Study Guide

More Than Human Quotes

  • Morality and Ethics

    "I just ran loose, sort of in training to be the village idiot [...] the way people lived didn't make no sense to me. Out here I can grow like I want." (2.12.36-38)

    For all of his prying ideas out of people's minds, Lone is something of an anti-philosopher. He grows or evolves like he wants, and that's all there is to it. Maybe that's why he's described as "feeble-minded." This is where More Than Human starts off, philosophically speaking.

    "We'll defend ourselves [...] We'll just do whatever comes naturally." (2.14.22)

    Philosophers and scientists have argued for millennia over what counts as natural behavior, but Gerry doesn't hesitate. When Stern asks him what comes next for the gestalt, Gerry gives this answer, linking natural behavior to self-preservation. Darwin would be proud.

    What the hell is morality, anyway? (2.14.66)

    Yeah, seriously, what is it, dude? You're on your way to lie to the cops about killing the woman who was effectively your mother. Self-doubt is definitely not Gerry's forte.

    "I was going to discover something and bring it to humanity, not for humanity's sake, but so that they would [...] ask me to play the piano at the officers' club and slap me on the back and . . . look at me when I came in. That's all I wanted." (3.14.95)

    Is Hip trying to win American Idol or what? On a more serious note (ha, ha), his drive for popularity stopped him from finding a higher purpose or ethos.

    Define: Morals: Society's code for individual survival [...] Ethics: An individual's code for society's survival. (3.16.45-47)

    This is Hip writing his own dictionary as he tries to figure out how to cure Gerry's childish vengefulness. In other words, morals are what groups instruct individuals to follow. Ethics are what individuals instruct groups to follow. Both, according to Hip, are for the sake of survival.

    He has no society; yet he has. He has no species; he is his own species. Could he—should he chose a code that would serve all of humanity? (3.16.51-52)

    Hip's brain is nearly blowing fuses at this point. As a gestalt life form, Hip reasons Gerry is above Homo sapiens, but he also realizes that both life forms are still part of the same society: humanity. What's a gestalt to do?

    [The ethos] is a code which requires belief rather than obedience. (3.17.11)

    A few moments before Hip places this line in his mind for Gerry to read, Hip wondered if Gerry should choose a code to serve all humanity. But if a code defines what you "should" do, what defines the "should" by which you pick which code to follow in the first place? That circular trap seems to be why Hip says the ethos requires faith rather than obedience. He's a real smart cookie, if you haven't figured that out already.

    [The ethos] is a greater survival than your own, or my species, or yours. What it is really is a reverence for your sources and your posterity [...] Help humanity, Gerry. (3.17.12)

    Gerry previously chose self-preservation, but here Hip advocates for him to choose social morality. This stuff is getting so brainy we're running out of jokes.

    And when there are enough of your kind, your ethics will be their morals. And when their morals no longer suit their species, you or another ethical being will create new ones that vault still farther up the main stream, reverencing you, reverencing those who bore you and the ones who bore them (3.17.14)

    Hip argues that ethics, once widely adopted, solidify into habitual morals. It then takes a new ethical thinker to leap ahead in the evolutionary stream to break through to a new code. All ethics, he says, should be based on reverence for life past, present, and future. Gerry's acceptance of this is what leads the rest of Homo Gestalt to finally contact him so that his gestalt can join a society where this sort of view is the ordinary morality. That's probably why Part 3 is called 'Morality' and not 'Ethics.'

    Their memories, their projections and computations flooded in to Gerry, until at last he knew their nature and their function; and he knew why the ethos he had learned was too small a concept. For here at last was power which could not corrupt; for such an insight could not be used for its own sake, or against itself. Here was why and how humanity existed, troubled and dynamic, sainted by the touch of its own great destiny. Here was the withheld hand as thousands died, when by their death millions might live. And here, too, was the guide, the beacon, for such times as humanity might be in danger; here was the Guardian of Whom all humans knew—not an exterior force, nor an awesome Watcher in the sky, but a laughing thing with a human heart and reverence for its human origins, smelling of sweat and new-turned earth rather than suffused with the pale odor of sanctity. (3.21.27)

    Once humanity—everyone bleshing together—honors its past, present, and future, the novel concludes, it can be an incorruptible self-governing force. Sounds easy enough.

  • Memory and The Past

    One does not realize that for a six-year-old the path of memory stretches back for just as long a lifetime as it does for anyone, and is as full of detail and incident. Gerry had had trouble enough, loss enough, illness enough, to make a man of anyone. (1.12.2)

    We had to read this one a few times to make sense of it. The quote suggests that no matter what age someone is, that person can interpret the details of his or her memory for as long a time as anyone older. That's why Gerry is an old soul: though only six years old, he has reflected on all his troubles as much as an old person might have, which we imagine is a lot.

    But someone had called to him this way—someone who "sent" like a child, but who was not a child. And though what he felt now was faint, it was in substance unbearably similar. It was sweet and needful, yes; but it was also the restimulation of a stinging lash and a terror of crushing kicks and obscene shouting, and the greatest loss he had ever known [...] He rose, shaken, and began to walk to the call in a world turned dreamlike. The longer he walked, the more irresistible the call became and the deeper his enchantment [...] To permit himself any more consciousness would have been to kindle such an inferno of conflict that he could not have gone on. (1.24.11-13)

    You know how ice cream is irresistible? So are powerful, emotional memories such as this one. Lone's experience of Alicia's heart-rending, telepathic call reminds him of his life-changing experience with Evelyn and the resulting battle with her father. That's one of those memories we'd probably try to block out.

