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Can someone please help me understand the story, "The Star," by H.G. Wells

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nurse2007 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted August 4, 2013 at 7:06 PM via web

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Can someone please help me understand the story, "The Star," by H.G. Wells

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 5, 2013 at 2:07 AM (Answer #1)

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H. G. Wells's "The Star" falls under the sub-genre of apocalyptic fiction, but it approaches its topic in a very scientific manner.  In fact, this scientific perspective is what lends the narrative verisimilitude. For, throughout the story, the words "scientific," "astronomical" "instruments," "measurements," "observatories," and the like are employed by Wells. The reader is tempted to give further credibility to the story because of the description of the "master mathematician's" calculations and cataclysmic prediction. In addition, emotional words contribute to the atmosphere of danger:

And in a hundred observatories there had been suppressed excitement, rising almost to shouting pitch, as the two remote bodies had rushed together; and a hurrying...to gather photographic apparatus...and this appliance and that, to record this novel astonishing sight, the destruction of the world.

Certainly, there is a great build-up of apprehension with the warnings of the mathematician's calculations, the descriptions of the "star of the coming doom's" dangerous growth, and movements, the tension of those who consider the worry "a foolish panic," and the global effects of the star's heat as

in a rudderless confusion a multitude of men and women fled...to...the open sea.

And, so, when the moon intervenes between the burning star and the earth--"the black disc"--although there are days of darkness that follow, the danger has passed. A "new brotherhood" emerges, then, to study the geological changes. "It concerns itself only with the coming and passing of the Star" as they study geothermal changes, and the effects of rain and burning upon the earth.  

However, "the Martian astronomers" who also study this star, interpret the flying, burning star as having done "astonishing... little damage" upon the earth, and

the only difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white discoloration (supposed to be frozen water) round either pole.

This description of the perspective of the Martians in the final paragraphs is in great contrast to the apocalyptic fires and flooding felt by those in the Eastern Earth where people have panicked, been injured, and died. Thus, the human perspective is, indeed, humbled as its grand delusions are exposed in Well's ending that places the "human catastrophe" at "a distance of a few million miles," certainly a perspective that points to man's follies. 

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