Short Story Analysis

"The Star" by Arthur C. Clarke

Critical Biography

Arthur C. Clarke, the author of “The Star”, was born on December 16, 1917, in Minehead, Somerset, England ("Arthur C. Clarke"). He was raised on a farm by his parents Charles Wright Clarke and Norah Willis Clarke. In his early childhood, Clarke attended an Anglican Church. Due to his belief in science and technology, he quickly concluded religion was nonsense and stopped attending. This is most likely why many of his stories contradict the existence of God and point out the flaws of religion. Another influence that can be seen in Clarke’s writing is the death of his father. Some of his writing reflects strong father figures and the loss of loved ones. In his late teens, Clarke developed a deep interest in rocketry and air travel. In the early 1930s, Clarke became a member of the British Interplanetary Society and began publishing science fiction stories ("Arthur C. Clarke").

Summary

“The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke is a story about a chief astrophysicist.The chief is a Jesuit priest struggling to keep his faith strong after the discovery his crew has made. He was sent to outer space to investigate the destruction of a civilization. When he arrives at the planet, he finds a vault filled with visual records, machines to project them, and pictorial instructions. After examining some of the information, the Chief concludes that a supernova ended them. The chief and his crew are deeply moved; they soon begin to question God’s mercy and his existence.

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Analysis of Theme

The most notable theme in "The Star" is the conflict between religion and science. At the beginning of the story, we are presented with a Jesuit priest who happens to be the chief astrophysicist. He begins rambling about how most medical men are notorious atheists (Clarke). As the story continues, we can see the way the rest of the men mock the priest. They present various scientific facts that make religion sound ridiculous.”They would say that the Universe has no purpose and no plan, that since a hundred suns explode every year in our galaxy, at this very moment some race is dying in the depths of space” (Clarke). The chief keeps his faith strong because he believes that science and religion can coexist. He then explains to his crew that science is God's way to show men how amazing and complex his creations are. As the men begin to explore, they discover a destroyed civilization. The chief begins to question why God would destroy this human-like race. His colleagues are deeply moved by the discovery, and they are convinced that God does not exist. Like his crew, the chief allows the facts to settle in his mind, and his faith begins to crumble. “There comes a point when even the deepest faith must falter, and now, as I look at the calculations lying before me, I have reached that point at last” (Clarke). The chief becomes afraid of his findings; he believes this knowledge will convince the irreligious public that the universe is random and not the work of God (“The Star,” 329)

Citations

"Arthur C. Clarke." LitFinder Contemporary Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2007. LitFinder. Web. 16 May 2016.


Clarke, Arthur C. "The Star." PDF File.


"The Star." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 326. Print.