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The Trouble With Lichen- A Society’s Reaction
John Wyndham’s novel The Trouble With Lichen is a science fiction story that
explores the possibilities of an anti-aging discovery and the effect it would have on
society. Although the story is quite obviously fiction one could question whether or not
Wyndham had the right idea. Did his fictional society react the same way a real one would
if ever it was introduced to such a discovery?
The society upon which the secret of Anti-gerone was released reacted in many
ways and in several stages. The first stage the British people go through was outright
disbelief. Even news reporters are reluctant to publish in-depth articles for fear that they
will be ridiculed for even suggesting that such a claim were true.
After it is proved well enough to suit some, the people are then split into three
categories the first being those who believed, the second being those who do not believe
and everyone else who is yet undecided make up the third. Following this division of the
people the author begins to show a state of mass panic. There were people worried about
the long term side effects of Anti-gerone, people worried about losing their jobs because
of the wonder treatment, and people worried about not being first in line to receive their
share of the drug. All these people with disagreeing interest and views clash on several
occasions with varying outcomes.
By this time, media, citizens and authority figures are all wrapped up in the hype
and ‘what-ifs’ surrounding the anti-aging treatment. People are beginning to become very
adamant in their opinions of the drug and began to voice them loudly and clearly. It does
not take long for people on both sides of the issue to start their campaigns for their causes.
This, in turn, causes social disruption and as companies began to address the issue the
stock market takes a fall.
At the peak of all the excitement just about everyone believes in the existence and
relevance of the drug, but they still have their opinions about the morality of it, and
whether or not it should be allowed. The issue is taken up by the government and the
people are promised that the whole thing will be investigated and a decision will be made.
Wyndham’s fictional society seemed to be rather disheveled throughout the novel.
No one seems to know what the they think, but they know they want a say, and their
minds seem to be swayed quite easily. Would our society react the same way if we were
introduced with the same idea of prolonged youth?
The first factor that needs to be taken into consideration when attempting to
formulate an answer to this question is the time in which the novel itself takes place.
Wyndham wrote The Trouble With Lichen in 1960 – that’s almost forty-one years ago,
and a lot has changed since then. With all the technological advances made since the late
1970’s alone would our society- one that is used to living with all kinds of technology-
really be all that surprised by the discovery of such a drug? Would we be falling all over
ourselves to have the opportunity to utilize such a discovery, or would we simply
disregard it as something trivial that only the rich and famous would indulge in? If one
thinks about it for a moment, we have already been successful in lengthening the average
life span by a significant amount, and experts say that amount increases every year, so
would a drug like Anti-Gerone have the same effect on our society as it did Wyndham’s?
It is my personal opinion that our society would not react nearly as dramatically to
the introduction of an anti-aging drug, or any other such discovery, as Wyndham’s
fictional one did. I believe that our society is an advanced one to the point that we are no
longer afraid of new things. We embrace new technology everyday, as well as
bio-chemical breakthroughs, and it is no longer a rarity to see a long fought disease to be
This is not to say that we would not to a certain extent, be surprised and
undoubtedly be suspicious if an anti-aging drug were to be found. We would probably
have the same problem of mixed reactions and feelings as Wyndham’s society, but they
would not be of the same magnitude. However, this is merely speculation, as we have no
idea of knowing exactly how we would react until something like this actually happens. As
of yet there are no confirmed methods of preventing aging, and there might never be.
Maybe our society will never have to face the idea of eternal youth, but there are no
doubts that people will keep searching for it, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
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