This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Time capsule found on the dead planet” (2009) by Margaret Atwood. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Margaret Atwood (b. 1939) is a Canadian writer, teacher, inventor, and environmental activist. Many of Atwood’s literary works explore themes such as gender, identity, religion, and climate change. The short story “Time capsule found on the dead planet” was written in support of the 10:10 climate change campaign, whose aim was the reduction of 10% of the carbon footprint by 2010.
Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:
The image of the “juices” of the earth rolling down humans’ chins suggests that people saw themselves as one with nature in the past.
In the third age, when money becomes an almighty force, the setting also changes. The story hints at the process of industrialization when it mentions the “towers of glass” that were constantly destroyed and rebuilt, but also at the process of deforestation: “It began to eat things. It ate whole forests, croplands and the lives of children. It ate armies, ships and cities. No one could stop it.” The environment is out of control and the natural world changes for the worst.
In the last age, the post-apocalyptic setting of the planet reveals that it has become a toxic wasteland:
In the fourth age we created deserts. Our deserts were of several kinds, but they had one thing in common: nothing grew there. Some were made of cement, some were made of various poisons, some of baked earth.