“The Egg” is Andy Weir’s most popular short story. It was first published on his website, Galactanet, in 2009, and can still be read there. It’s very short, and offers an interesting philosophy for living.
Although Andy Weir has stated that the story doesn’t represent his beliefs, this doesn’t take away from it, and there are still interesting things in it to consider. It’s a popular short story for students. This articles starts with a summary, then looks at a few possible themes.
Summary of “The Egg”
“You” are killed in a car accident on the way home, leaving behind a wife and two kids. You find yourself in the afterlife talking to God, who explains what happened. You inquire about your family’s well being, which God approves of.
Your family will be alright. Your kids will remember you as perfect, and your wife will be secretly relieved by your death, as your marriage was failing. You’re fascinated that God looks like a vague authority figure, not what you expected.
You’re going to be reincarnated. You and God walk and talk about the situation. Within you is all the knowledge from past lives, it just won’t come to mind right now. You’ve lived many lives. Your next one will be as a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD. It only seems like it’s going back in time, as God exists outside of time as we know it. It’s possible you’ve interacted with yourself in different forms.
You ask about the meaning of life. It’s to mature, to grow as a person. There’s only you—all the people on earth throughout time are you, the noble and the reprehensible. Everything you’ve ever done to another has been done to yourself, and every human experience has been experienced by you.
You ask why. Because you’re one of God’s kind, and will eventually become like him. For now, you’re a fetus, still growing, and the whole universe is an egg. You’re sent to your next life.
The protagonist doesn’t have access to memories from previous lives, so he doesn’t gain any empathy from each incarnation. This theme is felt by the reader, though, as the story’s premise makes us empathize with others, as if they were us.
This story takes “Treat others as you would like to be treated”, to its ultimate extreme. The way you treat others is literally how you’re treating yourself. Viewing life this way would give us a great deal of empathy for others’ feelings and circumstances.
Fairness also stands out as a theme, as everyone gets the same treatment because everyone, is in fact, the same person. There’s no distinction between victim and victimizer, rich and poor, and any of the other numerous differences that can make life better or worse.
In the world of “The Egg”, no one is better or worse off than anyone else. It’s simply a single person having many different experiences. Along with increasing empathy, viewing life this way would also move someone to treat people as fairly as possible.
Theme: Bettering Yourself
The ultimate goal of this lengthy series of reincarnations is “. . . to grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.” This idea of self-improvement is presented as the meaning of life.
This philosophy can be adopted in a single lifetime as well. As we gain more experience and knowledge interacting with others and through other learning, we can become better—wiser, ethical and more compassionate, among other things.