Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Carol Reeves


What leads to peaceful prosperity and what leads to destructive collapse in any society? While it may seem daunting or overwhelming to dissect the success or collapse of a multi-faceted society, there are lenses and tools through which we are able to do so, such as political theory and speculative dystopian fiction. By using lenses to analyze the society in which we live, we are able to recognize the seeds of both prosperity and destruction in our society that may otherwise be overlooked or ignored. The speculative dystopian fiction of Octavia Butler may be considered as building upon the political theory of the tragedy of the commons. Butler provides her American audience an analysis of the root causes of this tragedy, as well as some possible preventative measures or solutions. We are able to read her novel, The Parable of the Sower, as a warning against ignoring current trends in our society which could lead to our tragedy of the commons. Octavia Butler was an American author of speculative dystopian fiction, and was the first science fiction novelist to be awarded the MacArthur Fellowship in 1955. She was born in California on June 22, 1947 and died in Washington on January 24, 2006. Butler was well-known for critiquing social hierarchies and inequalities as well as for exploring what forms healthy, sustainable communities. Her first novel in her Parable Series, The Parable of the Sower, introduces Butler’s reader to a broken community in a divided society after an environmental apocalypse. Through her protagonist, Lauren Olamina, Butler shows her reader the flaws and failures in society that lead to the community’s collapse as well as how a community can be rebuilt.