Textual Comparison on the Portrayal of Science in Philip Wylie - Comparison Essay Example

A Textual Comparison on the Portrayal of Science in Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s When Worlds Collide and Richard Matheson’s I am Legend

Thesis Statement: Although science fiction novels offer much knowledge and information and feed people’s innate interest and curiosity about the world’s future, it may, in some ways, appear to be frightening and upsetting as well.

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Topical Outline

I.                   Introduction

A.    People’s natural fascination to science fiction

B.     Thesis statement

II.                The Depiction of Science and Scientific Technologies in “When Worlds Collide” (1933)

A.    A short plot background/summary of the novel

B.     What Balmer and Wylie tell about science in the novel

C.     How Balmer and Wylie depict and portray science and scientific technologies in the novel

III.             The Depiction of Science and Scientific Research in “I am Legend” (1954)

A.    A short plot background/summary of the novel

B.     What Matheson tells about science in the novel

C.     How Matheson depict and portray science and scientific technologies in the novel

IV.             Comparative Analysis on the Usage of Science as a Theme in When Worlds Collide and I am Legend

V.                Conclusion

A.    How the novel When Worlds Collide represents the period of Great Depression when it was written

B.     How the novel, I am Legend represents the era of Late Modernism and post-war when it was created

C.     The novels’ effectiveness of portraying their themes and sending out the message to the readers

A Textual Comparison on the Portrayal of Science in Philip Wylie

and Edwin Balmer’s When Worlds Collide and Richard Matheson’s I am Legend

Science fiction has always been a crowd favorite when it comes to novels. Over the years, this type of novel has been resurrecting in the silver screens, which implies that even the film producers and the moviegoers have shown much appreciation and fascination on such materials as well. This fascination to science fiction or sci-fi novels may in some ways be associated with people’s innate curiosity about the future and what the future might bring to this world in terms of technology. Since time immemorial, people seem to have developed this interest in trying to imagine and fantasize about the more modern and advanced technologies the future world may be able to develop. However, although sci-fi novels offer much knowledge and information and feed people’s innate interest and curiosity about the world’s future, it may, in some ways appear to be frightening and upsetting as well.  This thematic focus has been very well observed in a lot of novels such as Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s When Worlds Collide and Richard Matheson’s I am Legend. In their own ways, these two novels have contributed to the great impression of readers about sci-fi; however, some aspects of the novels have caused some level of fear and anxiety to its readers as well.

The Depiction of Science and Scientific Technologies in “When World Collide” (1933)

“Two planets struck. Decillions of tons of mass colliding in cosmic catastrophe.”

– When Worlds Collide (Balmer and Wylie 175)

In Balmer and Wylie’s When Worlds Collide, the world has been predicted by scientists to be struck and destroyed by a massive planet named “Bronson Alpha” which was estimated to be as big as the planet Uranus (Balmer and Wylie 20). This humongous planet was discovered in the novel by Dr. Sven Bronson, a South African astronomer, who was terrified about the possibility of this planet crashing to his home planet and all the life forms that exist in it. Thus, the existence of all the life forms on earth including the human race is threatened to be eradicated. Truly, this is a grave and serious issue that the whole world cannot take for granted. In this novel, it is apparent that science has been highly emphasized to be a significant institution and body of knowledge which has the utmost potential of finding ways of saving mankind. This was clearly depicted in the character of Dr. Bronson as well as the other scientists who gave everything they know and every effort they can give in order to device systems and technologies to save the human race from the great threat of obliteration. Thus, in this novel, the authors focused enough on science and technology in order to emphasize to the readers that this institution can indeed alter the biggest and the most serious threats and dilemmas on earth and on life.

In some ways, this novel happens to question God and his existence as it appears that science is becoming more able in saving life than the Supreme Being himself. In relation to this, aside from the interesting and impressing portrayal of science technologies, this novel also presents its theme in a terrifying and shocking way. Its marvel and impact are not just reflected on its presentation of science but on the illusion it poses that the human race is soon to end which adds to its frightening and shocking factor. This shock and terror may in some ways also prove that science has a highly significant impact on people’s lives. If not for science, a discovery like this would not be possible, and the entire world would have been at ease and free of worries and anxieties on how to save their lives from a threatening massive planet that will soon crash into their home planet. Nevertheless, this novel shows that apparently, with science, these frightful and terrifying facts are discoverable.

The Depiction of Science and Scientific Research in “I am Legend” (1954)

“[I am] a new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.”

