The Last Flight of Doctor Ain is a short story written by a science fiction master, James Triptree. The author is best known as a master of a short story prose with deep psychological implications and the elements of a classic suspense. The major part of her most recognized works was published in the end of the twentieth century (Phillips 10). The story elucidates several socially acute aspects such as the problem of biological weapon, terrorism, and contains some conspiracy theory connotations. The story is written in a simple and concise style so that there is an impression that it is one of the reports published by the FBI or CIA. Despite a seemingly non-belles format, The Last Flight of Doctor Ain is a very sophisticated piece of literature that contains numerous symbols to be riddled.
The plot of the story is based on the report of the travelling route that Doctor Ain covers before he dies of an unprecedentedly powerful virus. The author does not provide a detailed introduction to the background of the main character; in the meantime, there are some clues that let the reader understand he is a recognized scientist. The doctor covers several destinations, though his main target is Moscow where he is supposed to give a speech in the frame of a large-scale symposium (Link and Fry 610). During his speech, he reveals the terrifying discovery – he has found a virus the power of which might be identified with biological weapon. At this point, the reader is likely to guess that Ain is the main carrier of this virus. Before the main character dies, the reader likewise gets acquainted with the romantic plot line. Thus, there are several references to the object of Ain’s affection which is called “a woman,” though the story contains some clues which allow suggesting that this character symbolizes “The Earth.”

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While analyzing the style of The Last Flight of Doctor Ain, it is necessary to point out a certain discrepancy. Thus, one the one hand, the story is written in a reserved, “operative style” (Ellis par. 1). On the other hand, the extensive use of sophisticated stylistic devices and metaphoric symbols turns it into both an exciting detective and an insightful psychological drama. In this view, it might be suggested that Triptree made a skillful use of the contrasting styles to reach the target objectives. The brief and short sentences of the operative format helped the author to enhance the tension and create a suspense-style framework. The abundance of metaphors and allusions in the nominal romantic” plot line was used to introduce the philosophic question in a delicate and non-straightforward manner. As a result, the reader is deceived by the seeming simplicity of the text, at first, and realizes he or she needs a second reading, by the end of the story.

In order to understand the message that Triptree tried to translate, it is, first and foremost, essential to take into account the historical context of the story. As such, the piece was written in the period of the Cold War when the social tension and anxiety was reaching its peak. In this view, it might be suggested that Triptree tries to show the role of a desperate man in the era of overall globalization and progress. It is essential to note that the selected theme is rather contradictive. Moreover, the story does not provide the readers with any idea on the position that the author takes in this ambiguous debate. Likewise, Triptree does not provide any insights into the alternative solutions. In this view, the author chooses a “safe” path elucidating the major pitfalls of the contemporary era, without offering a way out.

  • Ellis, Jason. James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Last Flight of Doctor Ain,” 2007. Web. 21 Sep. 2016. .
  • Ellis, Jason. James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Last Flight of Doctor Ain,” 2007. Web. 21 Sep. 2016. .
  • Phillips, Julie. James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, New York, New York: Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, 2007. Print.