Essay on Lost and Found From Hopeless to Hopeful

Submitted By Wade-McCloskey
Words: 1331
Pages: 6

Lost and Found, From Hopeless to Hopeful Octavia Butler’s short story “Speech Sounds” is about loss, but it is also about one woman’s journey of recovery from that loss. Butler creates a pandemic that has stroke-like side effects to represent the hopeless feelings of loss: the loss of speech, literacy, safety, and family. However, at the end, the main character Rye finds that no matter how bad things look or feel, they can get better. The children Rye encounters at the end represent that hopelessness is not a permanent thing. The loss of the ability to communicate verbally with other people shows how miscommunication can lead to chaos. While on the bus, Rye notices “two young men were involved in a disagreement of some kind, or, more likely, a misunderstanding. They stood in the aisle, grunting and gesturing at each other, each in his own uncertain T stance as the bus lurched over the potholes” (Butler 408). The disagreement or misunderstanding was most likely caused by the inability to talk to each other. Had they been able to talk, this confrontation could have been avoided. This initial scene helps to set the atmosphere of anarchy for her readers. The loss of her family creates a hopeless situation for Rye. Rye explains that “She had been alone herself for three years. The illness had stripped her, killing her children one by one, killing her husband, her sister, [and] her parents” (411). The loss of Rye’s family has caused such a sense of hopelessness and depression that she was contemplating suicide. She had decided that before she would give up all hope and end her life she would take the last step by trying to make her way to Pasadena to look for her last remaining brother and her two nephews.
Hopelessness is also represented with Rye’s inability to read. While Rye attempts to read a map she recalls, “[her loss of] reading and writing. That was her most serious impairment and her most painful. She had taught history at UCLA. She had done freelance writing. Now she could not even read her own manuscripts. She had a houseful of books that she could neither read nor bring herself to use as fuel” (412). For someone whose world revolved around the ability to read and write, losing that talent would be like a painter going blind, or a conductor losing their hearing.
Even in this desperate dystopian society, humanity has learned to adapt. The remaining population has developed some unique adaptations. People now use small objects to represent their names. Rye uses a pin in the shape of a large golden stalk of wheat, and her new acquaintance Obsidian uses a gold chain that he wears around his neck with a smooth, glassy, black rock pendant attached. The bus driver overcame the speech barrier by using pictures from magazines to show people what he will take in trade for a ride on his bus. No matter how hard life gets for the people in this story, they still try to overcome the obstacles put in front of them.
Rye also feels the loss of safety in this new dangerous world. Rye presents her hopeless thoughts when she has concerns about the 20 mile trip to Pasadena. The trip now takes a day one way if lucky, Rye says that “People making intercity trips like Rye’s from Los Angeles to Pasadena made plans to camp out, or risked seeking shelter with locals who might rob or murder them” (409). Rye also has a run in with one of the bus passengers that walks toward her suggesting that she should have sex with him and the other male passengers. Luckily for Rye he stops when she gestured for him to. Rye mentions that “society has now degraded to the point where most people would not attempt to help each other, whether the man attacked her or attempted to rape her, nor would anyone step in if she were to shoot him” (411) People in this dystopian world tend to look out only for themselves.
Rye may or may not be aware of her loss of hope for the future. She displays her hopelessness by initially turning down