The short story, “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” depicts the life of Lynn, a young woman who suffers from Duryea-Gode Disease. DGD is a genetic disease from which both of Lynn’s parents also suffered. The fictional disease, which is dormant in young people, begins to take effect in adulthood, causing people to become self-destructive and harm others as well. People suffering from DGD face many problems that are not unique to this disease including the risk of passing the disease on to their children, a concern that is shared by all those with genetic diseases. In “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” Octavia Butler creates a fictional disease which illustrates the difficulties that people with diseases in our current society face by showing the oppression that people with Duryea-Gode Disease face throughout their entire life by others in society and additionally by themselves.
Lynn, along with many others who suffer from DGD, spend their entire lives waiting to begin to slip and show signs of DGD, but they are completely normal until this time. However, with their strange diet, required to keep their symptoms at bay, and the fear that they may become destructive at any time, people do not want to associate with them. When Lynn goes to college this is seen clearly, "Biology School was a pain in the usual ways. I didn't eat in public anymore, didn't like the way people stared at my biscuits- cleverly dubbed "dog biscuits" in every school I'd ever attended. You'd think university students would be more creative. I didn;t like the way people edges away from me when they caught sight of my emblem" (Bulter 38). Even though Lynn does not have any symptoms of DGD at this stage in her life she is persecuted by others at her university because she is being responsible in managing her disease. Her biscuits are an important part of her diet to keep her in control and by wearing an emblem it marks that she is a DGD which is important because she need specific medical care. By making these responsible decisions, Lynn is also marking herself as a person with DGD which causes her to face oppression and persecution by her peers. Because DGD is a disease that results in self-destrcution and often times, attacks on others, people tend to keep their distance from people with DGD. The fears that other feel about DGDs cause them not to want to associate with people with DGD resulting in Lynn and others to fell excluded and discriminated against because of their genetic disease. This causes a dilemma for DGDs. By choosing to mark themselves as DGDs they know they will face oppression by non-DGDs, but by not eating a specific diet and wearing a DGD emblem they are putting themselves and others in danger. </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt; line-height: normal;"> DGDs also have insecurity and often avoid social contact. This is partially caused by the oppression of others towards them. Because Lynn knows that non-DGD individuals will not befriend her, she does not even attempt to make friends with them but rather decides only to be friends with those suffering from DGD. Lynn and four DGDs decide to live together, “Two men and three women. All we had in common was our disease, plus a weird combination of stubborn intensity about whatever we happened to be doing and hopeless cynicism about everything else. Healthy people say no one can concentrate like a DGD. Healthy people have all the time in the world for stupid generalizations and short attention spans” (Butler 39). What brings this group of DGDs together is their disease because only other DGDs are willing to be around them. Lynn accepts this fate and doesn’t try to make friends with non-DGDs. Her description of her housemates shows that they are all quite hopeless. Rather than treasuring the time they have before getting sick, they spend their time knowing someday they will end up in a hospital ward. This obviously leads to depression and Lynn also persecutes herself by comparing herself to non-DGDs and envying them and their lives. While this is perhaps a normal response, it leads to further depression. Lynn resents that they have more time in life to do things where she will only have a short amount of time before she dies. </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt; line-height: normal;">In all genetic diseases, the question of reproduction is an important matter, many adults would like a family that includes biological children but DGD would be passed on to their children. By having children, parents know that their children will face the same fate they do. Lynn and Alan have a discussion over government forced sterilization of DGDs, “‘Do you want someone else telling you what to do with your body?’ I asked. ‘No need,’ he said. ‘I had that taken care of as soon as I was old enough’” (Butler 42). This conversation demonstrates two very important issues, government control in general and sterilization. It would be very easy to eradicate DGD from the population; the government could mandate sterilization of all people with DGD. Obviously this would be extremely inhuman and appalling; however, it would be a very easy solution. This brings into question our governments control on the population and who should be the governments concern, the population as a whole or individual people suffering from DGD. Alan, someone who would be oppressed by the government if forced sterilizations began does not seem to feel strongly against forced sterilizations. Lynn doesn’t want children, however, she also doesn’t want anyone to tell her she much be sterilized. Alan seems content with the possibility of governmental forced sterilization. Rather taking a stance similar to Lynn, Alan is willing to see all DGDs oppressed by the government for the betterment of society. This quote shows how devastating this disease is, Alan would agree to be oppressed if it meant DGD would be eliminated. </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt; line-height: normal;">Octavia Butler included an afterword where she includes the three diseases she based DGD on, Huntington’s disease, phenylketonuria, and Lesch-Nyhan disease (Butler 69). While reading this short story it is easy to think of this as a dystopian society that is far from close to our own society. By connecting DGD to real diseases that are affecting people in our society currently it changes the short story completely. “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” can be seen as a critique on our current society and its treatment of people suffering from diseases, on just the three diseases that Butler used to make it fictional disease. This story shows the flaws with our healthcare system of creating prison-like wards of hospitals for people incapacitated by their disease with no hope of leaving. For many people with disease our current healthcare system is oppressive and can lead to mental health issues once in these facilities, however there are not many alternatives. In “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” there is an alternative to the hospital wards for DGD patients, however, it still shows the problems there are at its base both options result in a loss of freedom for patients. This story also calls attention to how people with disease are treated by society. DGDs were looked down upon in society, similar to how many sick people currently are treated by others. The best example of this would be how many people with HIV are treated by others and judged based on their disease. “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” connect to reality a way to illustrate our oppression and discrimination of diseased people currently. </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt; line-height: normal;">This story shows the oppression that is caused by society for people with diseases and shows the issues that these people face their entire lives. Even though DGD only affects adults, oppression of DGD can be seen at an early age. This persecution by society causes DGD to live their lives differently than non-DGDs. The fact that they will die at a younger age and most likely die in a hospital ward is not hard enough, but these people also have to think about having children and the consequences for their children. If these issues were not challenging enough, the added persecution of non-DGDs constantly judging them for their diets and emblems creates a challenging world even before DGD symptoms begins. This story examines a devastating condition and the reaction of those who suffer from it, but the author allows us to examine our own insecurities and how we often seek ways to avoid emotional risk. This can lead to an avoidance of emotional pleasures and is the price we pay when we feel less than perfect. </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt; line-height: normal; text-indent: 0.5in;"> </p> Work Cited <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt; line-height: normal; tab-stops: 176.95pt; mso-margin-top-alt: auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt: auto;">Butler, Octavia E. "The Evening and the Morning and the Night." Bloodchild and Other </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt 0.5in; line-height: normal; text-indent: -0.5in; tab-stops: 176.95pt; mso-margin-top-alt: auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt: auto;"> Stories. Second ed. New York: Seven Stories, 1996. 38-69. Print. </p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt; line-height: normal; text-indent: 0.5in;"> </p>