Themes and Meanings

Questions of enduring values during an age of scientific advances and material prosperity seem to be posed on several levels in this work. Motivations for murder and degrees of guilt may be different for particular individuals, but the comparative effects do not appear to be diminished by traversing immense distances or through the passage of several centuries. Other forms of attachment and repulsion that originally seemed fixed in particular points of space and time also have a lasting quality, which the first convict realizes when he calls forth the image of his wife from a distant planet many light-years away. At other times, when the two convicts discuss such matters between themselves, differences of temperament and indeed of values emerge.

The first convict is of an impulsive, ardent, and romantic disposition, whose fatal flaw it was to be carried away by his longings and his urges; the other man, who claims that his companion disdains him, is of a calculating and utilitarian bent, and he is inclined not so much to justify his actions as to insist that in his way the first convict has been culpable as well. Their contrasting outlooks seem reflected in the differing attitudes of two ages, and no doubt it is significant that the first convict finds it difficult to accept the moral premises of an advanced technological world, whereas for his fellow prisoner such a future society seems more congenial. On a more general plane it would appear that science and human values are by no means easily compatible here, and that any attempt to promote unbridled progress without regard for deeper concerns can only produce a social order where people carry on an existence that is bereft of any...

(The entire section is 693 words.)