The Human Effect Essay

The Human Effect Essay

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Fredrick Brown’s “Arena” and Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety” are short stories that explore how our humanity affects our response to conflicts against enemies that we perceive as being dangerous and alien. While one story shows how humanity’s strengths will allow us to overcome hardship and ultimately triumph, the other story illustrates how our pitfalls and hubris can lead us to destruction.

In “Arena” humanity is preparing for a monumental space battle against an alien race known as the Outsiders when a mysterious, God-like Entity kidnaps a human named Carson from the edge of the conflict. Carson is deposited naked and unarmed in an enclosed alien environment; his only companions are an Outsider he calls the Roller and a number of small, blue lizards. The unseen Entity explains to Carson telepathically that, because of how evenly matched humanity and the Outsiders are, a conflict between the two could only lead to the destruction of one and the “decay” of the other, which the Entity sees as an unsatisfactory result (Brown 56). To that end, the Entity has decided that he will pit one human against one Outsider in a fight to the death, and he will then destroy the losing race, so that at least one of the two species has a chance to reach its potential. Carson and the Roller then proceed to observe and test each other’s attributes and abilities. The harsh environment quickly wears Carson down and when he is close to reaching the end of his rope, an act of mercy shows him the way through the barrier that separates him from the Roller. Carson manages to kill the Roller and secure his race’s survival.

While “Arena” shows a war that is halted before it can truly start, Dick’s “Second Variety” begins in a landscape already laid...

... middle of paper ...

...ns to use against each other” prove prophetic? (Dick 331).

If “Arena” was a story about how aspects of humanity--like courage, mercy, and intelligence--save humanity in the end, then “Second Variety” is a story about how other aspects of humanity tear us down. When humans react out of emotions like pride and fear, our actions can be shortsighted and ultimately self-destructive. When humanity reacts with courage and intelligence, we can be the strongest of races.

Works Cited

Brown, Fredric. “Arena.” Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts. Ed. Heather Masri. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 296-331. Print.

Dick, Philip K. “Second Variety.” Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts. Ed. Heather Masri. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 52-73. Print.

Masri, Heather. Ed. Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

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