Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Understated Symbolism

Chapter One of Ensign Flandry begins "Evening on Terra -" and goes on to show that the Terran Empire is old and decadent.

Chapter Two begins "Night on Starkad - " and goes on to show that the Terran Intelligence Officer does not understand why his enemies, the Merseians, are present on Starkad.

Chapter Three begins "Morning on Merseia - " and goes on to show that the Merseians are beginning a long campaign ("We may need a million years."(1)) for racial hegemony with Starkad somehow playing a crucial role. (We are not told how yet. That is the mystery that is to be unravelled later in the novel.)

Chapter Four discontinues the references to times of day but introduces the missing Dominic Flandry whom the Intelligence Officer had thought was probably dead and who will thwart the Merseians. Any reader will be affected by this symbolism possibly without noticing it. Terra, Starkad and Merseia are different planets in orbit around different stars so their evening, night and morning cannot possibly form a chronological sequence. Anderson could have shown us events at any time of day or night on any of them. But it is appropriate that we think of Terra in the evening, its Intelligence Service in the dark and Merseians, as they think, in their metaphorical morning. Then, without further symbolism, we meet the individual who will upset their plans on Starkad and in many other places as the series continues beyond its opening novel.

(1) Poul Anderson, Ensign Flandry, London, 1976, p. 31.

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