– Neville (Matheson 141)

These unforgettable last words of a famous line of a dying protagonist are one of the most impressive lines which remained in the hearts and minds of horror and sci-fi novel readers. These last few words of the main protagonist, Neville, have proven that he has become as legend in the novel I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Neville was an ordinary man who was put in an extraordinary and terrifying challenge of being the last man on earth, as a bacterial pandemic apocalypse struck mankind and made all the rest of the world resemble a creature like a vampire. Neville then spent his days studying and researching about how the world caught this miserable illness which made everyone vampires, as he spent his nights attempting to sleep, despite his terror and loneliness, while the vampires attacked his house.

The fear and terror appeal of this novel has been undeniable; however, it also delves into the ability of science and scientific research to actually make an ordinary man extra-intelligent and knowledgeable about the complicated concepts of medicine and bacteriology. As Neville tried to find the answers to all the questions that have bugged him about the world’s current condition, he also attempted to find cures and remedies to turn the vampire-like creatures around him back to the humans they previously were—thus, returning the life in the world that he missed. This emphasizes the crucial role of science in Neville’s life and in his hope of making life and humanity return and re-inhabit the Earth. Through this portrayal, the novel was able to emphasize that science indeed plays a great role in making people understand even the most absurd, weirdest, and the most problematic and frightening realities. Science and science research in this novel was depicted in way where it appears as the only hope for human kind to be saved. In a lot of ways, it also poses a message that an ordinary individual, no matter how skeptical he or she may be on science and scientific facts, has the ability to become as apt and knowledgeable as scientists through patience and determination.

Comparative Analysis on the Usage of Science as a Theme in “When Worlds Collide” and “I am Legend”

In When Worlds Collide, science has been presented in a way that it appears to be the only solution to the grave and terrifying problem of the scientists to save the human race from being obliterated by a massive crash caused by the colossal planet, Bronson Beta. Similarly, I am Legend has also depicted science and science research as the only thing that can help the helpless and the almost-insane Neville to find the remedy to the frightening illness humankind has acquired which turned all of them into vampires, leaving him as the only human on the planet. Looking at the way these two novels used the thematic focus on science and science technology and research, it appears that their emphasis is both inclined towards the importance of science in saving the world and the human race from all the most terrifying and upsetting threats. Both novels likewise present this theme in a rather scary and frightening manner which presents the illusion that such events can happen in real life. This poses a message to the readers about how science can be powerful during such needy and desperate times which require humans’ survival skills.

However, When Worlds Collide depicts science as a whole body of knowledge in a more detailed manner, whereas in I am Legend, the role of science was only portrayed in Neville’s character and his discovery of the hidden scientist inside him. Nevertheless, both novels were able to effectively emphasize and accentuate science as a very powerful institution and body of knowledge. Also, both novels, although they differ in the intensity of terror and horror presented, were nonetheless able to affect and stir the fantasies of their readers through their very well-molded characters and plots.

Conclusion

When Worlds Collide was written by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie in 1933; it belongs to the era which represents science fiction and the period of Great Depression. Considering this, it appears understandable and logical that literary works of this kind seem necessary in order to illuminate in the minds of readers the role of science in their lives and how it can pose a new hope and optimism in saving them from future depression and threats. This novel, in some ways, became a tool which altered the general mood of the public during that era and stirred their hearts through the hope depicted in this novel. On the other hand, I am Legend was created by Richard Matheson in 1954, the era of late modernism and the Cold War. This makes the novel’s idea of segregation and isolation justifiable since during the time it was created, the war has just ceased.

In several ways, these two novels appear to be great representations of science and its ability to shape, alter, and help the world in times of great threats and problems. Through these novels, readers’ eyes are being opened to the terrifying as well as the hopeful realities science could give. A lot of people may indeed find it difficult to trust science in various situations, for they would rather rely on their faith towards a powerful Supreme Being. However, in these novels, science was portrayed as mankind’s only hope, and the desperation and misery of the characters further induced empathy, fear, and anxiety among the readers. Thus, in such very goose-bumping and mind-boggling twists and events, it can be said that Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie’s When Worlds Collide and Richard Matheson’s I am Legend are two ultimate representations of science as a source of hope amidst the depressing and terrifying threats and dilemmas the world faces everyday.

Works Cited

Balmer, Edwin and Philip Wylie. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

Matheson, Richard. I am Legend. Connecticut: Fawcett Publications, 1954.

 

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