The Message by Isaac Asimov
In The Message by Isaac Asimov we have the theme of conflict, ego, patriarchy, happiness and change. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the reader realises after reading the story that Asimov may be exploring the theme of conflict. George has ventured back 900 years to the conflict that occurred during WWII in North Africa. Rather than be afraid he is so excited he chooses to leave a message there so that others might know he was there. George is not alone in doing this. The other men at the beginning of the story also relive memories of placing messages at times of importance throughout history. Though this may be seen to be harmless it is driven, especially in George’s case, by ego. George longs to be part of something that is so different to his life in the thirtieth century.
The theme of happiness is self-evident in the story. George is very happy that his messages mean he is part of history. Though the reality is George may in fact be risking changing the future by leaving his messages. He is not acting as a serious researcher is meant to do and if anything he is acting childishly. As too are the other people who leave messages behind them. It is also interesting that the story is void of women. There are no women mentioned in the story. Just three men including George. This may be significant as Asimov may be letting the reader know that even the future will remain patriarchal. Something that many in the twentieth or twentieth first century would be disappointed by. There does not appear to be any equality between the sexes. Something that would further play on the theme of ego.
There may be some symbolism in the story that might be important. The fact that there is a degree of red tape or bureaucracy for George to go through suggests that the government is very much in control. Something that again might displease a twenty-first century reader. Mankind does not appear to be independent of government, who run programs that allow for scientists to go back in time. Scientists like George who are not very mature and risk changing the future. In reality George will no longer be an observer of WWII but he will become part of it depending on what type of message he has left.
The seriousness of war, particularly WWII is not taken into consideration by men like George. Who view their excursions back in time to be adventures rather than serious research projects? If anything the government has built a tool (a time machine) that allows for those in the future to take part in events of the past. A dangerous thing for anyone to do and something that should not be treated lightly. As readers we are also aware that the thirtieth century is nothing like the twentieth. It is peaceful and calm and perhaps somewhat boring for George. Lessons from the past may have been learnt but man’s desire for conflict or war or to be part of war remains.