The setting of the science-fiction short story "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..." by Arthur C. Clarke is the moon. A small lunar colony has survived the atomic wars that have ravaged the planet Earth. A father takes his young son on a journey across the stark lunar landscape...
The setting of the science-fiction short story "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..." by Arthur C. Clarke is the moon. A small lunar colony has survived the atomic wars that have ravaged the planet Earth. A father takes his young son on a journey across the stark lunar landscape so that he can view the planet that they once called home. It will take generations for the nuclear poisons to clear away so that humankind can return, but it is the hope that one day they can reclaim their homeland that keeps all the colonists going and surviving.
The tone of the story is tragic, contemplative, and ultimately hopeful. The moral or lesson is that the hope of return can mitigate the intense grief caused by the terrible tragedy of the war that destroyed the rest of humankind. The theme is the necessity of hope to overcome despair. The theme and moral are accentuated by the title, which is taken from Psalm 137 in the Bible. This psalm is a lament of the Jews that have been carried into captivity in Babylon, far away from their beloved homeland. Verses 4 to 6 say:
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Just as in this psalm the Jews passed on the love and longing for their homeland to their offspring, so the father in this story passes on the vision of the heritage of their homeland Earth to his son, trusting that his son, in turn, will pass it on to his descendants.
The imagery in the story reinforces the author's message. He describes the harsh landscape of the moon and contrasts it with the beauty of the Earth as seen from afar.