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English 12 -- End of Unit Portfolio -- Artifact 1 -- Who’s in Control?

Regulation is everywhere, especially in California. In fact, there was recently a ban on plastic

straws. On a smaller level, Chadwick School has been implementing new regulations on Internet

security. On a very minute level, I have been doing everything in my power to do well in school.

Regulation, a type of control, is everywhere, as one can see. The novel ​Stone Gods​ by Jeanette Winterson

offers a completely different perspective on the aspect of control and whether or not it even exists. The

society on Planet Orbis has a very low moral standard while at the same time is dominated by massive

amounts of government regulation. However, the desire to be in control is actually demonstrated to be an

ineffectual, semi-universal disposition which is not just limited to government officials, although the

government is the subject of this case in the novel. Regulation imposed by all humans, however, most

importantly, government officials, signifies the pointless natural aspiration of control, ultimately revealing

the absence of authority that humans actually have.

Government regulation and Billie’s minute actions symbolize the inward desire to control,

demonstrating the semi-universal disposition of humanity. In ​Stone Gods​, Planet Orbis has a government

that overtly regulates the daily lives of individuals. For example, Billie encounters a CanCop that is

specifically put to use by the government in order to enforce regulation. It goes to Billie’s house and

states she has “three million dollars” in parking fines (Winterson 41). This demonstrates the restriction of

movement that the government puts on the citizens as they, in fact, have to pay to park in certain spots.

Another example of government regulation is the restriction of security demonstrated by the satellite

systems. The narrator states, “You see them sometimes, cleaning the streets, their taggers flashing at

fifteen-minute intervals, checked and recorded by the satellite system that watches us more closely than

God ever did” (26). Not only does this show how security is in the hands of the government, as these

satellites were federally implemented, but it also demonstrates Billie’s state of being on edge due to a type

of Big Brother scenario. The phrase, “more closely than God ever did,” has a very dark tone and makes it
seem that Billie fears the government because it is always watching her. This is significant because it

shows the counterproductiveness of a security system imposed by the government. That is to say, the

government implemented this system for the security of the nation, but it ended up making certain

individuals such as Billie feel unsafe. The previously mentioned phrase also demonstrates the inward

desire of government officials to be in control in a greater way than God is. There is more to it than the

government imposing laws and restrictions. It is the humanity, which is highly debated in this book, of

the government officials and almost everyone else on Orbis that leads to the desire for control. To prove

that said desire is in everyday people’s lives on Orbis, one must look at the subtle message portrayed

when Billie states, “To calm myself down and appear in control I reverse the problem” (28). Billie is in a

very awkward conversation with Spike as she is undressing in front of a robot, so she decided to change

the conversation, thus being in control. Although this detail is very minute, it differs from any previous

evidence because it demonstrates that the desire to have control is inside everyone, not just

regulation-imposing government officials. This desire essentially has micro and macro effects on the

everyday lives of individuals. However, there are some who surrender their control to a higher spiritual

authority. Captain Handsome states, “The universe has no sides, no end, can’t be mapped. Enough to

make a man talk about God, make a man superstitious and worship an idol” (47). Although Handsome

does not assume to the authority of God, he mentions the fact that there is a limit imposed by a higher

power to what humanity can do. It is this single fact, according to Handsome, that people surrender their

power to the one who has all power -- God. However, the rest of the people who believe that humans

have ultimate power and control think that “those guys are crippling us,” referring to the believers (32).

This means there is a social divide between the power-seekers and the believers. However, the main point

made in this novel is that the natural disposition of humanity, or lack thereof, is to desire power and

Spike’s hyper intelligence allows for her recognition of humanity’s disposition to control, later

proving that said control is not in the hands of humans. Spike has a vastly different outlook on life but

what is it that makes her correct? According to the narrator, a robot is “an intelligent, ultra-sensitive

moving lump of metal” while a human is “a moving lump of flesh, in most cases not intelligent or

remotely sensitive” (81). Arguably, it is a robot’s hyper intelligence that makes it correct at all times,

meaning that Spike’s outlook on humanity and philosophy proves to be right as well. One of Spike’s

revelations is the fact that humanity continually believes that there is no limit to their power. Spike says,

“But you’ll hold on to life till the very last second, because life never believes it will end” (89). Apart

from Handsome and a majority of other humans, i.e. the non-believers, humanity does not think that there

is an end to life. In essence, they think that there is no end to humanity nor what they can do. In

Handsome’s words, the universe ​can​ be mapped. This is the crux of the entire story as it ultimately

encapsulates why it is that humans are the ones that desire control. They think that there is no limit to

their power and control, but according to Spike, Handsome, and the believers, there is a limit, although

not all of them believe a god imposes it. In accordance with Spike’s second revelation, she says, “[The

calculations] were wrong because life cannot be calculated. That’s the big mistake our civilization made.

We never accepted that randomness is not a mistake in the equation -- it is part of the equation” (77).

Spike’s inability to calculate is a demonstration of the fact that there is no absolute control nor any order

that humans impose. There is no way to calculate the future because events just randomly happen as they

are. Any effort to be completely in control, such as through the use of regulation, is useless. To

conclude, Billie used to be one of the “power-seekers,” as mentioned earlier when she did subtle things to

be in control. However, after having a long conversation with Spike at the end of the short story, her eyes

are opened, in a sense, to the correct view on moral principle. Again, this view is correct because Spike’s

hyper intelligence proves her to be right. When contemplating the Maybe Islands, Billie thinks, “But the

truth is I am inventing the maybe. I can only make the choices I make, so why torture myself with what I
might have done, when all I can handle is what I have done?” (84). This not only demonstrates the

transformation of Billie’s character, as she recognizes this truth, but it also shows that everything is

willed. What might have happened would never have happened to begin with, which means that there is

destiny. Randomness isn’t part of the equation; it ​is​ the equation. You can’t calculate things, or in other

words, be in control whether through regulation or some other form because everything is willed by a

higher power. Therefore, control is nonexistent in the eyes of Spike, Handsome, the believers, and now,


With all of the regulation taking place in ​Stone Gods,​ most overtly by the government,​ ​the inward

natural desire to be in control reveals an ineffectual disposition since humanity does not have any control

at all. Many would highly disagree with Winterson’s argument since it appears that every single action

one takes is solely done by him or her. However, there are those who believe in her argument, a majority

of them being believers in God. This creates a social divide, as mentioned earlier, in which the individual

versus community ethical tension is manifested. On one hand, there are those who give up their control to

a higher power in order to develop a personal relationship with God, which benefits the individual. Said

people would use rule-based thinking to influence their actions so that they follow the principle God

established. On the other hand, there are those who seek to better the community, although “better” has a

different meaning for everyone. This is most notable with the case of government regulation, in which

some politicians seek to better the lives of those living around them by using all the resources in their

control.​ These people would use care-based thinking in order to do the greatest good for the greatest

number of people. Regardless, if control isn’t even real and Winterson’s argument is correct, then what

good is it in trying to do anything since there is no control, especially with regards to solving global

issues? However, if we don’t try at all because of this mindset, was it in our will to do so? We will never