Study Questions for Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild" [1984]

In her story, Butler drops us into the middle of a situation without providing exposition. As readers, we must gradually piece together the situation of the story, including the setting, the characters, and the precise relation of the human to alien species. To facilitate your following of the story, I am providing a brief overview of its situation:

The story takes place on an unnamed planet where humans live on a preserve managed by a dominant alien race called the Tlic. An alien resides with each family on the preserve, ostensibly as a family member and protector. As the story proceeds, we gradually come to realize the true relation of the alien to the human family and therby understand how the situation is governed by a cycle of domination and oppression. Here is a list of the central characters in the "family" at the center of the story

T'Gatoi--the female alien residing with the family..

Gan--the younger son and helpmate of the alien who was given to the alien at birth.

Lien--Gan's mother.

Xuan Hoa--Gan's older sister, who favors T'Gatoi herself.

Qui--Gan's embittered older brother.

Consider the following issues as you read the story:

  1. Why is Gan's mother Lien seemingly embittered by her situation and likely to "remember all this as a humiliation" [122] when she is intoxicated by the Tlic egg?
  2. What is the source of Qui's parallel bitterness?
  3. How would you describe the specific relationship between Tlic family members and their human families? That is, what is the prupose of a Tlic living with a human family, and why don't they just live with animals for the same purpose?
  4. Butler has called this a "love story." Do you think that label appropriate? In what sense[s] can this be seen as a love story?