    Eight. Eight, plate, state, hate. I ate from the plate of the state and I hate. I didn't like any of that and I snapped my eyes open. The ceiling was still gray. It was all right. Stern was somewhere behind me with his pipe, and he was all right. I took two deep breaths, three, and then let my eyes close. Eight. Eight years old. Eight, hate. Years, fears. Old, cold. Damn it! I twisted and twitched on the couch, trying to find a way to keep the cold out. I ate from the plate of the—

    I grunted and with my mind I took all the eights and all the rhymes and everything they stood for, and made it all black. But it wouldn't stay black. I had to put something there, so I made a great big luminous figure eight and just let it hang there. But it turned on its side and inside the loops it began to shimmer. It was like one of those movie shots through binoculars. I was going to have to look through whether I liked it or not.

    Suddenly I quit fighting it and let it wash over me. The binoculars came closer, closer, and then I was there. (2.2.42-44)

    Eight, hate, state, wait—what is going on here? This passage, a mix of stream-of-consciousness and internal monologue, takes place when Gerry is on the couch early in his session with Stern. It shows just how much of a battle it is to fight with your memory so that you can relive an experience in detail, as Gerry subsequently does.

    "It [experiencing memories] was like it was happening for real all over again."

    "Feel anything?"

    "Everything." I shuddered. "Every damn thing. What was it?"

    "Anyone doing it feels better afterward. You can go over it all again now any time you want to, and every time you do, the hurt in it will be less. You'll see."

    It was the first thing to amaze me in years. I chewed on it and then asked, "If I did it by myself, how come it never happened before?"

    "It needs someone to listen." (2.3.6-11)

    Time for some Psychology 101. This back-and-forth between Gerry and Stern comes shortly after Gerry talks aloud in detail about his memories of meeting Lone and the kids. The conversation suggests that talking through your painful memories lessens the pain but requires a listener with whom you feel safe, and might be easier said than done.

    I said angrily, "I didn't like or not like. It didn't mean nothing. It was just—just talk."

    "So what was the difference between this last session and what happened before?"

    "My gosh, plenty! The first one, I felt everything. It was all really happening to me. But this time—nothing."

    "Why do you suppose that was?"

    "I don't know. You tell me."

    "Suppose," he said thoughtfully, "that there was some episode so unpleasant to you that you wouldn't dare relive it [...] Sometimes the very thing you're looking for—the thing that'll clear up your trouble—is so revolting to you that you won't go near it. Or you try to hide it. [...] It might be something very desirable to you. It's just that you don't want to get straightened out." (2.5.7-14)

    Another psychology lesson from More Than Human. Here, Gerry compares the time he relived his memories of meeting Lone and the kids to another time when he simply summarized what life was like in the cave. The first recalling was an emotionally powerful process; the second he felt as just "nothing," just talking. Stern suggests his patient fears to dive into his memories because the curative episode hidden there might be too revolting or desirable for him to bear reliving. The whole novel presents processing your memories as a challenge that must be met in order to evolve personally or as a species.

    "Everywhere we go, everything we do, we're surrounded by symbols, by things so familiar we don't ever look at them or don't see them if we do look. If anyone ever could report to you exactly what we saw and thought while walking ten feet down the street, you'd get the most twisted, clouded, partial picture you ever ran across. And nobody ever looks at what's around him with any kind of attention until he gets into a place like this. The fact that he's looking at past events doesn't matter; what counts is that he's seeing clearer than he ever could before, just because, for once, he's trying." (2.5.55)

    Stern describes what makes psychotherapy work. Everyday life is an experience of confusing symbols that people just power through, but when in therapy (or reading! or writing!), people attend to their experience in such detail that they are able to grow or evolve. So that's how it works.

    I felt sick. I felt tired. And I suddenly realized that being sick and being tired was a way of trying to get out of it. (2.5.57)

    During therapy with Stern, Gerry describes how he feels as he's pushing himself to embark on a journey into his painful memories. His feelings of exhaustion and sickness are defense mechanisms his mind is using in an effort to escape the painful memories. Kind of like when you pretend you're too sick to go to class…except these feelings are ones Gerry's actually experiencing.

    "When you wouldn't get into the recollection, I tried to nudge you into it by using your own voice as you recounted it before. It works wonders sometimes [...] You were on the trembling verge of going into the thing you don't want to remember, and you let yourself go unconscious rather than do it" (2.10.5-7)

    Stern explains why he used the tape recorder to play back Gerry saying "Baby is three." Come on, in 1953, tape decks were cool. Anyway, the point is that defense mechanisms against remembering can be so strong that a person simply cannot access the memories. Gadgets like tape recorders can defuse the defenses and make it all come rushing back, whether you want it to or not.

