Study Guide

Foundation Time

By Isaac Asimov


Where do we even start? Time is important to Foundation in all of its modes: past, present, and future. The future is obvious: Seldon set up the science club not only to fight against an apocalyptic future but also to bring about the Second Empire. Hey, no pressure guys, just the future of the galaxy and a bag of chips. But don't forget the past: sure, you need to learn from it, but it can be dangerous if you start thinking it's the end-all, be-all of decision-making. Hey, it worked in the past; it should work now, right? Wrong. The heroes in Foundation are the men (sorry again, ladies) who can learn from the past, recognize what needs to be done in the present, and work toward the future. Easy-peasy.

Questions About Time

  1. Think about the timeline of Foundation. Why do you suppose Asimov chose to write the novel in this particular chronological order? What does this say about the relationship of time with another of Foundation's themes (your pick)?Ā 
  2. Pick an event from history that you feel strongly connects to any part of Foundation. Where do you see the connection? How can we use the event to understand Foundation better? Or the reverse: could we use Foundation to gain a deeper understanding of the historical event?
  3. Pick two stories from the novel. What's the relationship between the past and the future in these two stories? Is one more valuable? Are they in opposition or working together? What perspective of time does each story take?

Chew on This

Seldon's Plan is not so much about predicting the future as assuming that the future will be a repetition of the past.

Hardin and Mallow are the heroes of the Foundation, because they understand the relationship between the past and the future.