Things I Think

Just another onMason site

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

What makes us human?

I believe our humanity is in our strengths, and the virtues of our character. But it is also in our weaknesses. But what if we no longer have the same weaknesses? What if what once killed us, no longer effects us. We’re still humans, just different. Right?

I have been thinking over what I consider most alien about Lilith’s new world. It’s not the aliens, with their grotesque features; they have more human qualities than some sci-fi aliens. It’s not the living ship, nor the new world Lilith lives in. For me, Lilith becomes increasingly alien as the Oankali improve her throughout the novel.

Cursed with a hereditary “talent” for cancer, Lilith develops cancer while she is asleep. But “correcting genes have been inserted into [her] cells, and [her] cells have accepted and replicated them. Now [she] won’t grow cancers by accident” (31). Not only do the Oankali remove her cancer, but they have improved Lilith’s body so she is no longer threatened by a cancerous death. Her immune system has been strengthened, and she can resist many diseases (32). The Oankali even make alterations in her brain chemistry so “[she] can reach [her] memories as she need[s] them” (75).  This helps Lilith access her memories like the Oankali, and learn more efficiently.

The Oankali take away the threat of disease, and give Lilith a higher intelligence that she doesn’t have to earn through typical learning standards. By tampering with the human body and correcting what they believe needs fixing, the Oankali take away some of Lilith’s most human qualities. However, these corrections are considered improvements, so it is difficult to perceive these changes as wrong. And just because she has been changed, she is still Lilith. Should we consider her more alien, even though she is still Lilith? Is she still Lilith with her new abilities?

 

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