Parable of the Sower: Novel Summary: Chapters 17-19
They leave the 118 freeway and connect to the 23. They camp off the road, keeping their eyes on a big fire in the hills to the east. Harry, who does not fully trust Lauren, suggests they move camp in case the fire jumps the freeway and comes too close to them. They find a place where a large freeway sign has fallen and can act as a wall. They feel the place is quite private, and Harry takes the first watch. But Lauren wakes up when she hears Zahra and Harry making love. When they finish, Harry starts to keep watch, but he falls asleep. Lauren, who has not fallen back asleep, rebukes him.
The next day they stop at a commercial water station and refill all their containers with clean, safe water. Water stations are dangerous places, however, because water is as good as money, which means that the water stations attract thieves. On their way out, Lauren and the others witness two men robbing a woman with a baby of her water. They intervene and drive one of the robbers away, while the woman's husband beats off the other one.
They reach highway 101. Lauren rebukes Zahra for her carelessness with Harry in making love when he should have been on watch. Zahra promises that it won't happen again.
Late on the next day, they come within sight of the ocean. None of them have ever seen the ocean before. They go down to the beach, which is crowded with people, and after they have set up camp, they go into the water and wash. Lauren notices that the young couple with the baby has camped near them, and Lauren invites them to join their group. She thinks they may be natural allies, since they are also a mixed couple: the man is black and the woman Hispanic. (In Lauren's group, Zahra is Hispanic, Harry is white, and Lauren is black.) But the man is suspicious, and he and his wife do not come and join them, although they do stay near.
That night, dogs come on the beach and attack the Hispanic woman and the baby. Lauren shoots one of the dogs and the others run off. The following night, the couple, Travis Charles Douglas and Gloria Natividad Douglas, and their baby Dominic, join Lauren's group. They say they are going to Seattle, where Travis has an aunt. Travis does not quite trust Lauren's group yet, but Natividad does. Harry lets on that Lauren is a woman, not a man, and Natividad, on learning that Lauren writes poetry, asks to hear some of it.
They take a day off to rest at a Santa Barbara beach, well away from the freeway. Travis shows some interest in Lauren's ideas about Earthseed, and they discuss the subject. Lauren is surprised to find that Travis has some grasp of physics. He tells her that his mother taught him to read and write, and he educated himself with books that his mother got him from the library of the man she worked for. After his mother died, he stayed on as handyman and gardener. But when his employer wanted to have an affair with Natividad, who worked as a maid, they decided to leave and make their way north.
Travis is intrigued by Earthseed, although he sees no reason why change should be called God. Natividad and Zahra also discuss it, but Harry refuses to take the discussion of Earthseed seriously. Lauren goes on to talk about the destiny of the human race being to migrate to other planets and other star systems. She knows this will not be possible for a long time, and for now she wants to start Earthseed communities that have an awareness of the human race's ultimate destiny. Lauren thinks that Travis has become her first convert and Zahra her second. She starts to think seriously about founding the first Earthseed community.
In late August there is an earthquake, but no one in Lauren's group is injured. Harry finds some money by the roadside, wrapped in an old cloth. Lauren tells him to buy a gun with it. As they walk on through a small town they come to a house that is on fire. They walk away from it because they fear it will attract scavengers from the highway. Soon they hear gunfire breaking out, and more fires break out as the small community is burned and looted.
Lauren strikes up a conversation with an older black man she meets on the road. He is quite well dressed and pushes his belongings in a cart. Lauren learns that his name is Taylor Franklin Bankole. As they all walk together, they hear the shouts for help of two women who have been trapped by the earthquake in a collapsed house. Lauren and the others pull two young white women, Allie and Jill, from the rubble. They are only slightly injured.
As the group walks away from the house, they are attacked. One man grabs Zahra, and another grabs Lauren. Lauren stabs him to death, but is immobilized herself by the fact that she feels his pain. She hears gunshots, as Harry and Bankole shoot and kill three other attackers. They strip the bodies and take some cash.
Lauren discovers that Allie and Jill were trying to escape a life of prostitution. At first they have a rather hostile attitude, but they agree to join Lauren's group, as does Bankole. Lauren is attracted to him.
They reach Salinas, where they buy supplies and fresh water at stores with heavily armed guards. Bankole persuades Lauren to buy an antique Winchester rifle because they need an accurate long-range weapon.
Butler is careful to ensure that Lauren's group of eight is racially mixed. Three are white (Harry, Jill and Allie), three are black (Lauren, Travis, and Bankole), and two are Hispanic (Zahra, Natividad). This acts as a corrective to the racism that is apparent elsewhere in the society depicted in the novel. Lauren thinks that African-Americans and Hispanics would not be welcome in Olivar, for example, and she also says on more than one occasion that on the road, racially mixed couples are likely to be singled out for attack. Travis and Natividad are fleeing a situation that resembles slavery in the nineteenth century. Travis, a low-level black employee was expected to endure without protest his white employer's desire to have sex with his wife, just as slaveowners of old would feel entitled to have sex with their female slaves. Allie and Jill are forced to flee another form of slavery-the sexual exploitation of women by men. Lauren's trek north is therefore a flight to freedom at many different levels.
These chapters also develop the character of Harry. He is maturing and becoming more ruthless. Also, his teasing of Lauren about Earthseed provides some gentle touches of humor in an otherwise grim novel.