Who might have benefited or been harmed by the ending of "The Wretched and the Beautiful" by E. Lily Yu?

Quick answer:

The last line of "The Wretched and the Beautiful" is "All was well," and it is, but only for the humans who waited for someone else to "fix" the alien problem. There is no need to feel guilty for their lack of compassion, because they can believe that the aliens are war criminals who took advantage. The humans can "feel good" about their role. The refugee aliens, however, are handed over to the murderous, beautiful aliens, so all is not well for them.

Expert Answers

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It is not "All ... well," at least not for the "wretched" refugee aliens who came to Earth seeking peace and safety. They have reported that they left their home planet because of the "cleansing" that was taking place; they explain that its atmosphere was dissolved so that it overheated, killing all life there. They came "with nothing" and hoped for compassion. They did not get it. Instead, they were separated from one another, parceled out to various countries so as not to "burden" any one country too much, unable to communicate with people, accused of heartless acts (which turn out to be untrue), ostracized and even, in one case, beaten. Citizens of Earth keep hoping for some solution to the alien problem, and it seems to arrive when the beautiful silver spacecraft land and the "beautiful creatures" emerge from them, calling the first aliens war criminals, though their crimes are never enumerated. The narrator says,

Here was our solution. Here was our freedom. We had trusted and been fooled, we had suffered unjustly, we were good people with clean consciences sorely tried by circumstances outside our control But here was justice, as bright and shining as we imagined justice to be.

Thus, the first, wretched aliens are handed over to the beautiful ones. The humans, "satisfied with [their] participation in history," simply close their curtains and turn on their radios. In the end, then, "All was well" for them because they can feel self-satisfied and smug; they have done nothing wrong and can go on believing that they were imposed upon. All, we must assume, is not well for the poor refugee aliens, who are returned to those beautiful powerful aliens with their "chains and glowing rods."

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