I’m working on a literature discussion question and need an explanation to help me learn.
Octavia Butler’s story “Speech Sounds” is set in Los Angeles after an epidemic disease afflicts the population, removing critical cognitive functions having to do with communication: the ability to speak, to hear, or to read.
Butler was prescient in this story, as many science fiction writers are, predicting experiences and conditions of life that actually become reality. The story might be disturbing as we find ourselves identifying with the situation she writes about in ways that pre-pandemic readers could not. Use that discomfort to enter into the emotions of the story, to feel the disturbance Butler is evoking in us.
Rye is a complex character. As you are reading, sketch a picture of her in your mind or in your notes by keeping track of the details Butler tells us about her.
Instructions for discussion post:
For your discussion post, respond to either questions 1-3 or questions 4-6. Then, add your own question!
- What are the characters in this story lacking? What has been taken away from them?
- What are the consequences of this lack?
- What is the worst thing you can imagine having to give up (you might think on both a personal level and a societal level)? What would the consequences be?
- What is the significance of the names “Rye” and “Obsidian”?
- What gives Rye hope in the end?
- After reading the “Afterward,” what gives Octavia Butler hope?
What questions do you have?