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Themes

We tend to think of power in terms of big, burly men doing manly things. You know, lifting barrels, punching people in the jaws, carrying wives, and growing mustache. This ideal of power extends to other aspects of our society such as the military where big, bad weapons are the name of the game. But Asimov thinks of power differently. In Foundation, power is subtle. For Asimov, true power comes from a rational man's ability to control technology, politics, or even other people through his ability to think his way through a situation. Team up power with forethought and control, and it'll take on the burliest, manly man you've got and come out on top. The exception being arm-wrestling Sylvester Stallone, of course.

Questions About Power

  1. Which character has the most powerful intellect in the novel? Which character is the most physically powerful? How are the characters different? How are they the same? Does this information lead you to any conclusions regarding the nature of power in the novel?
  2. Now the same question but on opposite day. Which character has the least powerful intellect in the novel? Which character is the least physically powerful? How are the characters different? How are they the same? Does this information lead you to any conclusions about the nature of power in the novel?
  3. Of the four social programs of religion, politics, economics, and science, which provides the most power in the novel? Support your answer. What does this lead you to believe about power in relation to the novel as a whole?
  4. Consider the four social programs again. Does a particular pairing create a dynamic duo of power? 
  5. Does one of the four not play well with others? Why or why not? What does this tell you about the relationship of social power within the novel?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The only protagonist who actively seeks power is Salvor Hardin.

Hardin is also the only person in the novel to seek power and actually obtain it. All others who seek it are destroyed on their quest.

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