Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


Fire, caused by climate change and the maniacal behavior of drug-addled pyromaniacs, is the most devastating force in the novel. It symbolizes death, and a destructive finality. Fire levels Robledo to the ground, and raging infernos follow and chase Lauren and her group throughout their journey, at one point nearly engulfing them all. Whereas fire is a source of attraction to many opportunist scavengers, it is an element to avoid and evade for Lauren and her followers. When they camp on the hillsides at night, the fires they start are put out so as not to draw the attention of thieves and murderers. Fire also lends power to those who have none. Pyro addicts use it to wield control over the rich by destroying their homes and properties. But fire is also seen as necessary for rebirth, as in Lauren’s reference to the phoenix rising from the ashes. 


Seeds are symbolic of life, hope, and the future, and are a common device used throughout Lauren’s narrative. The novel’s title speaks to the planting of seeds, which Lauren accomplishes in both a literal and figurative manner. In her survival pack, Lauren carries “a lot of plantable seed” while the ultimate goal of her belief system is to “seed ourselves farther and farther from this dying place.” The Earthseed community Lauren establishes at the end of the novel is called “Acorn.” As acorns contain the seeds to grow into oak trees, they’re planted into the ground after the community stages a memorial to bury their dead. From the resting place of the dead, seeds will sprout and generate life anew.


Unlike fire, water in Parable of the Sower signifies life, security, cleansing, and joy. It’s a precious commodity in the novel’s Southern California setting where drought is common. When it rains for the first time in six years, Lauren is so overwhelmed by how “incredible and wonderful” it is that she purposefully soaks herself in the downpour. When she, Harry, and Zahra see the Pacific Ocean for the first time, they bathe in it and wash away their “grime and stink.” The ocean also affects people psychologically. Lauren witnesses no violence or mayhem and remarks it was “a safer place than any we’d seen so far.” The water removes their worry and allows them all to just be. A reliable source of potable water is essential for the Earthseed community to survive and having a well on Bankole’s property allows them to settle and create Acorn.


Rabbits are used to represent procreation and a perpetuation of life in the novel. The polygamist Richard Moss breeds rabbits and sells them outside their walled neighborhood to make money and sustain his large family. The fact that Richard has many wives, and many children, suggests he breeds like a rabbit. When thieves rob the Moss household, they take the family’s rabbits, knowing how valuable they are. At the end of the novel, Bankole brings back three rabbits he hunted, which the Earthseed community enjoyed for supper. After the meal, Lauren contemplates that wild rabbits could be captured and bred for a “sure meat supply” for the group.