The Star, by H. G. Wells

Image taken from a NASA Google+ post*

The Star” is an apocalyptic short story written by H. G. Wells in 1897. According to Wikipedia, it founded a science fiction sub-genre of post-apocalyptic fiction in which two celestial objects crash into each other. The description of apocalypse-on-Earth was probably rather original for its time–it was vivid and striking. It also had a very powerful message that was told in a rather unique way. I was reminded of a book I read recently, Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie…not in narrative style (not in the slightest!) but in underlying message.

Spoilers start here:
While I was reading “The Star” I was distracted by the detachment of it all. We seemed to be observing it from afar rather than experiencing it through the eyes of tortured souls. At the last sentence, I realized WHY he made the story so detached. He was writing with the detachment of a far-away observer. Of someone who’s just reading about the events in a newspaper. We see the murders, the famines, the plagues; but we don’t FEEL them. This reminded me of a touching novel about the Biafra / Nigeria civil war: Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In this gut-wrenching, but beautiful book Adichie asks the question “were you silent when we died?” 

Spoiler-free zone commences:
I think it’s horrible how we can watch news of horror and tragedy from afar and simply shake our heads and say “that’s too bad….” and not worry about it any more. The idea of such uncaring thoughts (literally) brings tears to my eyes. And then the biologist in me rears her ugly head and says: this detachment is necessary for our own individual sanity. We have to, at some level, separate personal tragedy from the tragedy of people who have no impact on ourselves. If we didn’t, we would be constantly overwhelmed by emotions that distract us from our own lives and do not provide any personal advantage. I suppose if I were constantly overwhelmed with emotion about distant tragedies, I’d be on the far-opposite end of the autism spectrum. 🙂 I think we should honestly consider the pain of other people and, if we can, do something about it. But where do we draw the line for emotional involvement? I suppose this is something that each individual must answer for him or herself.

4 thoughts on “The Star, by H. G. Wells

  1. I tend to avoid the news at night because it is so nearly impossible for me to detach.

    And I stumbled into your blog because I was trying to avoid writing about anything everyone has already seen re. “The Star” and saw your post title which was irresistible.

    Not sure if I'll be writing about the short story today but I didn't want to drop in and not drop a comment.


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