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A Fragile Future Essay

1889 words - 8 pages

Nothing in life is ever certain or can be taken for granted, including a human life. Having good health, plenty of money or even the newest technology cannot secure a safe existence. The life of a human is very delicate. One small disruption can cause injury or even fatality. Robert Heinlein frequently includes, in his short stories, the theme of humankind’s fragility in life. Most people believe that they will be safer in the future because of the constant improvements in technology, but this thought is not certain. In “Expanded Universe”, a collection of short stories, Heinlein writes about the true characteristics of the future (Slusser 229). From a machine that can inform a person the day they die, to the harsh reality of working at a nuclear power plant, and even to the Moon; Heinlein, in his narratives, combines a future surrounding with a life-threatening situation to create an appealing plot. Throughout his short stories, Robert A. Heinlein introduces a futuristic society and identifies the fragility and mortality of mankind.

In "Blowups Happen", Heinlein uses a person's stressful occupation to show his theme of human mortality. The story is about the lives of employees working at, "...the most dangerous machine in the world-an atomic power plant" (Heinlein 44). Each day, the workers feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders; one small error in their work could kill thousands of people. Their occupation is simply to monitor the nuclear reactors and test new elements. The goal of this is to create energy with a bi-product utilizable for fuel. It sounds simple, and even, “sensitive people may need to work under enormous pressures, but they mostly continue to function” (Franson). Unfortunately, that is not the case for the employees here. These workers are not impervious to the anxiety of this job and “must be watched continually by a psychologist for fear the pressure of working at such a dangerous locale could lead to sabotage” (Abbey). Every mind at this job is fragile and eventually has a breaking point.

One day during testing, the reaction affects the workers, like Erickson, a lot more than usual. “The floor slapped his feet like some incredible bastinado. The concussion that beat on his ears was so intense that it paralyzed the auditory nerve almost before it could be recorded as sound” (Heinlein, “Blowups Happen” 72). When Erickson got up, he “found he was trembling uncontrollably and realized, for the first time, that he was getting old” (Heinlein, “Blowups Happen” 72). The recoil from the reaction caused Erickson to see that his body was not as durable as it once was. He realizes he is not immortal and that his body is actually very fragile.

Though the overall reaction is a success, it is actually a fluke and is not good news for the main supervisor. After many complaints from the psychiatrists and scientists about the safety of the workers and even the public, the main superintendent decides the...

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