Tag Archives: The Star

[The Star]: Grappling with Infinity

Among the vast array of quotable passages in H.G. Wells’ “The Star,” none stand more pronounced in my mind, than the determined statement made by the physicist in the face of what seems to be near certain death.

His defiant words of, “‘You may kill me… but I can hold you – and all the universe for that matter – in the grip of this little brain.  I would not change.  Even now'” (Wells 3).

Part of the unique nature of the story itself is the way by which Wells conceptualizes the idea of both size, magnitude of destruction, and suffering, by making them all relative to the average person – namely very easily relate-able figures for the average reader.  Where I see the innate beauty of this passage, is with the idea that although the scientist comes to the conclusion that his life has been worth living because he has been able to learn everything, that it also represents a cruel irony – especially among those who act as though they know everything related to their fields, without ever considering the vastness of the universe.  While the scientist may understand some of the universe, the mere notion that he could possibly know everything is both juxtaposed by his inability to predict the “Star’s” failure to hit Earth in as meaningful of a capacity as he had initially thought, but made even more absurd by the very presence of aliens and their role in the creation of the “star.”  In claiming to know everything, while it may have provided him some solace, the physicist fails to grapple with his own limitations – primarily his own inability to accept that he simply does not know everything – a flaw that is both mortal and omnipresent in all of us.

Wells, H.G. “The Star by H.G. Wells.” The Star by H.G. Wells @ Classic Reader. Classic Reader, n.d. Web. 08 Sept. 2013.

Wells, The Star

“Few people without training in science can realize the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats imagination.(Wells, “The Star”, p.41)

I found it interesting that Wells presents the rather smallness of humanity when compared to the grandeur of the universe.  Earth is comparable to dust, leaving its human inhabitants to bare even less significance in terms of the whole scheme of the universe.   With the near destruction of the human race and the addition of the martian onlookers Wells intentions in this story seem to be toward humbling the human race.

 

Wells, H.G. “The Star.” The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed. Arthur B. Evans, Istvan              Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Joan Gordon, Veronica Hollinger, Rob Latham, and Carol                              McGuirk. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2010. 40-49. Print.

H.G. Wells, The Star

“But of the new brotherhood that grew presently among men, of the saving of laws and books and machines, of the strange change that had come over Iceland and Greenland and the shores of Baffin’s Bay, so that the sailors coming there presently found them green and gracious, and could scarce believe their eyes, this story does not tell.”

Pervasive throughout the whole text is a sense of doom, gloom, and hopelessness. The detached narrator is, in some ways, an objective chronicler of only the events immediately surrounding the Star. As a result, this quote is surprisingly uplifting, and may even capture the essence of one of Wells’s points: mankind is capable of living on, and there may at least be a silver lining of sorts in even the worst and most inexplicable tragedies.

Wells, H.G. “The Star.” The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed. Arthur B. Evans, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Joan Gordon, Veronica Hollinger, Rob Latham, and Carol McGuirk. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2010. 40-49. Print.

“The Star”: The mystery of the wanderer

“…this strange wanderer appeared. A vast mass of matter it was, bulky, heavy, rushing without warning out of the black mystery of the sky into the radiance of the sun.” (Wells, “The Star”, p.41)

What I find interesting about Wells’s text is the vague definition of the mass; often being referred to as a star, a planetary object, or something else entirely different. Within the purpose of the story, the definition is not of much concern when considering the object’s use as somewhat of a plot device to further the narrative through catalyzing humanity’s reactions and affecting the Earth’s environment. However, the mystery surrounding the object’s nature, origins and possible intentions leaves an unsettling feeling in the reader’s mind as it opens them to the vast and alien possibilities of the unknown universe. Furthermore, such lines of thought serve to question our own significance as a planet and people when faced with this infinite-possibility space.

Wells, H.G. “The Star.” The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed. Arthur B. Evans, Istvan              Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Joan Gordon, Veronica Hollinger, Rob Latham, and Carol                              McGuirk. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2010. 40-49. Print.

a quote from “The Star” by HG Wells

“But of the new brotherhood that grew presently among men, of the saving of laws and books and machines, of the strange change that had come over Iceland and Greenland […] this story does not tell. Nor of the movement of mankind, now that the earth was hotter, northward and southward towards the poles of the earth. It concerns itself only with the coming and the passing of the star.”

While there were many quotes that caused me to think and question, the reason I chose this quote was because of the way it presented “The Star” as merely a small part of a much larger narrative. I’ve always liked when authors use such a technique because it leaves the feeling that the story read is not self contained, leaving the feeling of countless other stories waiting to be told, whether in other books or within out own imaginations. While I could’ve chosen a quote with a more analytical bent of mind, I wanted to start this class off with some of the excitement I feel every time I open a new novel.

