House of the Scorpion: Nothing New

The House of the Scorpion — while certainly a different sort of reading experience due to it’s intended young adult target audience — presents and grapples with a number of the same key issues that have cropped up in texts and films throughout the semester.

The most obviously familiar theme is that of identity; of what it means to be/what counts as human. Matteo Alacrán is, obviously, a clone. This is a challenging concept. In this day and age, we think of cloning as something being done to animals and such; that a human being could be a direct clone of another is a somewhat terrifying thought. This leads to all sorts of questions. Is the clone actually human? Is each subsequent clone less and less natural, and therefore less and less human?

I see this theme as also being at play in Blindsight and Blade Runner. Both in this novel and in Blindsight, the tampering with humanity serves a utilitarian purpose. In Blindsight, humans weren’t cloned; but they were significantly altered so that they could serve aboard space vessels for the greater good of humankind on Earth. In The House of the Scorpion, these clones are made so that their organs may be harvested to perpetuate and preserve other human life. The challenging moral questions come back into view here. Just as Deckard, in Blade Runner, questions the moral rightness of his job and even starts to see the replicants as human, the reader is forced to question the morality of El Patrón’s cloning operation; and, at least I sympathize with Matt, feel sorry for him, and view him as human.

I also had flashbacks to Lilith’s Brood. Despite the reluctance of the humans to co-exist with the Oankali; despite their revulsion to the fact that they must create a cross-bred, part-human, part-alien race of children (if they are to have any posterity), they find themselves inexorably drawn to their alien children. Even the resisters — who are the most, as their name suggests, resistant to human-Oankali co-habitation — make a point of kidnapping children. They feel a connection to and a need for children who are not completely human. The connection that Eduardo, in The House of the Scorpion, feels with the freshly-created Matteo Alacrán echoes this. “But that one embryo grew until it was clearly a being with arms and legs and a sweet, dreaming face. Eduardo watched it through the scanners. ‘You hold my life in your hands,’ he told the infant. As though it could hear, the infant flexed its tiny body in the womb until it was turned toward the man. And Eduardo felt an unreasoning stir of affection.” (Pg. 4) In both cases, unnatural, perhaps in-human children are created and then accepted with affection by fully human parent-figures.

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