Parable of the Sower: Novel Summary: Chapters 4-6
Some months have elapsed and it is now February, 2025. Three-year-old Amy Dunn has set light to the family garage, which was burned down. No one called the fire department, because, like the police, they charge a fee to put out a fire. No one was hurt in the incident, but Lauren worries about what will happen to Amy. Sixteen members of the Dunn family live in one house, and at least a third of them are crazy.
Mrs. Sims's house has new occupants, her cousins Wardell Parish and Rosalee Payne. Lauren does not like them, since they seem to look down on others in the community.
In late February, Lauren, her father, her boyfriend Curtis Talcott, and others from the neighborhood go into the hills for target practice. Her father encourages this for their self-protection. Whenever he leaves the neighborhood, he always goes armed, since he knows it is no use depending on the police for protection. Lauren wonders, given her hyperempathy, whether she could ever shoot anyone if she had to. Would she die as a result, because of the pain she caused another?
Aura Moss shoots a feral dog, just missing Michael Talcott. She didn't even know what the animal was, since she has never seen one before. But the large animal scared her. Lauren's father goes to investigate, and then tells the entire group that they are going home. It turns out he has stumbled upon some decaying corpses which he does not want the children to see. As they make their way back, Lauren's father shoots another dog. As Lauren walks by it, she feels the pain of the wounded dog. She shoots it through the head, and feels its pain as it dies. She is relieved that the pain does not kill her too.
In early March, there is a storm. It has not rained for six years. Lauren goes out walking in the rain, it feels so wonderful to her. It rains for four days.
The next day, Amy Dunn is shot dead by someone from outside who fired at the metal gate in the neighborhood wall. Amy had wandered outside to play. Lauren assumes the killing was an accident. People in the neighborhood hear so much gunfire going on all the time that they hardly notice it any more.
Lauren confides in her friend Joanne Garfield. She says that the situation in Robledo and the country as a whole is getting worse and that she wishes she could get out. She wants to make plans that will help ensure their survival. She knows that sooner or later, the desperate people outside the wall will break through and destroy their community. They must be ready to deal with it. Lauren shows Joanne the books she has been collecting, on topics such as survival in the wilderness, how to handle medical emergencies, California plants and their uses, and livestock raising. She plans to put together an emergency pack full of money, food and clothing, in case they have to get out in a hurry. Joanne is unconvinced. She doubts they can do anything useful to avert the danger, but she still asks Lauren what she can do. Lauren tells her to look on the family bookshelves to see if there is any information in any book that would help them learn how to live off the land and defend themselves.
A few days later, Lauren learns that Joanne has told her parents about what Lauren said to her. Lauren is angry with her and does not trust her any more. Lauren's father hears about it and confronts Lauren, telling her that what she is saying frightens people. He tells her not to indulge in any more scare talk, but does give her a chance to explain her views. Then he tells her that it's better to teach people than to scare them, and suggests that she starts a class to get the information out. He also says he will suggest at the next neighborhood association meeting that people assemble the emergency packs that Lauren mentioned.
Another break-in and theft results in the Reverend Olamina, Lauren's father, setting up neighborhood watch patrols, operating in shifts. He is prepared to kill intruders if he has to, despite his wife's objections. He quotes a Biblical passage in support of his position. It is a passage from Nehemiah, telling the people to fight for their families and their houses.
Two weeks later, armed thieves come again and rob Richard Moss of his rabbits, which are the neighborhood's only livestock. The thieves are disturbed by the neighborhood watch and flee. Everyone knows, however, that other thieves will return, and soon someone may be killed. Lauren believes there must be more they can do. She wants not just to survive but be able to shape her own destiny.
These chapters continue to fill out the details of how society in the 2020s has fallen apart. Feral dogs roam in packs and may attack people; rotting corpses are left out in the hills; crime and violence go unchecked. Like many writers of dystopias (a dystopia is a novel set in the future that presents a radically dysfunctional society), Butler takes recognizable, problematic elements of present-day society and sets her novel in the near future when these problems have become much worse. One example in these chapters is global warming, which will produce unpredictable climatic changes over the coming decades. So in the novel, it hardly ever rains in California any more, but when it does it rains for four days in a row. Tornadoes and blizzards hit other parts the country, and they are far more severe than today.
Butler has also taken the popularity of so-called designer drugs in the 1980s and 1990s and created, for her purposes in the novel, a deadly designer drug that make people want to set fires, and gives them a feeling of ecstasy when they do it.
As events unfold, it is clear that a crisis in Lauren's neighborhood will not be long in coming. It is also clear that Lauren, despite the fact that she is only fifteen years old, has great leadership qualities. She already teaches the younger children, and she is now ready to take on more responsibility. There is also a generational gap revealed in these chapters. The older people look back to the good old days and hope they will return. Except for Lauren's father, they are mostly passive. It will be left to the more enterprising young people to chart a new course.