Published in 1951 in a post-nuclear world, this short story by Arthur C. Clarke takes its title from a portion of Psalm 137, which laments the destruction of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. Much like Jerusalem, which was overrun and destroyed by the Babylonians, the actions of nuclear war have destroyed the Earth in this story, leaving 10-year-old Marvin and a small band of other humans to look on the ruins of Earth from their small colony on the moon. Clarke, a scientist himself, creatively utilizes the science fiction genre to paint a horrifying picture of what the potential destructiveness of advancements in war and weaponry could do to humanity’s future.
Themes, Motifs, and Symbols in If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth symbolism
THE EVIL PHOSPHORESCENCE
Marvin walks through the Farmlands, which is a greenhouse for the plants and vegetation of the Colony. Marvin loves the smell of life in the Farmlands. It’s different than the filtered oxygen found in the Residential levels. The Farmlands awaken Marvin’s instincts and longing for a place he’s not quite sure he understands: home.
The menacing glow highlights the lingering danger of the radiation fallout from the war. It also gives Marvin a sense of despair; he knows that that glow will be there for many years yet, and while maybe his children’s children will be able to return one day, he himself will never be able to go to Earth.