Do Astronauts Dream of Cosmic Humor?

As with every week in ASTU 100A, we’re continuing on our discussions of life narratives. This week, we took a look at Facebook and the different ways we utilize the social media platform and how that results in our own engagement of the site such as advertisements being tailored personally for the user. However, I won’t be discussing Facebook in this post, I will be looking at the novel, The Martian by Andy Weir and the fictional life narrative of astronaut Mark Watney.

In the novel, Watney is marooned on the planet Mars after a storm causes his crew to believe he is dead. He miraculously survives and is faced with an even greater issue than death; surviving on Mars. The reason why I’m choosing this is because of the unique way that the character looks at his own morality as well as how he handles being alone on a planet that is 225 million km from his home. The way Weir portrays Watney is something reminiscent of Monty Python or Ryan Knighton in his memoir, Cockeyed. Watney’s opening lines are laden with vulgarities regarding his situation and can be arguably regarded as dark humor. We’re invited into his own thoughts and he routinely thinks not grimly regarding his situation, but in a jovial manner, determined to find the next puzzle to fix.

Notably in a parallel between Earth and Mars, Mission Control wonders “I wonder what he’s thinking” to which Watney thinks “How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.” (Weir) The way that Watney approaches the issues he faces, from explosions to having to create water tell us something about ourselves. Weir designed a character that not only remains unwavering in his plight to make it home, but he is lighthearted and humorous.  It has been stated by Oscar Wilde that  “Art imitates life” but I don’t believe in that. I believe that Weir created a character who is inventive and headstrong when it comes to solving his own problems so that the reader or viewer can adopt that mindset in their lives. The world currently is volatile and full of different issues that require not only cool heads in order to negotiate, but require different ways of thinking. Watney in the novel was a defining example of that ability; from the cool head to the inventive thinking. Do you think that Weir’s character was made so that others can negotiate their problems similarly? Is our own art beginning to take a position of values that we wish others to embody? I’m certainly hoping that it is, because we need that in our world.

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