Study Guide

Foundation Duty

By Isaac Asimov


Like a gopher on a putting green, the question of duty just keeps popping up again and again in Foundation. And like Bill Murray, the more we see the gopher, the harder it becomes to really nail it. What we can say is that the protagonist of every story in Foundation must discover his true duty. Should Seldon promote the findings of psychohistory if it costs him his life? As mayor, should Hardin work against completing the Encyclopedia Galactica? And should your duty be toward your convictions or the state? With five different stories, we seem to get five different answers—and maybe that's for the best with such a complicated issue.

Questions About Duty

  1. What character do you see as having the most difficult duty? Why? Does the way this character works toward the goal tell you anything about the nature of duty in the novel?
  2. Does any character in the novel not live up to his duty? Why or why not? Again, does this tell us anything about the theme of duty?
  3. Duty can extend beyond characters. What should be the Foundation's duty? Feel free to disagree with the all-powerful Seldon on this one. How is the Foundation doing in the terms you set for it?
  4. Seldon made a lot of sacrifices to meet the demands of his duty. Would you say the actions Seldon took were moral or immoral? Why?

Chew on This

Gaal Dornick is the only character of Foundation who could be said to be duty-free. All he has to do is be at the events, so the reader can bear witness.

In Foundation, duty means using any means to accomplish an end.