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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?

Hannem 2

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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