Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star” won a Hugo Award for best short story of the year. First published in Infinity Science Fiction, it has been widely anthologized since then. Many of Clarke’s stories have religious themes or elements.

“The Star” makes ample use of symbols. It opens with a description of the juxtaposition of the Jesuit’s crucifix with the astrophysicist’s computer. The dichotomies of the narrator’s life are thus immediately apparent. The narrator’s picture of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, which historically has been dedicated to education—bringing light—is juxtaposed with the tracings from his spectrophotometer, which measures another kind of light. The two concepts of light and enlightenment have come together. The narrator even wonders what the pictured man would have made of the pictured tracings.

Another important symbol in the work is the phoenix. The Phoenix Nebula is the supernova the ship has come to study. In mythology, the phoenix is a bird that dies and is reborn out of the ashes of its pyre. The phoenix has been used as a symbol for Jesus and for Christianity because it seems to die but, rather than remaining ashes, it rises from the dead to live again. This is the hope that Christians have for themselves and a major part of the belief they have in Jesus as the Christ. One might argue that out of the funeral pyre of this lost race came the birth of the new race of...

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Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The 1950s: U.S.-Soviet Rivalry and the ‘‘Red Scare’’
Arthur C. Clarke wrote ‘‘The Star’’ during a time...

(The entire section is 532 words.)

Setting

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

This story is set in 2500 A.D., on a space traveling ship that has left Earth, arrived at a distant planetary nebula around a star that went...

(The entire section is 237 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Point of View and Narration
‘‘The Star’’ is a first person narration by an astrophysicist who is also a...

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Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

There seems to be general agreement among critics and readers that either "The Star" or "The Nine Billion Names of God" is Clarke's best...

(The entire section is 424 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

"It is three thousand light-years to the Vatican," the story begins, and immediately the reader is far from home and far from now, caught up...

(The entire section is 360 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

  • 1954: There are 32,501 Jesuit priests, brothers, and scholars in the world, with 7,630 in the United States....

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Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. When one travels far from home, does one leave everything of home behind, including behaviors, beliefs, or traditions?

2. Is...

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. What is the history of the development of the scientific method? Why is it believable for Clarke to write a Jesuit character as an...

(The entire section is 327 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

  • ‘‘The Star’’ is an example of an interior monologue. Do you think that the narrator’s doubts heighten the suspense of the...

(The entire section is 230 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

"The Star" was the final story in a collection of Clarke's stories that appeared under the title The Nine Billion Names of God. An...

(The entire section is 189 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

  • The Nine Billion Names of God: The Best Short Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (1967) by...

(The entire section is 414 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Clarke, Arthur C. The Nine Billion Names of God, New York: Ballantine/Signet, 1967. A collection of works, including "The Star."

...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Sources
Clarke, Arthur C. The Other Side of the Sky. Signet, 1959, p. vi.

Hollow, John....

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