In the Lilith's Brood trilogy, "Imago" is the first time we get a first person narration. It's the voice of an ooloi, and therefore one of the most foreign to us in the world of the book. This functions on several different levels. It serves the utilitarian function of decreasing the number of "it"s in the text, making syntax more understandable overall. But it also sets up a very interesting self-and-other construct, removing it from the societal and making it far more individual.
On a certain level, Jodahs is both the most alien and the most comforting character presented to us who has Oankali blood in it. It is both Human and Oankali, and of a gender we have no concept of or parallel to within the human race. There's this tiny part of it that is like us, but it is wrapped in so alien a package, thinks with so alien a mind, that it is hard to understand it. The first-person narrative brings us closer to it, making it easier for us to sympathize with it on a level based in linguistics. It is the only character we get to understand through its self, its own concept of self, as an individual, something that is very integral to our (the reading audience) concept of self. There is an immediacy that is absent in the previous two books.
You also have Jodahs as the first...mistake? Throughout all three books, we hear all about how the ooloi perfectly craft magic little embryos that turn into the projected, desired offspring. Yet for a society that seems so hell-bent on privileging nature over nurture to the point of exclusivity, it's interesting that the child gets to, in some respects, choose its own gender. There is an implication in "Adulthood Rites" that the Oankali constructs have far more freedom/ability to choose their own gender, and that, if they do not like their Human construct paired-sibling, they can choose to be of the same gender as the human construct, thus avoiding having to mate with it.
This is echoed to a certain extent in "Imago." But in "Imago," the human-born construct is the first one to turn ooloi. Nikanj is torn between its own desires to have this same-sex child to help ease its loneliness, and the consensus of the Oankali, who fear this child. At the end of the book, though, we find out that this is not an independent occurrence--there is another pair of siblings in a Jah village who are becoming ooloi. "This produced confusion among the people. One mistake simply focused attention on the ooloi responsible. Two mistakes unconnected, but happening so close together in time after a century of perfection, might indicate something other than ooloi incompetence" (743). This brings to mind several threads of thought. One, when society is ready for something, it will happen. Take Newton and Leibniz and calculus. The nine different evolutions of the eye I learned about in high school also seems to fit in here (though poking on the internet seems to indicate that this is being refuted, and that the eye only happened once, and just branched like crazy). It also brings to mind "Jurassic Park," when Dr Malcolm says "Life will find a way" and *poof* the dinosaurs start morphing genders so they can reproduce.
What I find most striking about this dual evolution of ooloi constructs, though, is that it shows a certain level of fallibility within the Oankali, who have previously been presented as infallible on the genetic level of understanding and manipulation. They do not have the complete control over evolution that they like to seem to have to their "trade partners."
So, we've got these biological mistakes, specifically Jodahs, and it's the first person to speak to us in the first person, to have a true narrative sense of identity and individuality, and to offer us what seems like an unfiltered view into its mind. With the human and the human construct, there was a narrator who could observe and speak for them. With Jodahs, this is not possible. Why?
When the Oankali are in their second consensus meeting, Jodahs tells the reader "We represented the premature adulthood of a new species. We represented true independence--reproductive independence--for that species" (742). In Jodahs, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It has become a human-oankali-ooloi hybrid that in many respects overwhelms everyone who comes into contact with it. It has a way with humans that wins over century-long resisters. It succeeds where the Oankali fail. And it can reproduce. Until this point, even when the Oankali were reproducing with the humans, even when constructs formed second and third and fourth generations, there was still a purely Oankali ooloi involved in the process, controlling the process. The humans weren't partners in a trade, they were subjects in an experiment, because the oankali still maintained ultimate control over the future of the humans, refusing to let a human influence penetrate the level of the final decision-making process in creating offspring.
Looking at the three books, each begins with a birth of sorts. Lilith is born into a new world. Akin is born from the womb into the world. Jodahs has a birth into a gender and adulthood. The first time we hear from Jodahs, he is becoming ooloi. Both it and Akin speak of the sensory perceptions, changes in taste and smell. Lilith's birth is a gasping, a dimness, a struggle to see. With each birth, there's an increased level of comfort with being born, a better understanding of what is happening, what is being experienced. As understanding increases, the characters are better able to speak for themselves. Lilith speaks to the Oankali, but they do not listen to her until things have gone terribly wrong, and she has proved her fears and wishes were valid. Akin can convince the others of the necessity of an Akjai human colony without testing it first. Jodahs speaks with its own voice from the first moment we meet it.
By making that which should seem so alien to us the only person who gets to use its own voice, the separation between that which is alien and that which is human is decreased, blurred. Arguably, Jodahs is the most manipulative of all the people we meet, because it is human, oankali, and ooloi, able to understand both species, and to wield powerful narcotics, its mere presence winning its enemies to its side. It should be the most repulsive character to us as humans, because it effectively destroys the resister urge, the desire to go to Mars and preserve humanity with its very presence. Yet, narratively, we are put closest to it, made to understand it best.
I don't have a solid conclusion for this. In some ways, this drawing in through the first person seems like it's meant to simulate being in contact with an ooloi, drawn in against one's will, desire, conscious choice, through subtle things like the use of "I." Like it's the closest we can come to understanding something that is truly alien. Like we're meant to see ourselves as the alien.