Ableism in a Discriminatory World in Octavia Butler's "The Evening and the Morning and the Night."

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Ableism in a Discriminatory World in Octavia Butler's "The Evening and the Morning and the Night."

Brief Description

"The Evening and the Morning and the Night" by Octavia Butler captures many societal problems we see, specific to race and disabilities. Butler uses metaphor in this short story to examine the intersections of race, discrimination, oppression, mental illness, disability, and healthcare through an afrofuturist mindset.

Extended Description

In 1976, Octavia Butler published her first novel, Patternmaster, which led her to become an accomplished writer who documented racial and societal injustices in fiction. In The Evening and the Morning and the Night, written by Butler, there is an overlying relationship between anti-Black racism and disabilities. The Duryea-Gode Disease (DGD) is a fictional disease used by Butler to examine the experiences of Black people who are institutionalized.

In the late 1960’s, the United States began deinstitutionalization. Prior to that, mentally and physically disabled individuals were often removed from society and confined in institutions where they were neglected and forgotten. Institutionalized individuals were thought to be dangerous; society often dehumanized them. In "The Evening and the Morning and the Night," people accepted institutional confinement of those afflicted with DGD as a means of protecting society from harmful individuals. Individuals who have DGD harm themselves and others. Butler's character Lynn, carries the DGD gene. She is studying medicine to find a cure for the disease that killed her parents.

Lynn visits the DILG Institute, a facility that treats people with DGD. The DILG institution was created to support those diagnosed with DGD and to provide a safe environment where DGD’s work to prioritize their safety and the safety of others. Dilg was structured to embody acceptance, as the founders were aware that the Duryea-Gode Disease is undesired, yet inevitable for so many individuals. This is in contrast to other institutions that warehouse individuals who are unable to live life without disabilities. Warehousing is secluding, isolating differences.

Anti-Black racism has been present in the United States for centuries; discrimination has plagued society and continues to haunt people of color. Exploring the history of discrimination and oppression within our society, we continue to notice the impacts it has left, while Butler displayed some of them in the short story. During the deinstitutionalization period in the United States, black men were least likely to be removed from institutions, due to a misconception, stemming from schizophrenia, that mentally ill black men were violent and threatening(Metzl). The Duryea-Gode disease was fictionally created by Butler through a combination of three diseases that are both mental and physical.

"The Evening and the Morning and the Night" Butler captures many societal problems we see, specific to race and disabilities. he story addresses the problems of blackness and disability while demonstrating the role of ableism in environments. Ableism has presented itself throughout civilization, stretched from various disabilities to race; both confined in oppression. Butler wrote, "Too many of the stories we've gone through are stories of racism rather than stories about Black people. Of course, racism is a facet of Black life, but it isn't the whole. Our emphasis is on people''. The stigma around diseased individuals being isolated from society was broken in "The Evening and the Morning and the Night." Hope lives.


University of Southern California, located in Los Angeles, California

Student creator name(s)

Caroline Fraser

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