The story shows the earth as uninhabitable. A nuclear war has led to the annihilation of life on the planet. Even from the moon, the earth can be seen “gleaming faintly with an evil phosphorescence.”
The few human survivors have taken refuge on the moon. They will have to stay on the lunar surface for hundreds of years until the effect of the toxic nuclear radiation dies down.
“The winds and the rains would scour the poisons from the burning lands and carry them to the sea, and in the depths of the sea they would waste their venom until they could harm no living things. Then the great ships that were still waiting here on the silent, dusty plains could lift once more into space, along the road that led to home.”
The story was first published in 1951 during the early years of the Cold War. It reflects the prevailing apprehensions over the possibility of a nuclear war between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, and their allies. After the Second World War, both the superpowers began manufacturing nuclear warheads at an unprecedented scale.
In his story, the author Arthur C. Clarke presents a horrifying picture of the earth. It burns day and night on its “funeral pyre." With this story, he sent a very strong message to world leaders. Through his terrifying portrayal of the earth in the aftermath of a possible nuclear war, he warned against the production and use of nuclear warheads.
The lesson is clear. The story strongly discourages applying science and technology to produce weapons of mass destruction. It urges us to work together as the guardians of this unique planet and do all that is possible to preserve its resources. Instead of engaging in a nuclear arms race, every country should sincerely endeavor to keep our planet safe, clean and beautiful.
Though the Cold War has ended, the story is still very relevant. The production of nuclear warheads hasn’t stopped yet. The list of countries considered nuclear powers has been growing. The danger of war looms large across the globe. There are also environmental concerns regarding the safety of the earth. The insensitive exploitation of natural resources and the emission of greenhouse gases threaten the safety of the planet.
The story presents an artistic imagining of a ruined earth. It exhorts us to grow concerned and sensitive towards our planet before it is too late.