The Stars My Destination

by Alfred Bester

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Student Question

In The Stars My Destination, how does Olivia influence Gully's emotional and spiritual growth?

Quick answer:

In The Stars My Destination, the role that Olivia plays in the development of Gully's emotional and spiritual growth is that of a negative example. He falls in love with her, but then he realizes that he is every bit as evil as she is. This creates in him a profound desire to change. He decides to submit himself to authorities and accept whatever punishment he is due.

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At the beginning of the classic science fiction novel The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, a man named Gulliver Foyle (Gully) is barely surviving in a coffin-like enclosure aboard a wrecked spaceship called the Nomad. Another spaceship called the Vorga passes close by, but instead of responding to Gully's emergency signals, it ignores them. Gully becomes obsessed with taking his revenge on whoever was responsible aboard the Vorga.

Gully manages to escape the Nomad and a crazed cult on an asteroid that tattoos his face to resemble a tiger's, and he goes after the Vorga, which is owned by the Presteign clan. He is captured and sent to prison; he escapes and returns to the Nomad to steal a fabulous fortune in the ship's safe; and then he uses the fortune to enhance his skills and assume another identity.

Olivia is the daughter of the head of the Presteign clan. Gully meets her at a social event. She is an albino. Although she is blind to normal vision, she can see electromagnetic waves and infrared light. Gully is immediately infatuated and can barely control his emotions. Olivia dismisses him indifferently. Later, though, a nuclear attack is launched by the Outer Satellites, and Gully goes to try to save her. They talk and kiss, and then she dismisses him again.

When Gully is about to be captured on Mars, Olivia rescues him. He learns that Olivia was the one in charge aboard the Vorga when it ignored his pleas for help. She is as amoral and ruthless as he is. They confess their love for each other. She says she is a criminal because she hates everyone due to her blindness and dependency on others. Gully comes to loathe himself and decides that his search for vengeance is over and that he wants to set things right. He decides to turn himself in and accept his punishment.

We see, then, that without intending it, Olivia helps Gully to see the evil in himself and awakens within him a desire to change.

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