Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

“I hold the world to be a manifestation of the possibility of order,” Kepler declares to Brahe, introducing the main preoccupation of his story. In spite of political disintegration and tragedies in his personal life, Kepler steadfastly maintains his devotion to a harmonious cosmos. Indeed, the novel argues that such devotion is all the more necessary in view of the discordant ways of the world and the fact that so much of life seems to consist of breakdown and incompleteness. In a manner which perhaps belongs more to the twentieth century than it does to Kepler’s age, the novel continually questions the possibility of meaning emerging from a world of chaos.

Kepler’s adherence to the conception of a perfectly integrated universe is not, however, mere pious fidelity to an idea. Much of the novel’s drama comes neither from the astronomer’s being swept along in the unruly tide of contemporary historical events nor from enactments of the pain of intimate losses. The greatest drama is the result of Kepler’s temporary, but nevertheless successful, abstraction of himself from the fallible human world in order to pursue proofs of harmony in the heavens. It is not that Kepler simply asserts a dogma of harmony and serene completeness but that he believes that such a condition can enter human understanding by means of his discovery of the necessary mathematical models. Part of his eventual triumph is not only his provision of persuasive mathematical...

(The entire section is 532 words.)