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Character: Jodahs

Source Text:   Butler, Octavia E. Imago

Entry Author: Adam Kelley

The third and final entry in the Xenogenesis trilogy, Imago, is narrated by the alien/human hybrid “construct” named Jodahs. The Ooankali, an alien species that has rescued humanity from extinction with the ulterior motive of cross-breeding with them, have the ability to manipulate the genetic structure of living beings. Jodahs, as a construct, has human and Ooankali parents, but is the furthest from being human of any construct yet born. His body is constantly changing shape depending on his environment, and his protean form defies a rigid definition. His amorphous form challenges the notion of ‘mixed-raceness’ being coded in physical appearance: aside from his few sensory tentacles, which he mostly conceal at will, Jodahs has no set physical traits that can be seen as markers of his descent.

Throughout the novel Jodahs undergoes the process of metamorphosis twice, and becomes neither male nor female but a third, Ooankali gender, known as Ooloi. As an Ooloi Jodahs is compelled to heal and mate with humans, and to this end his body produces pheromones that manipulate human emotions in order to serve as tertiary sexual medium for a male/female coupling. In this way, Jodahs transcends rigid binary gender definitions, and although it is ambiguous to what extent Jodahs is human at all, his body morphs to resemble the ideal human image of whomever he is near. After helping rebuild an injured humans leg the man tells Jodahs that “you look like someone I used to dream about when I was young” (Butler 82). Jodahs’s body slowly adapted to fit the man’s preference in order to gain his acceptance. His shifting shape allows him to transcend the normally rigid barriers caused by the difference in physical appearance of mixed-race characters, and allows others to accept him more easily.

Eventually Jodahs finds a brother and sister that are suitable partners for him. Jodahs explains to Jesusa, the sister, that his “fully Ooankali parent, Nikanj” is “not like me. It’s an Ooankali. No human admixture at all. Jesusa, by birth mother is as Human as you are. My Human father looks like a relative of yours. Even when I’m adult, I won’t look the way Nikanj does. You’ll never have reason to fear me” (137). Thus Jodahs himself explains his heritage and that, in some ways, he is not as alien from Jesusa as his tentacles and abilities make him seem. They share in sensations and desires and can commune physically and emotionally in deep way and in doing so they become close partners.

Further removed from humans that his earlier sibling Akin, the protagonist of the second novel, Adulthood Rites, Jodahs is more concerned with healing and mating with humans that understanding them and their motivations than Akin, who devised the plan of Mars colony option for humans who wish to remain “fully” human. The Mars colony grants humanity the choice to cling to tradition and a sense of normalcy, but Jodahs represents a new stage of humanity that both transcends tradition, such as traditional marriage, but also strengthens new ones, such as his strong bond with his new mates. The capability of his body to merge with others represents a new form of humanity based in empathy and bonding instead of individualism and self-motivation.