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“The Cold Equation” Tom Godwin Page 9.

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1 “The Cold Equation” Tom Godwin Page 9

2 Tom Godwin 1915-1980 Science fiction author
Review your notes on Bradbury/Science Fiction to remember what qualifies a story to be science fiction Published three novels, and thirty short stories (“The Cold Equation” included)

3 “The Cold Equation” Controversial short story Written in the mid-1950s
Does qualify in the science fiction genre You know this because: Set in the future Space travel Earth has proceeded to have missions outside of our galaxy

4 Background of Story Set in year 2178
Charts the story of the pilot Barton who is headed toward the planet of Woden, carrying serum for six gravely ill men Barton finds evidence of a stowaway on board, which presents a very dangerous problem

5 Background of Story The space craft is so precisely calculated in terms of fuel, that any extra weight will cause the craft to crash and anyone aboard to die (coincidentally enough, this is what the conflict is) “The Cold Equation” becomes a situation where Barton must decide to kill one, or let a total of 8 perish Which crime is worse for any emotional human?

6 Terms to Be Familiar With
Jettison: “thrown overboard” Interstellar: “among the stars” Galactic: “pertaining to a galaxy” Hyperspace: “space of more than three dimensions”

7 (*please spell their names right!)
Welcome to… “The Cold Equation” Main characters: Barton and Marilyn (*please spell their names right!)

8 While we read… Complete the handout I provided you. You might need an additional sheet of paper to complete the assignment. We’ll be working on this while we go through the short story.


10 Setting Discussion What year is the story set?
What is the spacecraft called? What does the spacecraft accomplish?

11 Suspense How is the author building suspense as Barton seeks out the stowaway? What is it about the language or the alternatives that are offered?

12 Cause/Effect Barton knows that if he does not jettison Marilyn to her death, that seven others will die: Barton and the six others needing the medication that his craft is carrying Regardless, Marilyn will die. There is no way to prevent her death.

13 Author’s Purpose Why does Godwin describe Marilyn in such detail? What impact does this have on readers? Why does he describe her as a puppy?

14 Discussion Explain why you think that the Commander is so quick to have Marilyn killed? Why he is so cold? What are your feelings on Barton? What should Barton be doing right now?

15 Theme What is the view of technology? What should we understand about technology as humans who rely so heavily on it?

16 What is Happening? At 19:10, what happens? To Barton? To the ship?
To Marilyn?

17 Euphemism Why does the author choose the words “going” rather than “dying”?

18 Barton as a Character What is he like? What type of character is he thus far? Why is he agreeing with Marilyn?

19 Gerry and Marilyn Is it right that she should get to talk to Gerry?
What will Barton do if Gerry doesn’t get on the radio soon? What would you say if you only had moments left to live?

20 Closure Discussion Barton shares the last moments of Marilyn’s life in regret. However, the question is: DID HE DO THE RIGHT THING? Take this into account: Marilyn was destined to die either way. There could be no way to save her life. Did Barton choose wisely to kill one and save seven others?

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