, far up in the hills. The house where Bankole’s sister and her family lived is a burned-out ruin.

Summary: Chapter 25

In the ruin of Bankole’s sister’s property are five skulls but no complete skeletons; since the fire, enough time has passed for weeds to grow up and animals to scatter the bones. Over Lauren’s worried objections, Bankole insists he must at least try to find out what happened. He and Harry hike back down to the nearest town, so that Bankole can ask the sheriff’s office to investigate the murders. The deputies search Bankole, promise to investigate the crime, and confiscate the cash he is carrying as a “fee” for police services. Meanwhile, Harry has looked for work but found none. He and Bankole buy some supplies and hand tools and make their way back up to the group.

At a group meeting, Lauren argues that Bankole’s land is still the best place to start a community. They will be better able to keep watch and defend themselves than Bankole’s sister and her family were. Lauren lists the crops she brought seeds for. Most of the group are ready to stay, including Grayson. Harry is the last to be persuaded, and only agrees after Emery innocently suggests that up north, as a white person, he might have a good chance of landing a job as a slave driver.

When it becomes clear that the sheriff’s office is not sending any investigators, the group bury Bankole’s dead and also, symbolically, all the others everyone has lost. At the service, people commemorate their loved ones by planting acorns and by sharing memories, Bible verses, Earthseed verses, and bits of songs and poems. They name their new home Acorn.

Analysis: Chapters 22–25

Lauren and Bankole’s individual motives test their love for one another as their relationship reaches a climactic tipping point. When Bankole implores Lauren to abandon the group and to journey with him alone to his own private hideaway, it marks the final test of her devotion and dedication to Earthseed. The inner conflict Lauren experiences forces her to assess her commitment to her own followers, the implications of which are significant. But the ideals that have gotten her this far — faith, morality, and compassion — run counter to abandonment. Those ideals have lent her an ability to positively influence others, and she’s able to convince Bankole to change his plan. That she’s able to get Bankole to adapt his original plan is meaningful. Adaptation is central to Earthseed’s premise, and compromise is very much a subset of adaptation. Lauren yields to love and a marriage proposal, old constructs she was previously scornful of but now relishes with Bankole. As hope springs eternal, Lauren can allow herself to imagine building a future with someone she loves.

Emery Solis and her nine-year-old daughter, Tori, escape a world of indebted servitude to become exemplars of the Earthseed gospel. Change and adaptation are requisites in Lauren’s religion, and she allows the escaped modern-day slave and her only surviving child into the group for the resilience they showed in not only escaping an ordeal, but in sneaking into their camp unnoticed. This is change being actively engaged and purposefully shaped in accordance with Earthseed scripture. Escaping slavery doesn’t just take an inordinate amount of courage but requires determination and adaptation. Emery is very much the poster child of the traveling group and the Earthseed credo as she has shaped change to determine her own destiny. While others exhibit hesitation in allowing escaped slaves into the group, Lauren recognizes their value and how they embody the Earthseed message. Resilience and the ability to alter one’s circumstances can not only empower someone to survive the most oppressive conditions humanity can unleash, but it can reshape outlooks and bring about freedom. Exposing others in the group to this message is vital for Earthseed to firmly take root. 

Children in the novel are assets more than liabilities, and because they embody hope and potential, they must be protected at all costs. Grayson’s aloof disposition takes a backseat to his daughter Doe’s safety. His realization that she has a better chance of surviving in the group than outside of it is cause for an attitude adjustment and adaptation. The heroic efforts members of the group take to save the lives of children is evidenced by Lauren’s shooting of Tori’s attacker and Jill’s attempt to get Tori into safer hands. Jill’s resulting death raises her to martyr status as she sacrificed her life for the Earthseed cause. The fact that both Doe and Tori are hyperempathetic sharers like their parents inextricably ties them to Lauren, who uses the bond to connect with a recalcitrant Grayson in yet another show of understanding and awareness. Zahra’s wily and calculating maneuver of having Doe offer her father a pomegranate also manages to soften Grayson’s petulance. By the latter stages of the novel, it becomes clear that Lauren’s connection with children only strengthens her increasingly diverse flock.

While the property on which the Earthseed community establishes itself has been mysteriously burned to the ground, the scorched earth is symbolic of the cleansing nature of forest fires and of rebirth after destruction. Butler symbolizes this through stark imagery. Weeds have grown since a fire raged through Bankole’s property. Citrus trees bear fruit, vegetables grow, and other fruit and nut trees flourish as well. Rabbits roam the property and there’s a dependable water source. Tools are used to nurture and sustain life as the group learns to live off the land. Seeds are sewn to create anew. Lauren makes clear that the work the group undertakes has the promise to bear fruit. As a new community is created from the tragedies of all its members, a memorial service is held to honor the dead. Rebirth is a major theme of the novel evidenced by the group planting acorns after burying their dead. Lauren and her 12 disciples fittingly call their new home Acorn, a symbol of hope, potential, and rebirth.