A Window on the Universe Essay Question and Sample Answer

A Window on the Universe Essay 2

In the introduction to this collection, it is said that the stories “remind us that human beings are only very small pebbles on a very big beach”. What do you think this means? How does the collection of stories accomplish this?

My interpretation of the quotation above is that the stories in A Window to the Universe show us that humans are small and insignificant in the broader context of the universe. The majority of stories in the collection describe a future in which Earth is connected to space, either through extensive space travel or contact with alien species. These stories show that, despite humanity’s current tendency to consider itself the most significant species in existence, we are just a tiny part of a much bigger picture.

A recurring theme throughout the stories in this collection is that of advanced space travel. In ‘Human Is’, little detail is provided about such travel, but it is clear that the story takes place between several different planets, some of which are ruined, such as Rexor, where Lester was replaced by an alien parasite. Similarly, the existence of other planets, and Earth’s contact with them, is implied in ‘The Machine That Won the War’, which describes a huge war between different planets. The existence of and communication with other planets reminds the reader that the Earth is just one tiny planet in a huge universe, full of millions of other planets. The vastness of the universe is also emphasised in ‘It’s a Good Life’, in which the community has been moved into a dark and frightening corner of the universe, totally isolated. The existence of these frightening empty spaces reminds the reader of the unimaginable expanse of the universe.

This collection of stories also contains several examples of alien life forms which are more advanced than humanity. In ‘Zero Hour’, it becomes evident throughout the story that threatening aliens are using the impressionability of children to infiltrate and attack Earth. Ominous clues throughout the story suggest that the aliens will destroy humanity, culminating in a frightening ending which implies that Mink will assist in the destruction of her own parents. Such descriptions of advanced alien life suggest that humans are not alone in this universe, and moreover, may be vulnerable to vicious attacks. Even non-threatening aliens, such as those in ‘The Star Ducks’, are presented as having intimidatingly advanced skills, such as mind-reading and mind-control. Thus, even when aliens don’t pose an immediate danger, the stories remind us that humans are basic creatures, and could be easily outwitted by more advanced species.

Earth and humanity are tiny specks in a vast universe, which could be teeming with life on other planets. These stories speculate about what could happen when we discover just how insignificant we are.


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