Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

As has been said already, the central idea of the Foundation series is that of psychohistory, and its associated implications about human character and human politics. Two structural devices, however, are of particular importance in making this idea attractive and plausible. One, which has become a standby for science-fiction writers ever since, is the habit of preceding sections or chapters with quotations from an imaginary Encyclopedia Galactica, the project set up by Seldon to conceal his real intentions, but now feigned to have been completed and to have reached its one hundred sixteenth edition some six centuries after the last events of Second Foundation. These short “excerpts” give the reader vital condensed information. These excerpts also put the events narrated into an austere and impersonal perspective. A whole religion, based on worship of the Galactic Spirit, becomes a temporary expedient; desperate ventures pale into footnotes; the footnotes themselves (for all the authority of the Encyclopedia) are sometimes suggested to be unreliable, the product of deceit or wish fulfillment. There is a continual contrast between the events narrated and how they are remembered, sometimes working against the Encyclopedia, but more often pointing to the limited vision of the characters directly involved.

A similar effect is reached by the very gaps between the nine separate sections of the trilogy. Salvor Hardin is a...

(The entire section is 574 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The major theme of the trilogy is the function of psychohistory, which enables people to accurately predict the future. Its originator Hari...

(The entire section is 212 words.)