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

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I think an interesting approach to understanding H.G. Wells’s short story “The Star” (1897) is by paying particularly close attention to its beginning and end. After launching us straight into the action—a new heavenly body has been observed close to Neptune—the story talks about the relative insignificance of the solar...

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I think an interesting approach to understanding H.G. Wells’s short story “The Star” (1897) is by paying particularly close attention to its beginning and end. After launching us straight into the action—a new heavenly body has been observed close to Neptune—the story talks about the relative insignificance of the solar system in the context of the enormity of the universe.

Few people without a training in science can realise the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles.

The relative minuteness of the solar system in general, and the earth in particular, is an important theme in the story, one which is ironically contrasted with humanity's anthropocentric approach—where we believe we are the center of the universe. As the story progresses, the heavenly body is revealed to be a dying planet rushing towards the sun, colliding with Neptune on the way. Even as scientists, represented by the clever and prophetic Master Mathematician, predict that the mass made up of the unknown planet and Neptune will pass very close to the earth, perhaps even crashing into it, most people believe this is an exaggerated threat, viewing the "star" as either marginal or supplementary to their experience.

"What is a new star to me?" cried the weeping woman kneeling beside her dead …. In a South African City a great man had married, and the streets were alight to welcome his return with his bride. "Even the skies have illuminated," said the flatterer.

This hubris—or pride—of the humans is shattered when the mass travels close to earth’s orbit, causing the “immemorial” snows of the Himalaya to melt, triggering vast floods, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. Most of humanity perishes in these catastrophic events. Only those who have managed to find their way to the polar regions survive. What is left behind is utter ruin.

Everywhere the waters were pouring off the land, leaving mud-silted ruins, and the earth littered like a storm-worn beach with all that had floated, and the dead bodies of the men and brutes, its children.

Although the story suggests the survivors go on to rebuild their lives, it is not a survival tale. At this point it abruptly shifts perspective to that of the astronomers on Mars who are observing the happenings on Earth. This perspectival shift that ends the story is extremely important, since it highlights the limits of human, and by extension, all experience, since what has been an apocalypse for humanity is perceived of as minor damage to Earth by the Martians.

Considering the mass and temperature of the missile that was flung through our solar system into the sun … it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained. All the familiar continental markings and the masses of the seas remain intact, and indeed the only difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white discoloration (supposed to be frozen water) round either pole.

Thus, through the eyes of the Martians, “The Star” illustrates how the earth is far bigger than humanity. It existed long before the first humans showed up, and will perhaps continue to do so after humans disappear. In this sense, the story offers a humbling corrective for humans from viewing themselves as the dominant species of the world and the universe.

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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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