Social Concerns / Themes

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 624

Where the main characters in The Demolished Man (1953) largely were from the upper strata of society, many of those in The Stars My Destination are the opposite, representing the lower social classes. Gulliver Foyle, the protagonist, is an uneducated, unskilled Mechanic's Mate 3rd Class on the twenty-fourth-century spaceship, Nomad. As in the earlier novel, events are put into motion in a business context, and they result in an overpowering desire for revenge. The outcome is that an individual again is goaded into a special awareness of himself and forced to develop supranormal powers in order to survive. The character's social awareness begins to develop next, and through extraordinary events the individual makes an evolutionary leap.

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Gully begins as an insensitive egoist and ends up as a representative of the next development in the human race. He has become a superman in the sense that the characters in George Bernard Shaw's dramas become supermen. Essentially common people, Shaw's characters become animated by a life-force that compels them to seek others of a like constitution in order to advance the race. What for Gully started out as a mad, antisocial drive for revenge becomes a movement toward social responsibility that encompasses his entire culture.

The plot device that initiates the action in the novel is a simple one. During World War II, German submarines occasionally set traps by placing shipwreck survivors where they could be found; when another ship went to the rescue, it became easy prey for the submarine. As a consequence, survivors were sometimes left to die. Bester's story begins in medias res. That is, Gully already has been shipwrecked. He is the sole survivor of an attack by forces of the Outer Planets, and he has been marooned in space for 170 days. Suddenly, a ship appears that can rescue him — but inexplicably it leaves him stranded. Enraged, Gully focuses his whole being on finding the ship and its crew so that he can destroy them for having abandoned him.

There are two items that block Gully's act of revenge, though, and these complicating elements are what the novel is really about. First, humanity has discovered a mental process called jaunting that is a limited form of teleportation. Trained practitioners can move instantaneously from one jaunte stage to another up to 1,000 miles distant. Second, there was a secret cargo aboard the Nomad, a...

(The entire section contains 624 words.)

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