The Heat of the Universe, Pamela Zoline

January 15, 2010 scitina

  After our group discussion on The Heat of the Universe, written by Pamela Zoline my views on the norms of science fiction began to widen. My initial reading of this story left me confused and somewhat uninterested. However, allowing myself to see this narrative as a work of science fiction, although it does not contain the stereotypical plot lines of aliens and spaceships, permitted me to expand my definition of science fiction as well as develop interest in the narrative.

Zoline develops the daily events of the main character, Sarah Boyle. She includes sections of pure factual science as well as details about Boyle’s cleaning routines, shopping experiences, and child care. At the conclusion of the story, the reader witnesses the explosion of Sarah Boyle. She is continuously crying and begins throwing and destroying items around that house, when for the majority of the story she was described as constantly cleaning and organizing them. Zoline also leaves the last lines of the story with the picture of Sarah throwing eggs in the air but the reader never actually sees them fall.

The last lines in the narrative give a science fiction element to the story. This image also allowed me to go back and read the story revealing the levels of the narrative that portrayed her individual story and also how it related to society at the time. Sarah Boyle is self centered in her universe of caring for the children and the cleaning of the house. She is deep in thought about keeping things organized and the details of her day, but the narrative also includes subtle science points that causes Sarah to think about how everyday occurrences have an effect on her and her children. She talks about the long term and possible negative effects of something miniscule like eating bowls of frosted flakes. The little details like this begin to turn into major details of her life. Comparing Sarah to other women during this time, and the accepted roles of women, allow the connection of an individual level and societal level to be made.

The inclusion of “levels” and the images portrayed throughout the narrative expanded my definition and views of science fiction. Before reading this story, I strictly thought science fiction had to include other life forms and bizarre planets. However Pamela Zoline’s story, The Heat of the Universe conformed my view point entirely.

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