    "You talk about occlusions! I couldn't get past the 'Baby is three' thing because in it lay the clues to what I really am. I couldn't find that out beause I was afraid to remember that I was two things—Miss Kew's little boy, and something a hell of a lot bigger." (2.14.12)

    Okay, the confusing "Baby is three" phrase: let's tackle it. Simply put, Gerry didn't want to remove the block—also known as an occlusion—because it would mean recalling his nature as a gestalt life form and the fact that he basically just murdered his mother-figure.

  • Isolation

    Men turned away from him, women would not look, children stopped and watched him. It did not seem to matter to the idiot. He expected nothing from any of them. (1.1.2)

    This line launches Lone's loneliness. Pardon all the L's. Point is, Lone starts off the story detached from everyone else due to his "idiocy," strangeness, and lack of expectations for others. If that's not lonely, we don't know what is.

    It was all there, waiting for that single symbol, a name. All the wandering, the hunger, the loss, the thing which is worse than loss, called back. There was a dim and subtle awareness that even here, with the Prodds, he was not a something, but a substitute for something.

    All alone. [...]

    "Lone?" said Prodd. [...]

    It could be seen that the syllable meant something to Prodd, something like the codification he offered, though far less.

    But it would do. (1.11.5-12)

    Tearjerker. This passage sums up Lone's isolated life pretty well. He's so lonely that he can only come away with a partial version of the name he wants.

    There were two boys for whom the smell of disinfectant on tile was the smell of hate.

    For Gerry Thompson it was the smell of hunger, too, and of loneliness. All food was spiced with it, all sleep permeated with disinfectant, hunger, cold, fear . . . all components of hatred. (1.12.1-2)

    Loneliness is certainly cast as a bad thing here, so bad that it is even identified as a source of hatred. This passage shows us that Gerry's loneliness at the orphanage is one of the root causes of his hatred, a defining force of his character.

    At one time it had not mattered in the least to Lone whether he was near men or not. Now, he wanted only to be able to be what he knew he was—alone. But eight years at the farm had changed his way of life. He needed shelter. (1.24.4)

    After leaving the Prodds, Lone gets even lonelier than before. At the beginning of the book, he simply didn't care one way or the other about others. Now he wants to stand apart and even build a shelter to be alone in. This guy is what we call a rugged individualist, like Han Solo or Jack Sparrow.

    Alone. Lone Lone alone. Prodd was alone now and Janie was alone and the twins, well they had each other but they were like one split person who was alone. He himself, Lone, was still alone, it didn't make any difference about the kids being there.

    Maybe Prodd and his wife had not been alone. He wouldn't have any way of knowing about that. But there was nothing like Lone anywhere in the world except right here inside him. The whole world threw Lone away, you know that? Even the Prodds did, when they got around to it. Janie got thrown out, the twins too, so Janie said.

    Well, in a funny way it helps to know you're alone, thought Lone. (1.26.29-31)

    Some change is afoot here. Lone feels the presence of Janie and the twins makes no difference to his loneliness, but he's also identifying something they four have in common. Maybe before he'd get picked last for the sports team, but now he knows three other people would get picked last along with him. Strength in numbers—it's definitely a thing.

    Prodd and his wife had shucked him off when he was in the way, after all those years, and that meant they were ready to do it the first year and the second and the fifth—all the time, any time. You can't say you're a part of anything, anybody, that feels free to do that to you. (1.29.14)

    Lone is deciding that a group who kicks you out for no reason never really accepted you in the first place. This guy would probably be a wizard at surviving high school cliques.

    What am I doing? What am I doing? he thought wildly. Trying and trying like this to find out what I am and what I belong to. . . . Is this another aspect of being outcast, monstrous, different?

    "Ask Baby what kind of people are all the time trying to find out what they are what they belong to."

    "He says, every kind." (1.29.29-31)

    Ah, loneliness. A universal human condition, More Than Human says, via Baby the know-it-all infant.

    To dance alone where no one knew, that was the single thing I hid to myself when I was known as Miss Kew, that Victorian, older than her years, later than her time; correct and starched, lace and linen and lonely. Now indeed I would be all they said, through and through, forever and ever, because he had robbed me of the one thing I dared to keep secret." (2.11.6)

    Poor Miss Alicia Kew. Lone noticed her secret dancing, and now she feels she will forever be lonely. Thanks a lot, Lone. Note that it was the privacy of her dancing that allowed her to emotionally bond with her deceased sister Evelyn, even if only in her imagination. The novel is expressing the paradoxical-seeming fact that the ability to be alone sometimes helps you share other moments with people.

    "You and the kids are a single creature. Unique. Unprecedented." He pointed the pipestem at me. "Alone." (2.14.40)

    Stern points out to his patient, Gerry, the fundamental problem of the gestalt. No matter how many people-parts it has, it is still one-of-a-kind and thus suffering from the same ailment of loneliness as the characters did individually before joining up.

    Still young, still brilliant as ever, but surrounded by puzzling rejection, Lieutenant Barrows found himself with too much spare time, and he hated it [...] The Lieutenant, in one of his detested idle moments, went rummaging into some files [...] (3.9.64-3.10.2)

    Hip is the thinker who saves the day by teaching the gestalt an ethic. This passage shows where he gets his brain-power from. To put it simply, he hates being bored, so when he risks falling into that state, he finds something to think about. That is what gets him through the rejection he faces in the Air Force. The brain is a wonderful thing.

