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The most obvious connection between this story and the Cold War is the amount of fear the narrator felt for the unseen enemy. During the time of the Cold War, countries were in fear of each other as the presence of a nuclear threat loomed above all people. This stalemate caused a fairly consistent separation between the involved nations, primarily the United States and Soviet Russia. With a lack of connection between the two superpowers, fear could continue to mount as citizens were unaware of what their enemy might be developing as a weapon. As time passed, the developments potentially became worse - at least in the minds of the people - and society became more fearful of the unknown. This was reflected later in the era of McCarthyism, as people began to fear the worst of their neighbors, since anyone could be a Soviet spy!
Clarke’s story reflect the fear of the unknown. First, the narrator conveys the American idea of expansionism (more common at that time): the beginning of the story is dedicated to describing the fleet sent to the moon, now exploring and charting the lunar expanse. Then, he has to explore the strange object in the distance, he can’t help himself. This contributes to the idea of the desire to “conquer” and an inability to abide the unknown. Once he finds the structure, he is filled with terror at the existence of it, primarily because he is unaware of how it can exist, who placed it there, and what its purpose is. Immediately, his mind goes to the defense, assuming the worst: it is the tool of an enemy. The human race spends twenty years trying to break into it, unable to accept it as a mystery, and eventually turns to using their most destructive force, the same weapon that inspired fear in the human race during the Cold War.
As the narrator closes out the story, he shares his fear for this new, unfamiliar enemy, whose capabilities and motivations are a mystery to the human race, a reflection of the feelings of America towards Soviet Russia in the late 1940s. Interestingly, Clarke’s portrayal of the American mindset at the time of his story represented the way Americans dealt with the unknown force of Communism for nearly fifty years after the story was published. What’s frightening is how well it reflects the American fear of Islamic countries and the specter of “terrorism”.
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