In class we got to read a short story by Octavia Butler called Bloodchild, and was assigned to answer these questions.
1. Are there any prominent symbols in the story? If so, what are they and how are they used?
The story was obviously a discussion about slavery and class differentiations based on race. There where hints that humans (here referred to as Terrans) had landed on this different planet som time ago, and was now living under the mercy of the planets inhabitants; centipede-like creatures called the Tlic. What intrigued and bothered me the most was that the Tlic saw (or at least tried to give the appearance of) themselves as bringing mercy to the Terrans, taking them in and saving them from heir own race and the harsh climate they lived in. (Sounds familiar?) We understand that the characters in the story are locked up in what is referred to as the Preserve(!), where humans are preserved for breeding purposes, ensuring that the Tlic, who is a parasitic race, never run out of Terrans that are suitable for carrying their eggs.
The Tlic claim the Terrans are free and honoured members of the society, yet they're not given the choice. They are free in the sense that they are raised to believe what they're experiencing is right, so they don't even question the situation. It's all they know. The Tlic are taking advantage of their situation to manipulate the Terrans, thereby writing it off as justified. They're in the right simply because of the fact that they can get away with it. True freedom you say?
2. What connections did you make with the story? Discuss the elements of the work with which you where able to connect.
I found the story to be very expertly told in the sense that not only was I able to understand the situation as oppressive and wrong, but also the protagonists doubts and turmoil through the way the story was written. Even though I was deeply disturbed and frustrated, I could somehow relate to the characters in the story enough to understand their choices. There's the influential authority, the protective yet subdued mother, the jealous sister, the free minded and rebellious brother that's only trying to look after himself, and the protagonist; attentive and reflecting yet completely under the influence of his "captivator".
In a broad sense, this situation can be applied to a lot of things in this world, not restricted crudely to slavery. Even though originally meant to be something helpful (at least so I hope) authority has a nasty habit of evolving into selfish needs and oppression of those with less influence. Even when authority should rightfully be opened for questioning (such as in the government, or in a smaller scale, a school) where every decision affects the people that are exposed to and has to follow them. Somehow the right to decide over others tends to fall into the hands of people that doesn't actually have to abide by the rules. How and why does this happen?
If the decisions are right, having someone questioning them should sensibly not be a problem. If ones decisions are justified, one should be able to have them disputed without loosing ones footing. We have the right to question things that affects our way of living, and if we're wrong, well then at least we've gotten the chance to air our opinion and understand the situation better. If we don't even get the chance to question, or if our questions are not being adhered to, then we know that authority is being misused.
As for the characters in the story, they all show clear human traits that respond well to the unfolding of events and can likewise be placed in various other situations.
3. What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium? What medium would you use?
The story was told in a way that didn't give away the entirety of the situation but rather let up to it, leaving the reader speculating and wondering most of the way through. The Tlic for example was described as crawling, with many limbs and a broad face, but the rest is entirely left to our imagination. The fact that they are parasitic is suggested maybe halfway through the story and in not so many words. Some hints where made about the situation, but most emphasis was laid on the emotional experiences of the protagonist. It made the story eery and leaving the reader slightly uncomfortable. Not because of what was shown, but rather what was left out. Adopting this story to a medium such as a play, a film or a graphic novel would therefore unavoidably change the atmosphere as it then becomes more visual. One would have to build atmosphere without making it into horror because that is not the purpose of the story.
Having the story read out by someone in audio form or adopted into a radio play would be very interesting and probably more true to the original intent. I'm quite intrigued to see what kind of music would accompany it; how it would be interpreted in notes.
As it is, I feel the story has found it's right medium. Judging by the reactions of some of my classmates, Bloodchild certainly managed to provoke both thought and emotion. It is a message in it's own right.