This week in my Coursera class we read H.G. Wells: The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The Country of the Blind, and The Star (upon which I based my essay below).
The Star suggests that the entire span of mankind’s existence is unimportant and pointless, since eventually life on earth will be extinguished. This is explicitly stated once, in the words of the mathematician stating that mankind has lived its life in vain. This statement is implicitly supported throughout the text in the reactions of people on earth as well as the observation from Mars.
Through the build-up to the star’s arrival, people are described as, for the most part, continuing their everyday lives. People are said to laugh at the mathematician’s warning, until the danger was too obvious. Prior examples of dire warnings regarding the year 1000 were said to prove there was no danger. Wells treats this behaviour dismissively, describing it as scornful, jesting (Wells). This indicates a disdain for the everyday lives of men.
Wells reinforces this tone at the end of the story, when those on Mars observing the phenomena take little account of the destruction. Indeed, Wells says through the Martians that ‘the vastest of human catastrophes’ seems ‘small.’ Diminishing the mass destruction of large portions of humanity supports the mathematician’s assertion that mankind has lived in vain.
While this viewpoint certainly has some validity, it is also in many ways beside the point. Though mankind may eventually die out (certainly, no individual is immortal), the importance of our lives is not judged through the lens of a distant time, or by distant beings like the Martians. The importance of our lives is judged by we ourselves, in the here and now.
Wells may be less supporting this notion, and more criticizing the scientific, academic element that supports these types of ideas. The common man goes about his life, despite imminent danger, while academics (mathematicians and astronomers) bemoan the lack of importance of the impending destruction. This certainly suggests that the academics are out of touch with what is truly imporant in life.