The Cold Equations and Immigration: Understanding SciFi Through Real Life

October 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

“No one would ever let it be like this if it could be changed.”

Whenever I read a book or short story, I find myself working through the material by placing it in the context of another event or work with which I’m more familiar. I consider the moral implications of Raskolnikov’s actions in Crime and Punishment by consulting with my favorite television show, Breaking Bad. I temper my research on queer theory through my own experiences in college and high school. And, upon finishing “The Cold Equations,” the first connection I drew was an issue at the forefront of the minds of millions: immigration.

Hear me out. I’m not trying to espouse my personal political beliefs, nor am I grasping at straws for a connection between this issue about which I’m passionate and Godwin’s short story. However, the plight of the main character who effectively guaranteed her own death bore striking similarities to recent news reports of refugees and migrants who perish on collapsing boats headed to the European Union. A major difference, however, was the reason for these deaths: Marilyn died because of the physical laws, while these refugees perish from an indirect combination of international relations, politics, and legal disputes. One is unable to be changed; the communicator knows his duty, but struggles nonetheless. The other, many argue, shouldn’t be an issue in the first place; regardless of personal and political beliefs, it’s clear that countries with clean human rights records don’t send impossibly large numbers refugees and migrants fleeing to other areas.

When Marilyn talks about the sacrifices her family made to make her life better, I couldn’t help but tear up. Once again, I was reminded of stories I had heard: about people who come to America, building up savings to send to their families back home; parents who were doctors and lawyers in their old countries but work in minimum wage jobs in their new ones. I can’t claim or pretend that I’ve experienced the same plights as these people, but I can empathize with their struggles and remain in awe of their fortitude. In much the same way, I admired Marilyn’s bravery as she spoke to her brother for the last time.

The moral implications of “The Cold Equations” seem pretty clear: death, regardless of circumstance, is something that should be mourned and dealt with delicately. The “new frontier” towards which Marilyn travels was not simple to establish, nor is it easy to reach. Perhaps the connections I draw between these issues and those of millions of immigrants, refugees, and migrants who pass away during their journeys is more reflective of my personal grappling with current issues than it is of the intentions of the author. Maybe I’m completely missing the point of this story (after all, I did miss the discussion session…). But I suppose that, in some way, actively reading is just an exercise in connecting your own ideas with the ideas of others.

–JR. Extra post!


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