Essay on Free Will and Predestination in Asimov's Short Stories

Essay on Free Will and Predestination in Asimov's Short Stories

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In one of Asimov’s earliest and most-loved pieces, “Nightfall,” the theme of man inability to alter the future regardless of free will is quite clear. Asimov rejects the age-old adage that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Instead, he emanates a general tone that even those who do know history are doomed to repeat it, as evidenced by the events and people of Lagash.

There is no doubt that the people of Lagash have free will, shown by their actions. The reactions of the characters to different events prove this. In addition, the characters act in many different ways. Take for example, the beginning of the story, when the main character, Theremon 762, convinces the director of Saro University, Aton 77, to allow him to stay and report on the upcoming events. Aton slowly changes his mind over the course of their discussion. “‘You may leave,’ [Aton 77] snapped over his shoulder.” Later, “‘Since your good friend Beenay insists so urgently, I will give you five minutes. Talk away.’ ” And soon after, “‘You may stay if you wish, then’” (Asimov, “Nightfall” 379-381). If a deity or destiny were controlling Aton, Theremon would not have needed to convince Aton in a lengthy debate to let him stay. Other evidence also notes free will; Sharp conflicts of belief are evident in the two different groups, the scientists and the cultists. The cultists believe in a mysticism based on faith and the accuracy of their books of faith. The scientists believe in pure research only and treat the Cultists as illogical mystics (Kerschen 224). This also points to free will by showing the diversity of opinions on Lagash. Surely if Asimov wanted his characters not to have free will, he would have give...


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...nts. Web. 15 Mar. 2010. .
LaBounty, David. “The Origins of Inspiration: Winwood Reade’s Role in the Foundation of Isaac Asimov’s Psychohistory.” Extrapolation 39.4 (1998): 364. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 Feb. 2010. .
Moore, Maxine. “Asimov, Calvin, and Moses.” Voices for the Future: Essays on Major Science Fiction Writeres. Ed. Thomas D. Clarence. N.p.: Popular, 1976. 88-103. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. .
Suvin, Darko. “Three World Paradigms fr SF: Asimov, Yefremov, Lem.” Pacific Quarterly Moana IV.3 (1979): 271-83. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. .
Wilson, Raymond J. “Asimov’s Mystery Story Structure.” Extrapolation 19.2 (1978): 101-07. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Web. 4 Mar. 2010.

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