Escape the Morning by Poul Anderson

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Setting

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The moon is inhospitable to human beings in many ways. Even its light gravity is threatening: "With gravity one-sixth as strong as it is on Earth, you must spend at least two hours out of the twenty-four keeping fit, or your very bones will atrophy." For pioneers like Mark, Tom, and Judy, each day may bring new discoveries of unexpected dangers. Their parents "died when a pit collapsed, two years ago"; unpredictably, iron alloy beams become brittle on the moon and break, and in the case of Mark's parents, the discovery that iron alloy was unsuitable for shoring up mines proved fatal.

The pioneers, in order to survive, must pay careful attention to their environment, never allowing panic to make them break the rules that help safeguard their lives. When Mark takes his turtle, a slow vehicle, out to rescue Kamolondo, he follows a prescribed path that has been outlined by glowing markers. When he races towards safety with Kamolondo against the coming of dawn, he cooly keeps control of his judgment, following the lit path even though a direct route home would be shorter: "To strike directly across this shadowland, away from the markers, was to make death certain." Even when following safeguards the unpredictability of danger is a constant menace. In the case of "Escape the Morning," Mark discovers that a "meteorite shower, hitherto uncharted, must be pounding the Moon." The pioneers try to keep track of when meteors may strike but it is an inexact process.

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

"Escape the Morning" is a lean adventure story that is representative of Anderson's literary skills. One of the key elements of an adventure story is suspense, and Anderson introduces it right away: "Troubles never come singly, or Mark Jordan would not have been racing the sunrise for his life." This kind of opening sentence is called a teaser—it is supposed to entice an audience's interest. In this case, the opening sentence has three elements to swiftly pull readers in. First is that "troubles never come singly": How many troubles does Mark have? Second is "racing the sunrise": How does one race a sunrise? Where could the action be taking place that it would be possible to race a sunrise? Third is "for his life": What about a sunrise could kill someone? To find the answers to these questions that the first sentence of the story raises one must read the story. Another important aspect of the opening line is the mentioning of Mark Jordon; the specific person's name gives an audience someone personal to worry about. Will he die?

The rest of the story shows the same care in phrasing and offers a bit-by-bit revelation of the answers to the questions raised at the outset. Much care is shown in how the relationship between Kamolondo and Mark develops. Anderson extrapolates from the events of the mid-1960s to set up some of their relationship. Some African nations in the 1960s were just becoming free of colonial rule; Anderson draws on his knowledge of African history to suggest that a Central African nation of federated states might evolve that he calls "Federated Zaire." From his description of Kamolondo, it is clear that the man is a black African, but his relationship with Mark bears no tones of racial friction or even of racial concerns; Anderson's phrasing implies that, just as Federated Zaire indicates that the events take place in the future, that racism will be of no concern among the future colonists of the moon.

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

"Mark, in that hour we became brothers," declares Kamolondo. This assertion summarizes the relationship between the Zairian diplomat and the American teenager. Although somewhat different in outlook, they regard each other as equal men without any racial overtones. There differences in points of view are what any two men might have when one is a pioneer on a dangerous frontier and the other is a foreigner hoping to find ways to use the frontier's resources to benefit his people. When Kamolondo speaks of exploiting the moon, Mark thinks "But this is our home! You don't...

(The entire section is 1,123 words.)