“I turned to take the achti to her, then hesitated. For several seconds, I stood in front of the door wondering why I was suddenly afraid. I knew what was going to happen. I hadn’t seen it before but T’Gatoi had shown me diagrams and drawing. She had made sure I knew the truth as soon as I was old enough to understand it. Yet I did not want to go into that room. I wasted a little time choosing a knife from the carved wooden box in which my mother kept them. T’Gatoi might want one, I told myself, for the tough, heavily furred hide of the achti. (Butler, 3)
It is not uncommon for and individual to be willing to participate in and be supportive of an act in theory until the moment the theory becomes a reality. Once the theory becomes something tangible, the individual may realize it was not what they wanted or expected. This is exactly what happens to young Gan in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”. In this particular passage, Gan fears the process of removing the grubs for the first time. The use of the word “suddenly” indicates this is not something he ever expected and is very confused by.
Due to the trust and faith he has in T’Gatoi and what she had shown him, he doesn’t allow himself to see his hesitation for what it is; the preface of his doubt on the process. The tone shows his reluctance to believe that it is possible he could fear anything related to T’Gatoi. It’s obvious he is choosing to blind himself in the way he attempts to stall going into the room and then proceeds to excuse his actions even just to himself by the use of the word “wasted” when describing how he took the time to choose a knife.
The reluctance to admit his fears even to himself is blatant. Gan was raised in a household that is open to the Tlic species and the incubator role that they may play for the Tlic’s offspring. Unlike his siblings, however, he was not only part of this environment but was also raised particularly for this incubator role as his mother had promised the Tlic, T’Gatoi. He was taught- from the moment he was able to understand, as the passage indicates- “the truth” about the process of removing the Tlic offspring from the host body.
Despite his knowledge and preparation, when he is faced with the actual “birth”, for lack of a better term, of these creatures he experiences a moment of petrifying fear. Ever since he can remember he has respected and perhaps even loved T’Gatoi and now he is realizing he may fear the very concept that their relationship was founded on. His sole purpose in her life was to help her reproduce, yet he is troubled solely by witnessing as someone else goes through the procedure. This passage essentially symbolizes Gan’s internal conflict between what he has always known and what he is now realizing.
The grubs feed on blood and flesh and eat their way out their host if they are left to develop to that stage, likely killing the host. Gan knew this, he knew how the extraction procedure is performed and that it must be done in order for the host to survive and he knew the risks of it. However, as mentioned previously, respecting and approving the theory of it all is very different from witnessing or experiencing it. This passage is the beginning of Gan becoming aware of the flaws to the system he was raised to be a part of.
The fear that he is feeling is the prelude to his doubts about everything he has always known. In “Bloodchild”, Butler smoothly illustrates a society very much parallel to that which existed in America during colonial times as well as an extensive amount of years later. Although it’s no quite clear to Gan, it is evident to an outside point of view that the Terrans are being suppressed, used, and manipulated. Their laws are upheld by the Tlic government and meant to protect the Tlic, in particular, as illustrated by the laws prohibiting Terrans from possessing firearms and motor vehicles.
The Terrans are also restricted to a confined area which they only ever leave when taken out by a Tlic. These characteristics alone describe a society that we, as modern Americans, would recognize as alarmingly similar to previous occurrences in our society such as the suppression of Native Americans. In addition to the highly controlled confinement Terrans live in, they are subjected to take part in the Tlic reproductive cycle. This highly resembles the sexual use of slaves in the past. The Tlic manipulate Terrans in ways they may not even become aware of.
They use their sterile eggs and intoxicating stings to coerce the Terran into complacency. The narcotic effects caused by the stinging and the eggs cause the families to be more dependent on their respective Tlic, resulting in a more ensured successful reproduction for the Tlic and more possible progeny due to the prolongation of life the eggs cause. The Tlic may also play a “match-maker” role of sorts for the Terran to guarantee future hosts, like T’Gatoi did to Lien, much like slave masters did to gain from their slaves offspring. Butler’s story not only relates to the past but just as easily to our current society.
The aforementioned passage, in particular, is highly relatable to many young adults. As we grow and mature it’s common to begin noticing things we never did before. In the same way that Gan became aware of the flaws in what he was taught practically his whole life, we begin to part from the teachings of our cultures, perhaps even wholly disagree with them. This is typically seen as rebellious in the young generations, but similar to in Butler’s “Bloodchild”, it may also be members of our society becoming aware of the flaws in tradition.