Internal Restraint

“If the pheromone were something only men had, you would do it”  (Butler, 268)

Octavia Butler’s 1987 short story “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” explores the boundaries of restraint and control within one’s self.  The focus is a  minority group within a realistic fictional society affected by a disease known as Duryea-Gode Disease (DGD). Image found @: is the side affect of a cancer curing drug called Hedeonco, referred to as the “magic bullet”.  What made this treatment magic is the fact that it is responsible for curing much of the worlds cancer and a few viral diseases.  The down side to the cure, and possibly the reason it’s called a bullet, is that the off springs of those treated with Hedeonco will have a 100% chance of contracting DGD.  Lynn Mortimer the tragic heroine in the story is the product of two DGD parents and simultaneously a rare gift of sorts to the grievous DGD community.

Lynn inadvertently yet naturally operates in her gifts but like most others living with DGD feels, trapped, alienated, and hopeless.  From the tender age of 15 Lynn was made well aware of the vicious nature of DGD.  Those that began to “drift”, or loose touch the rest of the world, were sent to madhouses where they began horrid rituals of screaming and self mutilation sometimes unto death.  I could not help but wonder what Butler was likening the disease to.  I suppose it could be an extreme case of anything.  Anything we are born into and unable to escape.  Anything that makes one feel trapped.  However, Butler presents an escape although it does not seem to be one initially, choice.

When Lynn and Alan go to see Naomi, Beatrice presents them with a healthy alternative to the bleak and destructive end of self mutilation.  She presents them with the choice of living a life in which their natural gifts are put to good use.  Lynn’s gift is that of assisting, comforting, and encouraging others affected by DGD.  Her rare duel heredity of the disease gives her a scent that is somewhat controlling.  This type of control enrages Alan because he is already leading a life with so many limitations.  “It’s something you can do.  Play queen bee in a retreat full of workers.  I’ve never had any ambitions to be a drone.” (Butler, 283), he states after being propositioned to assist in Beatrice’s mission.

This story is powerful because life is full of issues beyond the control of man/womankind.  We cannot choose our parents.  We cannot choose our race.  We a cannot choose our nationality.  We cannot choose the reason others will discriminate against us  or what diseases will affect us.   What we can choose is how we will deal with these inevitabilities.  Will we destroy ourselves or choose to be productive inspite of our limitations?

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2 Comments on “Internal Restraint”

  1. Mythical Man Says:

    Sounds like an interesting story. I’ve heard a lot about Butler for years, but have never got around to reading any of her stuff.

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