Escape the Morning by Poul Anderson

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Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The main character of "Escape the Morning" is eighteen-year-old Mark Jordan. He runs a mining station with his brother Tom and sister Judy; they inherited the station from their parents, who died in a pit accident. As the one in charge, Mark bears heavy responsibilities for the safety of his brother and sister, as well as for the success of their mining enterprise. He knows that "Emergencies on the Moon have a way of arriving fast and nasty." This means that he not only has obligations to his siblings, but that he and they have wider obligations to the community, because "like all pioneers, the Lunar colonists take for granted that anyone in distress is to be helped." This is why he unhesitatingly sets off to pick up Achille Kamolondo, the stranded "Minister of Technology of Federated Zaire," who is a couple of hours away from being irradiated to death by a solar flare. These are demanding adult responsibilities that Mark must bear; his meeting their challenge with courage grounded in good sense show him already a man of mature character.

Through Mark's perceptions and actions, Anderson presents the story's theme of how people would survive on the moon. The story develops ideas about what would most concern colonists, about what a pioneer lunar society would be like, what obstacles would need to be overcome, and about what actions colonists would take to overcome those challenges. From a system for rescuing people in trouble to the marked stones that indicate safe paths for traveling to television screens instead of windows, Anderson illustrates in a smooth and exciting way how problems would be recognized and how they would be dealt with. As we follow Mark on his journey and his race against death, we not only learn about his courage and his dedication to fulfilling his responsibilities— even at the cost of his own life—we see the technology and ideas that Anderson thinks may shape the future of humanity on the moon.

In a short space, Anderson gives dimension to Mark's characterization. We know he has ambitions to attend college "for an engineering degree." We also know that he takes his command obligations seriously and that he cares for his younger brother and sister. These good aspects of his personality are given depth by his easy irritation at the words of an outsider who does not know better, as well as by his moment of hesitation when Kamolondo urges him to save himself and leave the diplomat behind: "But you don't abandon anyone on the Moon," Mark realizes. His is the rationality of a young man who faces danger everyday and who understands, in spite of his irritation and fear, what the obligations are for someone who chooses to remain in harm's way.

Kamolondo is surprised by how young Mark looks, but "He wasn't so old himself: a large man with a face brown, intelligent, and proud." Kamolondo has, at first, a superior attitude and is somewhat condescending; he sees a mere boy in Mark instead of the man Mark has already proven to be. The main character of a work of fiction often grows the most because the narrative is usually about events that change him or her, but in "Escape the Morning" the secondary character Kamolondo grows more than the main character Mark.

An intelligent man whose trip to the moon is at least partly motivated by curiosity, he asks Mark about his moon-life. He learns that "We mine copper," as well as some oil. He is somewhat offended by Mark's explanation of why there would be oil on the moon, insisting that he already knew that, even though his remarks suggested that he did not. He seems to have trouble accepting the idea that a boy would be in any way superior to himself. Even so, he understands Mark's explanation of how he took over from his parents. All this character exposition could be boring, but Anderson is too skilled to simply have characters talk about their lives. Instead, the story focuses on a crisis, and it is how they respond to that crisis that the characters reveal themselves.

"They...

(The entire section is 1,342 words.)