  • Friendship

    Touch me, touch me. It was that, and a great swelling of emotion behind it: it was a hunger, a demand, a flood of sweetness and of need. (1.5.7)

    Is it Valentine's Day? This passage describes the telepathic call between Evelyn and Lone. It can be taken as a fundamental expression of how More Than Human pictures what friendship is meant to fulfill. Touch, feeding, and sweetness are all specific ways friends fill each other's needs in this book.

    Evelyn said, "What is it called when a person needs a . . . person . . . when you want to be touched and the . . . two are like one thing and there isn't anything else at all anywhere?"

    Alicia, who had read books, thought about it. "Love," she said at length. She swallowed. "It's a madness. It's bad."

    Evelyn's quiet face was suffused with a kind of wisdom. "It isn't bad," she said. "I had it." (1.8.14-16)

    Evelyn's first sentence, which occurs very early in the book, sets the stage for friendship to be the force that joins the gestalt individuals together into one life form as the novel progresses. As The Beatles once said, all you need is love.

    Lone built the device. He did it, not because he was particularly interested in the thing for itself, nor because he wished to understand its principles [...], but only because an old man who had taught him something he could not name was mad with bereavement and needed to work and could not afford a horse. (1.28.36)

    One way More Than Human sees friendship is as a form of mutual aid or support. The Prodds nurtured Lone, so now he wants to give back by helping the old man move his truck without an expensive horse. Lone creates an anti-gravity generator in the process—and in opposition to much of science fiction, the specifics of the gee-whiz gadget take a back seat in light of the emotions being explored and expressed.

    And borrow any thing you want if you should want any Thing. You are a good boy you been a good frend well goodbeye until I see you if I ever do god Bless you your old frend E. Prodd. (1.29.9)

    This passage comes from a poorly spelled note—we promise we didn't misspell it—Mr. Prodd left for Lone just before the farmer headed toward Pennsylvania. Lone finds it after leaving the anti-gravity generator for him. The note shows that despite the Prodds "shucking" Lone off when he was in Jack's way, the two men's relationship ended as one of friendship, sharing and supporting one another. Awwww.

    "Ask Baby what is a friend."

    "He says it's somebody who goes on loving you whether he likes you or not." (1.29.12-13)

    More Than Human sure likes to define words. Here's Baby's definition of a friend, in response to Lone's question. It's pretty much the exact opposite of what's meant by a fair-weather friend.

    "Ask Baby can you be truly part of someone you love."

    "He says only if you love yourself." (1.29.15-16)

    Another question from Lone for the know-it-all infant. And Baby gives a classic answer.

    His bench-mark, his goal-point, had for years been that thing which happened to him on the bank of the pool. He had to understand that. If he could understand that, he was sure he could understand everything. Because for a second there was this other, and himself, and a flow between them without guards or screens or barriers—no language to stumble over, no ideas to misunderstand, nothing at all but a merging." (1.29.17)

    Lone ponders Baby's statement that only those who love themselves can be part of people they love. His moment with Evelyn by the pool allowed him to emotionally commune with someone else for the first time. Before her, he was too locked up inside himself to even know himself, let alone love himself.

    "Gerry, you can live here. I don't come from no school. I'll never turn you in."

    "Yeah, huh?"

    "He hates you," said Janie.

    "What am I supposed to do about that?" he wanted to know.

    Janie turned her head to look into the bassinet. "Feed him." (2.2.87-91)

    Lone and the kids try to win the hateful Gerry over in this passage. Providing someone a meal has been a basic offering of friendship across cultures for centuries. The way to a guy's heart is through his stomach, after all.

    Bleshing, that was Janie's word. She said Baby told it to her. She said it meant everyone all together being something, even if they all did different things. Two arms, two legs, one body, one head, all working together, although a head can't walk and arms can't think. Lone said maybe it was a mixture of "blending" and "meshing," but I don't think he believed that himself. It was a lot more than that. (2.4.3)

    Imagine a rock-and-roll band improvising together, forming a whole that is greater than the sum of its individuals without anyone losing their identity, and you have a picture of bleshing. This is the way the people of the gestalt collaborate, and it requires a camaraderie sort of friendship to happen.

    "Not what you think, not love at first sight. That's childish; love's a different sort of thing, hot enough to make you flow into something, interflow, cool and anneal and be a weld stronger than what you started with." (3.14.86)

    This is Janie's definition of love. It's what Lone and Evelyn had when they merged.

  • Identity

    Name. He made a reaching, a flash of demand, and it returned to him carrying what might be called a definition. [...] "Name" is the single thing which is me and what I have done and been and learned.

    It was all there, waiting for that single symbol, a name. All the wandering, the hunger, the loss, the thing which is worse than loss, called back. There was a dim and subtle awareness that even here, with the Prodds, he was not a something, but a substitute for something.

    All alone.

    He tried to say it [...] the farmer strained to receive what he was trying to convey [...] "Lone?" said Prodd.

    It could be seen that the syllable meant something to Prodd, something like the codification he offered, though far less.

