Things I Think

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House of the Scorpion

While The House of the Scorpion is not quite as hardcore as the scifi we’ve been thrust into this semester, the novel does deal with some of the common themes we have been discussing this semester. What first came to mind was agency; who has it, and who doesn’t.

The most obvious characters that deal with agency are the eejits; “a person or animal with an implant in its head” (82). Captured and used as slaves in the Opium fields, these men and women have zero agency. They are glassy-eyed zombies that feel “neither cold nor heat nor thirst nor loneliness” (197). If they are to do anything-drink, eat, sleep-they must be commanded to do so. Farmer uses the eejits as a classic trope to demonstrate the imbalance of power in the world she has created. To an adult reader, and hopefully a young adult reader as well, it is clear that we have to sympathize with the powerless eejits.

However Farmer brings up a common counterpoint. “What is suffering but an awareness of suffering?” With a brain implant to cut off emotions and sensations, “eejits toiled with the steady devotion of worker bees. As far as anyone could tell, they were not unhappy. So could anyone say they were being mistreated?” (197). The concept of awareness being directly tied to the eejits humanity reminds me of a lot of the novels we have been discussing, specifically We3. Just because the animals, or in this case the eejits, lack agency and an awareness of their humanity does not mean it gives those with the agency the right to manipulate and enslave them. Our own humanity must rise to the surface and do what is right.

And that right there is a damn good message for an 11 year old. By introducing this kind of concept to a young adult audience, Farmer gives kids the tools to tackle some of the more complex concepts in The House of the Scorpion. Is Matt an equal to a human? What qualifies someone as human? These are concepts even I struggle with in some science fiction and I think Farmer does an impressive job introducing them to her audience.

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