Asimov's Green Patches

Asimov's Green Patches

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A crucial portion of Asimov's analysis of human vulnerability is the supposed chaos of normal life. In Asimov's eyes, unity and cooperation function much better than the effort of any given individual towards a specific goal. In Green Patches a group of astronauts lands on Saybrook's planet. The planet is fascinating in that all of the organisms work in conjunction in order to maintain homeostasis. There exists no competition for food, for space, or for sex. In a sense, "all life on Saybrook's planet is a single organism"(371). Strangely enough the main sensory tissue/organ of all organisms on Saybrook's planet is not eyes, but rather "furry green patches"(364). More importantly however the green patches act as "super-sensory organs" (364) which are able to sense not only presence but thought as well. Lastly all organisms on Saybrook's planet have the ability of transmitting their own characteristic green patches onto other organisms. Within this ability lies Asimov's true purpose for the story. Captain Weiss, the narrator of the story clearly states, "compared to life on Saybrook's planet, Earth's growth is one big cancer"(374) in such "every species, every individual [does] its best to thrive at the expense of every other species and individual" (381). Asimov explains that the chaos of human society leads not to unified harmony but rather, "a fighting dependence, a dog-eat-dog dependence" (371). Asimov furthers his obvious "desire for an impetus for change by giving the creatures on Saybrook's planet an ever-present and omnipotent quality" (Marshall Cuthers- Isaac Asimov: Origins and Growth). In the story, a creature from Saybrook's planet has snuck in to the ship. The crew tries very careful to prevent such an occurrence but through disguise the creature becomes able to hide until the landing on Earth. The goal of the creature is also quite clear. It wishes to provide "completeness for the keen-thinkers" and that "they would be saved despite themselves"(387). The astronauts on-board understand that if exposed to Earth, the creature will be able to transmit its traits onto all organisms and alter the reproductive cycle so that all subsequent generations will have the same traits and Earth will become equivalent to the unified Saybrook's planet. Captain Weiss understands this and is stuck in a moral dilemma. If released, Earth will "become void of so many flaws"(392) and "there would be no more overpopulation, no more disease and no more crime and violence" (392).

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Nevertheless, Weiss also understands that it will be the end of human individualism and personal expression. Weiss's dilemma need not bother him for much longer. Asimov had already given the creature a missionary status and had given the organism ‘full power' to change the Earth. As stated by Christopher Lambert in Son of Foundation, "Asimov's hatred for human corruption is expressed in his short story Green Patches." "Anarchy to Asimov is simply an obstacle in what he believes as an awful incompetence for society to join together for unified and cooperative progress." At the conclusion of the story, the creature does indeed land on Earth and the upcoming "revolution" (397) ensues.

Owing to Asimov's interest in transcendental thought, the beginning of Nightfall starts with the question: "If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God"(334)? The quote written by Ralph Waldo Emerson fascinated Asimov. Nightfall, as a story, connects with the original theme of human vulnerability by introducing how religion and cultural norms blind people to certain truths around them. In Nightfall, Asimov creates the planet Lagash that orbits among six suns. The story encompasses an interview between Aton 77 the leader of an observatory in Saro City and Thermon, a reporter from the Saro City Chronicle. The scientists of Saro University have predicted a coming catastrophe and, as a result, have been ridiculed by the press and government. As Atton 77 explains to Theremon, that there once existed nine previous civilizations on Lagash. Each of these civilizations arose and declined in a cyclic fashion. In fact, "all the centers of culture were thoroughly destroyed by fire at their peak, with nothing left behind to give a hint as to the cause"(304). Aton 77 has nothing to explain as to the cause of the declines aside from one theory. This is, "the myth of the ‘Stars' that the Cultists have in their Book of Revelations" (307). Although ridiculous to Theremon, Aton 77, a scientist, believes that every two thousand and fifty years Lagash, "enters a huge cave, so that all the suns disappeared, and there came total darkness"(314)! Afterwards, "things called stars appeared, which robbed men of their souls and left them as unreasoning brutes, so that they destroyed the civilization they themselves had built" (314). The interview progresses and Theremon's original disbelief turns to gradual acceptance and lastly fear. The story also possesses the clear conflict between science and religion. Although Aton 77's conclusions are in fact drawn from the Cultists, the cult and its leader Sor 5 is against the observatory and its attempts to scientifically analyze the approaching catastrophe along with the mystery of the "Stars." Sor 5 even sends an accomplice Latimer 27 to sabotage the observatory. Mad with anger at the scientists' inability to compromise, Latimer screams in rage and must be locked in chains by the scientist. The cultists hold the "Stars" sacred and to reduce their meaning to any sort of science rather than of spirituality truly upsets Latimer. Soon enough the darkness begins as the remaining sun in Lagash's horizon becomes consumed by darkness from one end slowly forming a crescent. It was "like a gigantic eyelid shutting slantwise over the light of a world" (344). The reader however begins to realize that this in fact is no strange phenomenon; it is simply an eclipse. However, to the people of Lagash who orbit around sic suns, there exists perpetual light of some extent. Only when there is one sun, Beta, in the horizon is there any notion of dimness. When the eclipse occurs, this one source of light, slowly but surely becomes engulfed. Everyone on the planet has grown so accustomed to light that darkness is simply something inconceivable. As stated by Stephen H. Goldman in Isaac Asimov, "ignorance does have its disastrous results, which is demonstrated [during] the shock of recognition by the people of Lagash." When the Lagashians witness the eclipse they turn not to science but religion. Latimer rants, "From the stars there then reached down the Heavenly Flame, and where it touched, the cities of Lagash brought light unto the sky"(347). Indeed the people of Lagash contort their fear until their wild panic manifests itself in a lunatic desire for light. The people begin burning everything in the cities so as to generate the minimal light from fire. Stephen H Goldman thus comments "Asimov offers no guarantees, but he does make it clear that science offers the only hope that the cycle of rise and fall of civilization on Lagash can be broken."
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