On Panic and Hoax in “The Star”

“But you must not imagine because I have spoken of people praying though the night and people going aboard ships and people fleeing toward mountainous country that the whole world was already in a terror because of the star.  As a matter of fact, use and wont still ruled the world, and save for the talk of idle moments and the splendor of the night, nine human beings out of ten were still busy at their common occupations. …The presses of the newspapers roared through the night , and many a priest of this church and that would not open his holy building to further what he considered a foolish panic.”  (45)

The quote I chose is from H.G. Well’s The Star, specifically this section because it shows how human beings react in panic situations.  In time of panic, people usually react in two different ways: classify it as a hoax or extreme fear.  In the case of The Star, most of the people continued their daily activities in the time of the impending “star” colliding with the Earth.  These people considered this fear of the others to be unnecessary,  and merely a hoax by others; some even consider the “star” to be quite beautiful, being an illuminating streak  in the night sky.  Others, though not as many, reacted in the ways of hysteria, where they tried to find safe areas of the planet.  Some even sought help in a higher power: God.  They seemed to believe it was the end of all things.  These situations are reminiscent of modern times in the cases of terror and war (such as multiple cases during the Cold War): some widespread panic, others go about their daily lives.

 

Wells, H.G. “The Star.” The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed. Arthur B. Evans, Istvan              Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Joan Gordon, Veronica Hollinger, Rob Latham, and Carol                              McGuirk. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2010. 40-49. Print.

“The coming and the passing of the Star”

“Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles.” (“The Star”, 41).

I thought this was particularly striking, because it reminded me of a line spoken in the film “Melancholia”, which I’m sure was probably inspired (just a bit!) by Wells’s short story: “Life is only on earth, and not for long.” The film and the short story have the same basic premise in common: a planetary body is going to collide with the earth. These particular lines really resonated with me because….I suppose the idea of being alone in the universe is more terrifying than not being alone because it means that…all the effort we, humans, put into making a mark, into making sure we are remembered, is meaningless. If we’re alone, who is out there to see any of it? When we’re gone, and every mark that we’ve ever made fades to dust. It’ll be like we never existed at all.

What’s the point? I’m not having an existential crisis, I promise, (I’m probably overdue for one though) I’m genuinely wondering. Why do we make these things, why do we try so hard to carve our existence into stone if it’s going to fade away, no matter what we do?

I’m gonna try answering my own question, and say that….because maybe it’s meaningless in the extremely long run, yeah. But, in terms of the here and now, it’s…comforting? I don’t know exactly why I turn to “Melancholia” when I’m in need of comfort, because that movie is REALLY depressing. Beautiful, don’t get me wrong, brilliantly acted, the cinematography is gorgeous, like WOW, but still depressing.

But it’s not about the big picture, really. At least, not immediately. It’s about the people. It’s about the characters. It’s about emotions. It’s about connections between the people, rather than the big picture. Maybe that is the big picture? I’m talking myself into circles here.

But I guess what I’m (very long windedly) trying to get at is, what we do in relation to the world we live in and the people we live with is made twice as meaningful because we know that we are going to die, and we don’t know if we are alone in the universe. They may not seem like they mean much (“Which only shows how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.”-49), but what else are we going to do, really?

A Physicist’s Reaction to “The Star”

A quote I particularly liked was: “The master mathematician’s grim warnings were treated by many as so much more mere elaborate self-advertisement. Common sense at last, a little heated by argument, signified its unalterable convictions by going to bed.”

I have personally found that people just don’t understand science, and most toss it out the window when it gives them a result that isn’t in accordance with common sense. This ignorance persists until the results they threw away are right in their face (in the form of a “star” coming close to the Earth, or more recently, a string of the worst hurricanes on record as an effect of global warming).  Wells, a scientist himself, undoubtedly experience the same thing when trying to explain what he did to the masses. It’s not hard to understand why he put that in The Star.

human reaction to The Star

I chose the same quote as Ender’s Argument did:

The leader writers enlarged upon the topic; so that in most of the capitals of the world, on January 3rd, there was an expectation, however vague, of some imminent phenomenon in the sky; and as the night followed the sunset around the globe, thousands of men turned their eyes skyward to see—the old familiar stars just as they had always been.

However, what struck me about this quote was the way it seemed to dismiss the idea that mankind could easily and correctly predict the behavior of something totally out of scale to anything they’d experienced before—I think it reads as a criticism of that confidence.

Wells, H.G.. “The Star.” The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed. Arthur B. Evans, et. al. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2010.  41.

An Optimistic Tomorrow

The passage that intrigued my attention the most in H.G Wells Story “The Star” is found on page 41 of the Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction towards the middle of the page. The quote is as followed,

“The leader writers enlarged upon the topic; so that in most of the capitals of the world, on January 3rd, there was an expectation, however vague, of some imminent phenomenon in the sky; and as the night followed the sunset around the globe, thousands of men turned their eyes skyward to see- the old familiar stars just as they has always been” (Wells, 41).

What draws me to this passage is the vagueness of the language which to me symbolizes man’s ignorance of their own world and its place in the universe. Man’s constant push for scientific progress causes mankind too constantly look toward the stars and ask questions, questions that when answered engender fear and speculation. H.G Wells suggests through his story “The Star” that even though mankind may face unseen threats in the form of colliding planets, erupting volcanoes, and 50ft waves of crushing water; in the end the dust will settle and men will look up at the same old familiar stars and exclaim, “I am still here.”