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by Isaac Asimov

Foundation Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Ladies Night on the Foundation must be a dull affair because there are hardly any ladies in the whole novel. Why do you suppose there is only one focal female character (the Commodora from "The Merchant Princes") and what is her purpose in the novel? Would you say she's a strong female character? Why or why not? How does this affect your reading of the novel? 
  2. Science—here represented by psychohistory—is seen as a benevolent force in the novel, one that will see us through the problems of society, culture, and politics. Do you agree with this idea? Disagree? Think the idea needs some tweaking? Explain your answer.
  3. Foundation's struggle is one of control. It must control the minds of the people if it is to survive. It does this by exploiting religion, science, and economics. Do you see any common traits between these social structures? If so, what? If not, why not? Does grouping them together suggest a possible theme or insight into the novel for you? Or should we consider them separately? Explain your answer.
  4. Each story contains an antagonist in conflict with the protagonist. What quality or qualities do they share? Any differences? Give evidence to support your answer. Finally, what purpose do you think the antagonists serve thematically? For example, are they commenting on the human condition or promoting a particular philosophical/political view? 
  5. Do you think there is any significance in the Foundation being placed on a planet named "Terminus"? Why do you imagine Asimov choose this name?
  6. History and the future have an interesting relationship in Foundation. Consider their relationship in a group. Are they in conflict? Is one more important than the other? How do they affect each other? Make a list as you go, then consider the list as a whole. Does the list suggest a possible theme or insight into the novel for you?
  7. In her review of the novel, Keisha Shippy argues that Asimov's novel is more world-centered than character-centered. That is, the development of the world is more important that the characters in the world. Do you agree with this assessment? Explain your reasoning. (Note: you could answer the question on a story-by-story basis rather than take the novel as a whole.)
  8. Script Treatment! Imagine you're going to produce a script for a Hollywood adaptation of Foundation. Outline a plot for your movie, deciding how the story is going to play out. Do you try to tell one story or get five different directors to direct each individual tale? Do you leave a story out? Do you combine stories? Then, explain your choices for what you left in and what you took out. What important elements of the story—themes, plot, characters, tone—led you to make the choices you did?

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