Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The issues in “The Star” relate to the concept of theodicy, which is an attempt to answer the question of the problem of evil that is summed up by three statements: God is good, God is omnipotent or omniscient, and there is evil. The last statement is the easiest to prove and is usually accepted as a given. If God is good, but not omnipotent, he wants to stop evil, but cannot. If God is omnipotent, but not good, he could stop evil, but does not choose to do so. The Judeo-Christian ethic, however, sees God as both good and omnipotent, so some other answer for the existence of evil is necessary. One theodicy is that God has no need to justify himself to humanity; that humanity’s free will causes evil is another. Most religious people accept a theodicy that allows them to reconcile their faith in God with the tragic events of everyday life.
The unnamed narrator of “The Star” claims to have reached a point at which his faith is shaken. The nova’s date will not be ignored by either his shipmates or his fellow scientists back on Earth, nor can he himself ignore it. He recognizes God’s mystery, but can no longer accept it on faith; he has been driven to question all that he had believed.
One may speculate, however, that the Jesuit has not thoroughly lost his faith because the last lines of the story are a plea, almost a prayer, to the God he has tried to claim he no longer accepts. A test of faith may not be the same thing as a loss of faith, and the man, by clinging to his previous dependence on God, may yet save and salvage his understanding of God’s mysteries. The reader is free to speculate whether or not the Jesuit—like the biblical Job who first received the answer that God did not need to justify himself—will be reconciled, or can be.