    But it would do. (1.11.4-12)

    Yes, this is one part of the novel we keep coming back to. Lone considers his name an exact tool of characterization. His loneliness is the gravity that draws the gestalt together. No wonder the book starts with him on page numero uno.

    "Ask Baby what kind of people are all the time trying to find out what they are and what they belong to."

    "He says, every kind."

    "What kind," Lone whispered, "am I, then?"

    A full minute later he yelled, "What kind?"

    "Shut up awhile. He doesn't have a way to say it . . . uh . . . Here. He says he is a figure-outer brain and I am a body and the twins are arms and legs and you are the head. He says the 'I' is all of us."

    "I belong. I belong. Part of you, part of you and you too."

    "The head, silly."

    Lone thought his heart was going to burst. He looked at them all, every one: arms to flex and reach, a body to care and repair, a brainless but faultless computer and—the head to direct it. (1.29.30-37)

    Wait, is this Anthem territory? The I is all of us? Well, as the novel says, it is one thing for everyone to be an identical arm in a group, but for the gestalt, the individuals play unique roles. They retain their identities.

    So it was that Lone came to know himself; and like the handful of people who have done so before him he found, at this pinnacle, the rugged foot of a mountain.

    In other words, it is rare for people to fully understand their own identities, and those who manage to do so come to understand their own limitations. This isn't the most exciting pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it's a functional and rewarding one nonetheless.

    I did things myself. I cut wood for the fire and I put up more shelves, and then I'd go swimming with Janie and the twins sometimes. And I talked to Lone. I didn't do a thing that the others couldn't do, but they all did things I couldn't do. I was mad, mad all the time about that. But I wouldn't of known what to do with myself if I wasn't mad all the time about something or other. (1.4.3)

    Sounds like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Surrounded by people with paranormal talents, Gerry feels angry that he lacks one. He wants his identity to be that of someone special. Little does he know…

    Then he asked, "What about this? You got a radio station, you got four-five receivers, each receiver is fixed up to make something different happen, like one digs and one flies and one makes noise, but each one takes orders from the one place. And each one has its own power and its own thing to do, but they are all apart, Now: is there life like that, instead of radio?"

    "Where each organism is part of the whole, but separated? I don't think so . . . unless you mean social organizations, like a team or perhaps a gang of men working, all taking orders from the same boss."

    "No," he said immediately, "not like that. Like one single animal." (2.11.41-43)

    Radio was still a pretty cool technology in 1953, which probably explains why Sturgeon took so much time to describe it. This is one analogy for the gestalt's identity, but Lone specifies he means the parts would constitute a single life form. It's not quite so that the gestalt parts take orders, however; after all, Janie splits from Gerry in Part 3. Good thing she didn't lose track of her own identity.

    He cursed. "Damn mishmash inside you. Thirty-three years old—what you want to live like that for? [...] All by yourself for ten years now 'cept for someone to do your work. Nobody else." (2.12.26-28)

    Um, rude. Lone perceives that Alicia Kew has a confused identity. She's stuck between the Alicia who wants to dance and the Miss Kew who wants prudish rules. Unlike the gestalt, she can't successfully share her emotions. We blame her dad.

    "You talk about occlusions! I couldn't get past the 'Baby is three' thing because in it lay the clues to what I really am. I couldn't find that out because I was afraid to remember that I was two things—Miss Kew's little boy, and something a hell of a lot bigger. I couldn't be both, and I wouldn't release either one."

    He said, with his eyes on his pipe, "Now you can?"

    "I have." (2.14.12-14)

    Sometimes you have to pick who you want to be. Gerry picks his identity as the head of the gestalt over his identity as Miss Kew's child, which is probably the better choice of the two.

    Who am I to make positive conclusions about morality, and codes to serve all of humanity?

    Why—I am the son of a doctor, a man who chose to serve mankind, and who was positive that this was right. And he tried to make me serve in the same way, because it was the only rightness he was sure of. And for this I have hated him all my life . . . I see now, Dad, I see! (3.16-54-55)

    By coming to terms with what he thinks of as his father's forceful instruction, Hip finds enough of a sense of self confidence to devise an ethos for the gestalt.

    But yes, yes . . . multiplicity is our first characteristic; unity our second. As your parts know they are parts of you, so must you know that we are parts of humanity. [...] We are humanity! (3.21.20-24)

    It's not every day that you end up in telepathic communication with humanity. But when Gerry does, Homo Gestalt tells him its identity: one that prioritizes multiplicity or diversity over unity, but still considers both important. Yet they all join into one life form, identified here as humanity.

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    When he had been there a year, Mrs. Prodd remembered and baked him a cake. Impulsively she put four candles on it. [...]

    He bent his head and blew. They laughed together and rose and came to him, and Prodd thumped his shoulder and Mrs. Prodd kissed his cheek.[...]

    He cried. [...]

    In its own time, the weeping stopped. Sniffling, he looked at them each in turn. Something new was in his face; it was as if the bronze mask over which his facial skin was stretched had disappeared. "I'm sorry," Prodd said. "Reckon we did something wrong."

    "It wasn't wrong," said his wife. "You'll see." (1.10.3-9)

    Aww, shucks. This passage shows that compassion can be so overwhelming for a recipient who isn't used to it that the recipient can cry. The Prodds' compassion also pushes Lone to evolve.

