The Avatar Themes
by Poul Anderson

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The Avatar Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The theme of happiness unites the characters of The Avatar, and is tied to the social concerns. Underneath the exciting adventure of the novel is the continuous search of characters for meaning to their lives. Most of the characters feel as if they are missing something essential for their happiness. When Brodersen takes off on a quest to find The Others who built the star gates that lead to worlds scattered throughout the universe, some of his companions join him in a literal search for happiness. They hope that The Others will bring them companionship or spiritual fulfillment. It is this search, not the finding of happiness, that essential to their well being. Brodersen the expansive explorer, the doer who makes opportunities for others, is in this a stark contrast to Quick and others who believe that people must be controlled. This difference is very important to twentieth-century thought—wars have been fought over this difference. Many social philosophers and psychologists have advocated total outside control over people's lives as the only way to ensure that people behave in good ways: National socialism and communism are two examples of social constructs in which the government controls what people do. Anderson's view is essentially American, with its foundation in Thomas Jefferson's declaration in 1776 that the "pursuit of happiness" is an inherent right of every human being from the moment of birth onward. It is the pursuit that is crucial, rather than the having of happiness. Even the saddest of Brodersen's companions is much better off for being able to pursue happiness instead of having had no chance at all to search for it.