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Stephen King once said that “belief and reader absorption come in the details” (Strawser). This is certainly true when one considers Arthur Clarke’s short story The Sentinel. The work is narrated by a scientist, only identified as “Wilson” (Clarke) once within, and tells of a journey across the moon. The most obvious interpretation of the intent of the work concerns the possibility of alien life outside of humanity, however, what most sets this work apart from others of the same genre is the details that the author has provided. The descriptions of the landscape in which Wilson and the rest of the crew encounter presents readers with a unique experience where the focus of a work is not on the outcome, but the journey to it. Clarke’s avid and thorough application of detail within The Sentinel, while seemingly superfluous, is an integral aspect of the story; without, the work would in no way have the same impact, tone, or ability to stimulate a reader’s senses. Literature, whether fiction or non-fiction, has an effect on the world in which it has been published. It brings forth ideas in which before might have never been brought to fruition. The Sentinel’s publication is a prime example of such an occurrence. Clarke’s work, published in 1951, painted world where in the not-so-distant future humanity was capable of exploring the universe, capable of understanding things previously thought beyond possibility. The details provided within the story could have played a unique and amazing role within world history. The landscape depicted in the work has the distinct ability to inspire the imagination. It spoke of crevasses and mountains and rocks and dust and meteors all described in perfect detail (Clarke). Where before space travel might have seemed an impossibility, with the publication of this work, it could have no longer seemed so far fetched. While other works may have covered traveling beyond Earth, even landing on the moon, such as The Sentinel does, the detail in which the author describes the process as well as the landscape that the characters encounter goes well beyond that of other works. It seems as if the focus of the short story is not on the fate of the characters but of the new experiences they meet on their expedition. It is this feeling of exploration that the detail of the novel inspires, as well as the seeming competition, or “space race” (Sage), between the Soviet Union and the United States, that might have led to an expedited intent to send humans to the moon. Just ten years after The Sentinel was published, John F. Kennedy stood in front of Congress and said: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth” (Logsdon). Eight years after that speech, the first man in history set foot on the moon. Literature has the ability to change lives. Through the means of details it has the ability to inspire worlds and effect history. An appropriate use of detail makes a literary work “more complete”, (Good Stories Use Detail), giving readers something to “grab on to” (Good Stories Use Detail). Detail, above all, has the ability to fully immerse readers within a work. Clarke’s work is a perfect example of this theory in action. Other works might skimp on detail therefore making the work lacking, The Sentinel does no such thing. The depictions of the landscape, while not fully necessary to the plot of the story, serve to help readers find themselves more invested in it. Other literary works, ones who fall short on a sufficient amount of detail, tend to make a story uninteresting and even boring. The detail applied within Clarke’s work provides an entire universe which was previously unseen at the time of publication. The level of detail applied within the short story allows readers to saturate their minds in an experience unlike any other. The imagery of the lunar landscape the Clarke has created is so well described that is is due to this that the tone of the work is set. Throughout the story, there is a sense of discovery and adventure as well as academic curiosity. This would not be the case were it not for the detail given by the author. If it had been any less, the story would become just another mundane work about humans in space. Instead, it has been crafted into a thriving ground for human imagination to flourish. Through an application of details illustrating an expedition on the moon in 1996, as told through the eyes of a geologist, or selenologist “if one wants to be pedantic” (Clarke), readers find themselves delighted and intrigued through no other means than a further description of the landscape and activities than other works might offer. Within The Sentinel, the author has crafted quite the unique story. With a lot of literary works, once readers have completed them, they are able to go back and pinpoint a moment in the piece where it has become obvious that a substantial amount of writing was simply building up to make whatever the ending may be have more shock, emotional, or mystifying value. Clarke’s work obviously values the journey the readers experience rather than trying to shape his work around its ending. Almost every single one of the senses are stimulated by the details applied in the story. Such small parts of a work, seemingly unnecessary, actually are what makes the work so enthralling. Readers are able to smell the sausages that Wilson has burned when he becomes distracted after catching a glance of a “metallic glitter” (Clarke), they are able to imagine themselves in Wilson’s place when he comes back to himself on the plateau and begins to hear Garnett calling in his ear as if he had been doing so for some time, and they are able to envision themselves along for the entire journey along with the crew with the detail of the landscape provided as well as the detail of the assignments as well as the descriptions of almost every single action taken by the narrator (Clarke). The readers, thanks to the imagery implemented within, it encourages readers to feel as if they are right there with Wilson. They are able to feel what he feels, see what he sees, and hear what he hears, all thanks to detail that some might deem irrelevant. Such writing, where a story is crafted with specific care to minute aspects, like The Sentinel, provides a much more well-rounded and worthwhile experience to readers since they are able to find themselves drawn in to the writing from the get-go rather than just enduring the work to see the ending. Some might say that the amount of detail within The Sentinel is unnecessary to the story. This could not be more untrue. The detail is what makes the entire story the staple it is. Arthur Clarke’s short story is not one in which the writing of the work’s purpose is solely to lead up to the ending; the detail serves to spin a tale of a world unknown and to help readers experience it as if it were their own adventure.

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