What is the author's meaning for the title of the story "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth?"

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"If I Forget Thee Oh Earth..." is a story of the exile of the people of Earth from their home world. Author Arthur C. Clarke uses the title, which is from a verse in the Bible, to compare the exile of the lunar colony from Earth with the exile of...

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"If I Forget Thee Oh Earth..." is a story of the exile of the people of Earth from their home world. Author Arthur C. Clarke uses the title, which is from a verse in the Bible, to compare the exile of the lunar colony from Earth with the exile of the Jews in Babylon from their homeland of Israel. Psalm 137 in the Bible is a poetic lament of the Israelites as they mourn their captivity far from home. The first verse says: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion." Zion is the Jew's name for Israel. Verses 5 and 6 say:

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.

This passage emphasizes the importance of the memory of their homeland to the Jews. In "If I Forget Thee Oh Earth..." the inhabitants of the lunar colony obviously attach a similar importance to remembering the Earth that they left behind. The ten-year-old boy is taken out to view Earth as a sort of coming of age ceremony. Although Earth is devastated and irradiated by nuclear war, their survival in exile depends upon the hope that someday their descendants will be able to return and reclaim the planet they came from.

But unless there was a goal, a future toward which it could work, the Colony would lose the will to live, and neither machines nor skill nor science could save it then.

Just as the ancient Israelites survived their ordeal in Babylon by remembering Jerusalem, the lunar colonists depend upon the memory of Earth to sustain them generation by generation.

That was the dream: and one day, Martin knew with a sudden flash of insight, he would pass it on to his own son, here at this same spot with the mountains behind him and the silver light from the sky streaming into his face.

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In the Bible, in the Book of Psalms, there is a line "If I forget thee, O, Jerusalem."  This is in Psalm 137.  It refers to a time when the Israelites were exiled from their homes (to Babylon) and were wishing they could be back home.  It is a way of acknowledging that Jerusalem was their only true home.

In the Clarke story, people have essentially been exiled from Earth.  The title alludes to the Biblical passage and it means that the people up on the Moon are acknowleding that Earth is their real home.  They will yearn to return to Earth for as long as it takes for the planet to stop being radioactive...

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