Bloodchild: A Love Story

In response to Clarissa’s post that contests the viability of the slavery reading and interpretation of Bloodchild as well as T’Gatoi’s character, whom she describes as “an awful creature with no morals who is ugly on the outside and the inside,” I both agree and disagree. While I agree that the initial character description of T’Gatoi may be at first a tad bit revolting, I disagree with the argument that she should be seen as as an awful creature without morality who instead merely exudes both an internal and external ugliness. I think that in painting T’Gatoi in such a light, it deprives her of her multi-dimensional complexity as a character, instead rendering her a one-dimensional-type-being, which I do not believe was Butler’s illustrative intent.

Thus far in the semester, many of the stories we have come across bring to life imaginary “space alien” creatures that we might at first glance find repulsive, but that I think there is indeed more to than first meets the eye. While we as readers cannot claim to know authorial intent, as we briefly touched on in class today, we can still infer the meaning and purpose of specific characters that different authors create, and, in the case of Butler’s character T’Gatoi, I felt that part of the underlying purpose of such a character could be to allow us to step back from our initial revulsion of a creature that is “other” and instead re-think and work through the frame of mind through which we first came to the story, in order to potentially re-examine our underlying prejudices and/or judgments. In fact, I remember that during my first reading of Bloodchild, which was about a year ago, the story ended up leaving me utterly bewildered because of the alien-ness (no pun intended) of the character I was encountering—thinking that at first it was simply a coming of age story about a boy. But, as we see, the science fiction and dystopian elements gradually reveal themselves as the story unravels and I remember almost feeling like I was hit in the face and had to slam on the brakes last year: like “whoa, hold on, okay, I was not at all expecting this kind of story, in this kind of world, with this kind of societal structure, with these kind of characters.” And, indeed, my very first interpretation of the story a year ago was that of slavery (although we had just read a fugitive slave narrative so perhaps that influenced the angle and lens through which I approached and therefore read the story). This time around, I felt less surprised because I am much more familiar with Octavia Butler’s writing and the elements she incorporates into her writing after acquainting myself with  some of her other works now besides just Bloodchild, but, nevertheless, I still felt this unintentional drive to read it as I would a story pertaining to, at least on some level, slavery, as, the humans appear to be deprived of their humanity by being essentially reduced to a function: mainly that of a birthing vessel. Perhaps some of the language also impacted my reading of the story as, like Clarissa pointed out, there are many words analogous with entrapment, (such as being “caged”).

The eggs Gan and his siblings drink also appear to lower inhibitions, much like drugs or alcohol, and thus their effect on the humans, made me somewhat uncomfortable when reading the story a second time around. Do the Tlic utilize this in such a way as do many perpetrators of violent crimes such as sexual assault, when it comes to substances like alcohol, as a tool through which to manipulate others in order to gain or do away with the need for their partners “consent”? It is certainly easy to center our attention on the obvious power imbalance between T’Gatoi and Gan, but like the speaker in Conversations with Octavia Butler, within the MIT Cultural Studies Project section, they characterize Butler’s work much like I myself would when stating that it is, “powerful fiction that grapples with complexities” (157). Like we discussed a few weeks ago in class, often times we find ourselves attempting to pin down the “bad” and/or “good” guy in many of the works we read, but Butler doesn’t give us the comfortable satisfaction that such a binary structure would allow us, and thus, this problematizes the drive, desire, and/or need we often feel to categorize or typecast. If T’Gatoi was and could be unquestionably painted as “the villain” here, it would certainly be easier to position her as a character because all of the ambiguity surrounding her character would then be erased, but I get the impression that it isn’t so black and white in this particular work when addressing the complexity of this particular character who is, in my opinion, anything but one-dimensional.

While it may be difficult for many people, myself included, to see this as a kind of love story—it in many ways is. And I think one of the most difficult aspects of beginning to think about or see this as a love story is allowing ourselves to imagine love transpiring in an instance such as this where the characters themselves differ so completely and radically from one another. Like the question that Dr. McCoy prompted us to reflect on at the start of the semester pertaining to what brings people together and what keeps people together, Bloodchild also imagines a more symbiotic kind of love rather than one of oppression and force.

On page 26 after Gan tells T’Gatoi to leave the gun where it is as opposed to discarding it, he asserts that, “there is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” And that is true of anyone we spend our time around within the separate spheres that make up the whole of our lives, even, as Andre pointed out, in our own classroom time with one another. Some might say that we in part risk either ourselves or our lives by choosing to accept and partake in daily contact with people, not just strangers or people we don’t know, but our classmates, professors, friends, romantic partners, and families too. And these are risks that both sides must accept, as any interdependent relationship built on love—such as T’Gatoi and Gan’s—must; and after today’s discussion I walked away with a clearer, more definitive grasp of the function and drive behind Butler’s writing of Bloodchild than I had had previously before.

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