One of the reasons I enjoy science fiction, other than the robots, the zombies, and the forcing us into the unknown, is that the genre lends itself very well to morality tales. I really enjoy stories with a message and science fiction is great for that. Of course, not every story has to have some grand message about good and evil, right and wrong, but the aspirational aspect of science fiction is something I really enjoy.
So far on my list, I’ve read quite a few stories that I interpret as morality tales. Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, R.U.R., and even Brave New World fall into this category.
But first, let’s get clear on what this category is in the first place.
The Traditional Morality Tale
Morality tales originated as plays back in the day (read: Medieval Times). They followed a protagonist who was encouraged to choose good over evil throughout the course of the story. The play Everyman is a famous morality play about the main character, Everyman, who represents humanity, as he goes on a quest to find someone to join him on his journey to Heaven. In the end, Everyman learns that only his Good Deeds will accompany him to the Pearly Gates.
Morality Tales & Science Fiction
The stories I’ve listed above don’t fall strictly into the traditional definition of a morality tale, because the protagonists aren’t encouraged to choose a life of good over evil. However, I still see them as such because they encourage the reader to choose good over evil, right over wrong.
In Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we see the negative consequences of messing with nature and bringing a creation into existence that we’re not prepared for. In R.U.R., we see the rise of the robots over their human overlords when they gain awareness that they are simply being used for menial tasks and labour. And in Brave New World we witness what happens when all of our human wrinkles and emotions are ironed out in an attempt at world peace.
Whether it was the original intention of the authors or not, these stories show me that we must be responsible with our creations, that we musn’t mess with nature, no matter how tempting, and that empty happiness is a tyranny all its own.
These messages sit heavy and resonate with me. I love stories that teach us a lesson because we get the lesson without having to live through the hard stuff and learn it on our own in real life. There’s an adage I’ve lived by for quite some time now, and that’s, “Smart people learn from the mistakes of others,” or something like that.
Morality tales (in my expanded definition) allow us to do just that. And sci-fi in particular allows us to take a situation to its logical end and learn the lessons without experiencing the real-life apocalypse.
If you’re looking for some sci-fi to read, the novels I mentioned above are by themselves a great selection of classic science fiction that you’re sure to enjoy.
Ciao for now!