Bloodchild | Study Guide

Octavia Butler

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Bloodchild | Symbols



Butler's graphic use of blood symbolizes the bond created when human surrogates host Tlic eggs. The relationship allows Tlic larvae to feed on human blood until they are old enough to be born. It also represents the cost of such a relationship. The title "Bloodchild" acknowledges both variations of the symbolism. The children that result from human and Tlic matches are blood-kin to both sides, similar to the idea of "blood brothers." The cost is in blood both literally and symbolically.


A Tlic embraces a human precious to them with a full-body grip that Gan calls "caging." Caging symbolizes the ways his relationship with T'Gatoi is a binding trap that Gan doesn't know how to escape. T'Gatoi clutches Gan in a grasp of predatory containment that evokes both the grip of an insect and a couple making love. Butler balances intimate and violent imagery to symbolize the complexity of a human and Tlic pairing.

Like Insects or Worms

To maintain the emotional discomfort levels of the story, Butler designed T'Gatoi and her people to resemble millipedes. The aliens' dramatic form and image highlight the humans' disgust and distrust of the Tlic. The Tlic are beautiful, sleek, and pleasant to the touch but also insect-like and worm-like.

Butler plays the desirable against the revolting in her descriptions of the Tlic. The complicated reactions to them encourage readers to reserve judgment and ask who is a reliable narrator. Gan's reliability is reinforced by the accuracy of his details. However, Butler suggests his perspective may be highly subjective at times because he is emotionally compromised as a narrator. His emotions are described in vivid detail and his behavior is depicted as erratic. At the beginning of "Bloodchild," Gan is not settled in his feelings or thoughts. One night changes his feelings and stabilizes his loyalty to the insect-like alien that intends to use him.

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