The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Set in post-World War II America, Philip Wylie’s The Disappearance concerns an Earth divided into two distinct parts, one containing only male humans and primates, the other only females. Wylie divides the book into four parts: “The Hand of God,” “Armageddon,” “The Unloved,” and “Dream and Dimension.” Each section details major physical and psychological developments of the catastrophe. As the chapters alternate between the male world and the female one, the characters slowly work out the science of the disappearance.

On February 14, at 4:05 p.m., Dr. William Percival Gaunt watches out his study window as his wife, Paula Gaunt, vanishes mysteriously. Simultaneously, Paula, working in the garden, watches her husband disappear. As they soon realize, all members of the opposite sex have disappeared from the respective Earths.

Dr. Gaunt’s world maintains a sense of order because males occupy most of the technical and governmental jobs. Paula Gaunt’s world, however, does not maintain the same sense of order. Planes are suddenly without male pilots, buses and cars without drivers, utilities without workers, and the government without representatives.

While the females work to restore supply of basic necessities such as food and water, the male world faces new dangers—a Russian nuclear attack, civil unrest, and armed raiding parties—that force the government to establish...

(The entire section is 522 words.)