Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

05 Oct 2012

(Novel) More Than Human by: Theodore Sturgeon

(Reaction) My Brother's Keeper by: Antonio Conejos

Sturgeon's novel details individuals with extraordinary abilities. Yet More than Human is concerned not with what these super humans can do but what they lack, what they are searching for. Indeed, the pattern of seeking is repeated throughout the novel, notably through the actions of Lone, Gerry and Hip.

What is the missing piece of these super humans, what do they need to make them whole? What they lack is a consequence of who they are, unique; they see themselves as distinct from normal human beings. Fittingly then what they lack is empathy, the ability to give a damn about other people.

This lack of feeling for others is natural consequence of who they are. As they see themselves apart from the rest of humanity they naturally feel they cannot relate with the feelings (sufferings and joys, triumphs and frustrations) of common folk.

Yet empathy is what drives More than Human. The superhuman quest is a desire (at first even unacknowledged on their part) to understand people unlike themselves. The homo gestalt may indeed be a superior strain of man but they can only begin to form once they learn basic human emotions such as empathy and compassion.

Crucially, the formation of the homo gestalt only begins after Lone has learned or imbibed these traits from his time with the Prodds. Lone is about to turn away the starving twins and Janie until he remembers how the Prodds took him in when he was starving and lost, He sat with the warm pot in his lap and looked out the open door into the thickening night. Unbidden, an image appeared to him - Mrs. Prodd, a steaming platter of baked ham flanked by the orange gaze of perfect eggs.

Thus, homo gestalt does not begin with Lone but with the Prodds. It is this humble family which imparts to Lone compassion and empathy. This same compassion is what triggers him to begin to form the parts of the homo gestalt.

Furthermore, the completion of the homo gestalt (under Gerry, through the intervention of Hip) can be traced back to Lone as well. Hip's confrontation with Gerry is critical to the evolution of the homo gestalt. Yet Hip would never have learned of the existence of the super humans if not for the anti-gravity device, a gadget invented by Lone only to help the Prodds.

He did it... only because an old man who had taught him something he could not name was mad with bereavement and needed to work and could not afford a horse. The anti-gravity device is born out of Lone's pity and compassion for Mr. Prodd.

Yes the components of the homo gestalt are capable of amazing things. Yet the primary evolution of the super-humans is not physical or even mental but moral or philosophical. The super-humans were born with their gifts, and as such can be seen as the evolution of human biology. But throughout the novel they are striving for something more, trying to evolve into something more; and the subject of this evolution is not biological but spiritual.

All of them become more after they have learned empathy. Thus Lone can only begin to constitute the parts of the homo gestalt after he has spent time with the Prodds and has come to care for them. Hip's introduction into the group begins with girl begins to care for him, when she can no longer stand the casual violence being inflicted on him by Gerry.

Even the conclusion of the novel emphasizes the importance of caring for others. The other super humans see their role as being wardens, And here too was the guide, the beacon, for such times as humanity might be in danger... a laughing thing with a human heart and a reverence for its human origin.

Review:

A new age story with an old age message: it all begins with love. That may sound corny and the novel's message may strike one as a bit hokey but it's surprisingly a great read.

Truly, this novel should not have worked. The plot is threadbare with a confusing final act which has characters acting against their interests and logic. (Hip and Janie confront Gerry seemingly without a plan and the way Gerry is subdued strikes me as somewhat unbelievable for someone who is close to omniscient.)

Moreover, things come off as altogether too pat with the characters stumbling across each other seemingly at random. (I mean what are the odds that all these super humans live in the same proximity as one another?)

Still, More than Human does work. In part this is because of the language, the novel has a playful voice, sly and gleeful at the same time, There, through the edges of the hedges, the ledges and wedges of windows were shouldering up to the sky. The lawns were sprayed-on green, neat and clean, and all the flowers looked as if they were afraid to let their petals break and be untidy. Awesome paragraph!

Finally, Sturgeon is quite skillful in his thematic development. The reader does feel a certain empathy for the homo gestalt. It is no accident that they are all the product of broken homes, violence and hate. Yet that they overcome this, by learning empathy, by evolving to compassion; is the novel's culminating wonder.

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