The Three-Body Problem

by Liu Cixin
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Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 414

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin is a layered story with many themes about technology, morality, and human affairs.

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The author offers themes about human affairs, sociology, and government that are an observation on our current political climate. The leadership's control of information is a prevailing theme throughout the text, with important information being hidden from the masses by the Chinese government. We see this withholding of information repeated by Ye toward humanity and her colleagues, by Evans toward those in the ETO organization, and finally by Trisolarans when it is revealed that they have sent machines to spy on and alter humanity.

Another theme is the morality of violence and its justification. Ye initially begins her journey outraged by the oppression and violence perpetrated by the Red Guard, but eventually welcomes the destructive actions of the Trisolarans. Evans also purportedly believes that all species are created equal yet later turns toward violence.

Another thematic thread, as represented by the title, is the idea of three juxtaposed parties who are all against one another in one shape or form—essentially a power triangle. The book explores the structure and shift of powers as they try to balance each other out. At the beginning of the book, there is the Red Guard and its prison, with Ye and the journalist who alternately support and sabotage one another. Later in the novel, the ETO fragments into three warring factions, the Adventists, the Redemptionists, and the Survivors, who all compete to utilize the incoming Trisolarans to their own ends. The trio of suns around which Trisolaris orbits is a representation of this theme, as the proximity to each one drastically changes the landscape of the planet, as do the leanings of each faction of humans.

A final theme is technology. It pervades the text as something that is explored and utilized by every warring organization—to both benevolent and destructive ends. Ye sends and relays messages with extraterrestrials, Evans builds a ship to communicate and travel, Wang uses nanotechnology for good but later develops it into a weapon, and the Trisolarans create Sophons for sophisticated computation but use them to disrupt technology and create hallucinations on Earth. Technology is a weapon and a balm in the novel, and it is used to explore the intentions of intelligent creatures and to exemplify the idea that the more power someone is given, the more good they are capable of—but also, the more damage they can do if corrupted.

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