    She said aloud, in admiration, "Ho-ho . . ." There was no anger left in her. Four days ago the twins couldn't even reach a six-foot sill. They couldn't even get away from a spanking. And now look. (1.17.21)

    He-he! Ho-ho! Admiration for the twins' self-teaching inspires Janie to forge the beginnings of empathy for them.

    She had the status of provider and she had failed them [...]

    Unbidden, an image appeared to him—Mrs. Prodd, a steaming platter of baked ham flanked by the orange gaze of perfect eggs, saying, "Now you set right down and have some breakfast." An emotion he was unequipped to define reached up from his solar plexus and tugged at his throat. [...]

    He put one hand on each side of the door and sent his flat harsh voice hurtlint out: "Wait!" (1.25.38-41)

    Okay, this is weird, but imagine compassion as a virus. The Prodds infected Lone by showing him compassion by serving him a meal. He then passes on the contagion to Janie and the twins by offering them some of his meal. It's good to be sick this way!

    Lone built the device. He did it, not because he was particularly interested in the thing for itself, nor because he wished to understand its principles (which were and would always be beyond him), but only because an old man who had taught him something he could not name was mad with bereavement and needed to work and could not afford a horse. (1.28.36)

    Xtreme Compassion. The fact that the anti-gravity generator is the only advanced device in this novel shows that emotions like compassion are more central to the book than technology.

    "Are you a good psychotherapist?"

    "I think so," he said. "Whom did you kill?"

    The question caught me absolutely off guard. "Miss Kew," I said. Then I started to cuss and swear. "I didn't mean to tell you that."

    "Don't worry about it," he said. "What did you do it for?"

    "That's what I came here to find out."

    "You must have really hated her."

    I started to cry. Fifteen years old and crying like that! (2.9.23-31)

    Stern shows the compassion a good psychotherapist must have for a patient to change. Gerry reveals specifics of a murder he committed and Stern doesn't even flinch, let alone condemn him. The psychotherapist shows compassion instead. We're in awe.

    But this was no seduction, this close intimacy of meals and walks and long shared silences, with never a touch, never a wooing word. Lovemaking, even the suppressed and silent kind, is a demanding thing, a thirsty and yearning thing. Janie demanded nothing. She only . . . she only waited. If her interest lay in his obscured history she was taking a completely passive attitude, merel placing herself to receive what he might unearth. (3.7.8)

    Quick! What's the difference between compassion and love? Well, Janie freely gives her compassion to help heal Hip by showing him patience, whereas, the passage points out, love is a craving that demands certain responses urgently.

    Who am I to make positive conclusions about morality, and codes to serve all of humanity?

    Why—I am the son of a doctor, a man who chose to serve mankind, and who was positive that this was right. And he tried to make me serve in the same way, because it was the only rightness he was sure of. And for this I have hated him all my life . . . I see now, Dad, I see! (3.16-54-55)

    Yep, this theme is compassion and forgiveness. Here's some forgiveness for you: Hip finds worth in what his cold father did. The forgiveness is important enough that it drives Hip to create the ethos that saves the day at the end of the novel. We're sure Pops would be proud.

    You want to be wanted. You want to be needed. So do I. [...]

    So nobody wants you and you are a monster.

    Nobody wanted me when I was a monster.

    But Gerry, there is another kind of code for you [...]

    Help humanity, Gerry [...]

    I was a monster and I found this ethos. You are a monster. It's up to you. (3.17.6-15)

    Hip forges a bond with Gerry by pointing out their similarities to him, which is quite the empathic thing to do. Hip then leaves the choice up to Gerry, compassionately respecting the gestalt head's autonomy that must come into play for the ethos to truly work.

    "God," said Gerry into his hands. "What I've done . . . the things I could have. . . ."

    "The things you can do," Hip reminded him gently. "You've paid quite a price for the things you've done."

    Gerry looked around at the huge glass room and everything in it that was massive, expensive, rich. "I have?"

    Hip said, from the scarred depths of memory, "People all around you, you by yourself." He made a wry smile. "Does a superman have super-hunger, Gerry? Super-loneliness?"

    Gerry nodded, slowly. "I did better when I was a kid." He shuddered. "Cold. . . . "

    Hip did not know what kind of cold he meant, and did not ask. (3.19.9-14)

    It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a superman gestalt! Hip, a homo sapiens, reaches into his own scarred past of being brilliant but monstrous to find what it must be like for a homo gestalt to be alone: super-loneliness. That's how Hip finds the compassion to reassure Gerry about possibilities for his future. Finally, he respects Gerry's pain enough to let him feel it in privacy by not asking what he meant by the word cold. Cold soup? Or a cold soul?

    Their memories, their projections and computations flooded in to Gerry, until at last he knew their nature and their function; and he knew why the ethos he had learned was too small a concept. For here at last was power which could not corrupt; for such an insight could not be used for its own sake, or against itself. Here was why and how humanity existed, troubled and dynamic, sainted by the touch of its own great destiny. Here was the witheld hand as thousands died, when by their death millions might live. And here, too, was the guide, the beacon, for such times as humanity might be in danger; here was the Guardian of Whom all humans knew—not an exterior force, nor an awesome Watcher in the sky, but a laughing thing with a human heart and reverence for its human origins, smelling of sweat and new-turned earth rather than suffused with the pale odor of sanctity. (3.21.27)

    If you write a novel and make the ultimate guardian of humanity (Homo Gestalt)a laughing thing with a human heart rather than something filled withstrict rules like those of Doctor Barrows or Miss Kew—then you've written a book in which compassion and forgiveness play a huge role.

  • Innocence

    Without words [...] Impression, depression, dialogue. Radiations of fear, tense fields of awareness, discontent. Murmuring, sending, speaking, sharing, from hundreds, from thousands of voices. [...] these were the voices of the children, the very young children, who had not yet learned to stop crying to be heard. Only crying, only noises. (1.1.12)

    This paragraph explains the confusing paragraph above it (1.1.11). It says infants can speak in telepathic voices. Homo Gestalt speaks the same way. It is a language of innocence, unless you're Stewie Griffin.

    No child was ever so protected from evil as Alicia; and when she joined forces with her father, a mighty structure of purity was created for Evelyn. "Purity triple-distilled," Mr. Kew said to Alicia on her nineteenth birthday. "I know good through the study of evil, and have taught you only the good. And that good teaching has become your good living, and your way of life is Evelyn's star. I know all the evil there is and you know all the evil which must be avoided; but Evelyn knows no evil at all." (1.2.3)

    Yeah, this guy has lost his marbles. Mr. Kew's methodology fails to train Evelyn as he wants, however. It makes her innocent, but much of the innocence in More Than Human comes from nature, something Mr. Kew can't destroy.

    Her naked hands fled to the sides of her neck, not to hide something but to share something. She bent her head and the hands laughed at one another under the iron order of her hair. They found four hooks and scampered down them. Her high collar eased and the enchanted air rushing in with a soundless shout. Evelyn breathed as if she had been running. She put out her hand hesitantly, futilely, patted the grass beside her as if somehow the act might release the inexpressible confusion of delight within her. It would not, and she turned and flung herself face down in bed of early mint and wept because the spring was too beautiful to be borne. (1.2.9)

    In spite of Mr. Kew's crazy philosophy, the beauty of nature expressed here inspires Evelyn to seek out her own nakedness. Her nakedness is innocence, authenticity, the basis of sharing emotions, and all that is good in More Than Human. Don't go getting any ideas now—nudity isn't always the answer.

    Evelyn said, "What is it called when a person needs a . . . person . . . when you want to be touched and the . . . two are like one thing and there isn't anything else at all anywhere?"

    Alicia, who had read books, thought about it. "Love," she said at length. She swallowed. "It's a madness. It's bad."

    Evelyn's quiet face was suffused with a kind of wisdom. "It isn't bad," she said. "I had it." [...]

    "There it is, there it is, can't you see? The love, with the sun on its body!" (1.8.14-26)

    Evelyn is an innocent, which is why she could send the telepathic call to Lone before this passage. Her innocence also means that, through her connection with nature, she can find love and recognize it as a good thing, even though she was never taught the idea by anyone. Darn you, nature! Ruining Mr. Kew's plans like a fly in his soup.

    An idiot, she had said, was grown person who could hear only babies' silent speech. Then—what was the creature with whom he had merged on that terrible day?

    "Ask Baby what is a grown person who can talk like the babies."

    "He says, an innocent."

    He had been an idiot who could hear the soundless murmur. She had been an innocent who, as an adult, could speak it. (1.29.20-23)

    Evelyn was nude, and in More Than Human that makes people a wonderful, strange sort of innocent. They can talk the language of telepathic emotional calls and sing with all the voices of the mountains.

    "Ask Baby what if an idiot and an innocent are close together."

    "He says when they so much as touched, the innocent would stop being an innocent and the idiot would stop being an idiot."

    He thought, an innocent is the most beautiful thing there can be. Immediately he demanded of himself, What's so beautiful about an innocent? And the answer, for once almost as swift as Baby's: It's the waiting that's beautiful.

    Waiting for the end of innocence. And an idiot is waiting for the end of idiocy too, but he's ugly doing it. So each ends himself in the meeting, in exchange for a merging.

    Lone was suddenly deep-down glad. For if this was true, he had made something, rather than destroyed something . . . and when he had lost it, the pain of the loss was justified. When he had lost the Prodds the pain wasn't worth it. (1.29.24-28)

    Aww. Lone is saying that both he and Evelyn benefitted from their merging, and it was worth it. But the pain from losing the Prodds, who only accepted him as a temporary replacement for Jack, wasn't worth it. We wonder what Evelyn would have to say about this, seeing as how she didn't make it out of merging with Lone alive.

    "You really hate women. They all know something you don't" [...]

    "You haven't given me the other ... whatever it was."

    "Oh," he said. "Yeah, that."

    He moved like a flash. There was a pressure, a stretching apart, and a ... a breakage. And with a tearing agony and a burst of triumph that drowned the pain, it was done.
    (2.12.30-59)

    Sexy time! This passage describes Lone taking Alicia's virginity. In other words, her loss of a kind of innocence.

    As a group Homo Gestalt can solve his own problems. But as an entity:

    He can't have a morality, because he is alone.
    An ethic then. "An individual's code for society's survival." He has no society; yet he has. He has no species; he is his own species.

    Could he—should he choose a code which would serve all of humanity? (3.16.49-52)

    Hip is something of an innocent soul for dreaming this up—an idealist if we've ever seen one.

    And when there are enough of your kind, your ethics will be their morals. And when their morals no longer suit their species, you or another ethical being will create new ones that vault still farther up the main stream, reverencing you, reverencing those who bore you and the ones who bore them, back and back to the first wild creature who was different because his heart leapt when he saw a star. (3.17.14)

    Again, More Than Human connects innocence with nature. The first wild creature's reaction to the star resembles Evelyn's reaction to nature—that is to say, an innocent reaction.

  • Race

    She said aloud, in admiration, "Ho-ho . . ." There was no anger left in her. Four days ago the twins couldn't even reach a sixfoot sill. They couldn't even get away from a spanking. And now look. (1.17.21)

    Janie emotionally bonds with the twins because of their intelligence. She does not pick friends based on skin color and neither should you.

    The twins approached guardedly. She took their hands. They watched her face. She began to move toward the elevators, and they followed. The janitor beamed after them. (1.17.30)

    Mr. Widdecombe, the twins' father, is pleased with the new friendship between his daughters and Janie. That makes him more open-minded about friendship than Wima, Janie's mom.

    "Dear old Jesus be to God, she said, "she's got the place filled with niggers."

    "They're going home," said Janie resolutely. "I'll take 'em home right now." [...]

    Janie walked down the hall to the elevators. She looked at Bonnie and at Beanie. Their eyes were round. Janie's mouth was as dry as a carpet and she was so embarrassed her legs cramped. [...]

    She walked slowly back to the apartment and went in and closed the door. Her mother got up from the man's lap and clattered across the room. [...]

    Something happened inside Janie like the grinding of teeth, but deeper inside her than that. She was walking and she did not stop. She put her hands behind her and tilted her chin up so she could meet her mother's eyes. [...]

    Janie walked past her and into her room, and quietly closed the door. (1.18.5-12)

    Wima's racism is on display here, but so is Janie's courage in how she refuses to acknowledge that playing with the twins was wrong.

    Then there was a little Negro girl about five with great big eyes who stood gaping at me. (2.2.72)

    What's significant here is what's not said. Gerry, meeting the twin for the first time, doesn't remark on the little girl's ethnicity beyond identifying it. Maybe he's not totally full of hate after all.

    She looked at me as if I was real stupid. "We don't have little colored girls for sisters, Gerard."

    Janie said, "We do." (2.7.70-71)

    When Miss Kew tries to stick to some biological notion of sisterhood, Janie emphasizes that the gestalt picks its family members and doesn't discriminate by skin color.

    "Janie said, 'Why don't the twins eat with us?'

    "'Miriam's taking care of them, dear,' Miss Kew says.

    "Janie looked at her with those eyes. 'I know that. Let 'em eat here and I'll take care of 'em.'

    "Miss Kew's mouth got all tight again and she said, 'They're little colored girls, Jane. Now eat your lunch.'

    "But that didn't explain anything to Janie or me, either. I said, 'I want 'em to eat with us. Lone said we should stay together.'" (2.8.8-12)

    This conversation, and the battle that follows, illustrates how seriously the gestalt takes their need to stay together. They're not willing to surrender to Miss Kew's prejudice.

    "From what I've learned about people, there seems to be two armies fightin' about race. One fightin' to keep 'em apart, and one's fightin' to get 'em together. But I don't see why both sides are so worried about it! Why don't they just forget it?"

    "They can't. You see, Gerry, it's necessary to believe they are superior in some fashion." (2.8.24-25)

    Gerry argues for a sort of color-blind approach to race. Stern argues that people can't forget race because people must believe they are superior in some fashion, perhaps in terms of power. There are other arguments, of course, but these are the two that show up here. We take Gerry's side.

    He staggered back, his hand over his eyes. There was a gabbling shriek in the room, it went on and on, split and spun around itself. He peeped through his fingers.

    Thompson was reeling, his head drawn back and down almost to his shoulderblades. He kicked and elbowed backward. Holding him, her hands over his eyes, her knee in the small of his back, was Bonnie, and it was from her the gabbling came.

    Hip came forward running [...] His fist sank into the taut solar plexus and Thompson went down soundlessly. (3.16.98-100)

    This courageous move on Bonnie's part allows Hip to subdue Gerry. It is the most consequential action taken by a twin in the novel, and is crucial to the plot.

    "Beat it, Bonnie!"

    She left—blip!—like a squirted appleseed. (3.16.119-120)

    After saving the day, the twin teleports away. This passage is arguably representative of how the twins are given just a small role in the book. They're almost like squirted appleseeds that go from place to place when the plot needs them, but they do have more personality than that, such as when they befriend Janie.

    Who are you?
    Homo Gestalt.I'm one; part of; belonging [...]
    We are humanity! (3.21.13-24)

    This is the overriding message in More Than Human, and it applies to skin color as well. Humanity, in the book's view, is everyone together. Like the cast of High School Musical once sang, we're all in this together.