“The Heat Death of the Universe” Project


Here is the format guideline…


Introduction to the story


[Intro paragraph]he term “the heat death of the universe” refers to a maxing out of the distribution of the energy in the universe. Energy will be spread out equally and there will be no more left to run the processes of the universe that require energy to be run. Following this, the entire system will collapse as intense amounts of chaos will wreak havoc in the universe and disorder becomes rampant. Although this theory refers to the universe as a whole, Pamela Zoline explores this same theory only from a personal, individual stance in her short story, “The Heat Death of the Universe.” The story follows a day in the life of Sarah Boyle, a mother of an uncountable number of children with a few self control issues. Sarah Boyle encounters much chaos throughout her day to prepare and host a birthday party for one of her children and ultimately brings an end to her “universe” through her rage and mental breakdown by the end of the story. (THESIS)

            [The body paragraphs support the thesis using specifics from the text. Remember to make assertions, use TBE, and then explain….]

The “universe” is usually referred to the overall system consisting of galaxies, stars, planets and space of which mankind and planet earth is only a small part of. However, it can be interpreted that the term “universe” can be reduced to a personal scale as someone’s little “universe” can be his or her personal living space. In Sarah Boyle’s case, her “universe” is her own home. Therefore the story and the concept of the heat death of the universe can be connected on a more individual point of view. A major contributor to the heat death of the universe is the increase in the entropy of the system. Entropy is a measure of the amount of disorder in a system. An increase in entropy will bring about the end of the universe. There is a significant measurement of entropy within Sarah Boyle’s home which only increases as the story progresses. At first, the measure of entropy is moderate within her home as there are things such as “…the toys, stepping over and around the organizations of playthings which still seem inhabited. There are various vehicles, and articles of medicine, domesticity and war: whole zoos of stuffed animals, bruised and odorous with years of love; hundreds of small figures, plastic animals, cowboys, cars, spacemen, with which the children make sub and supra worlds in their play.” From this, it can be seen that the measure in entropy will depend on the size of the mess in her house. The mess only gets larger for Sarah following a birthday party hosted at her house later in the day. In addition to the current mess and entropy, more chaos is added as after the party there is now “Gum drops and melted ice cream surge off paper plates, making holes in the paper tablecloth through the printed roses. A fly has died a splendid death in a pool of strawberry ice cream. Wet jelly beans stain all they touch, finally becoming themselves colorless, opaque white flocks of tames or sleeping maggots. Plastic favors mount half-eaten pieces of blue cake. Strewn about are thin strips of fortune papers from the Japanese poppers. Upon them are printed strangely assorted phrases selected by apparently unilingual Japanese. Crowds of delicate yellow people spending great chunks of their lives in producing these most ephemeral of objects, and inscribing thousands of fine papers with absurd and incomprehensible messages.” Ultimately, with the addition of this mess after the party, the entropy within Sarah Boyle’s household has reached a maximum and the breakdown of her “universe” will begin. What follows is an almost complete destruction of her home. This can be seen to represent the end of the universe (more so hers) as she literally destroys her house amongst all of the chaos that is present in her house. What is seen is only the end of the universe due to a mass amount of chaos but on scale so much smaller that it refers to the personal life of one family rather than the entire universe as a whole.

             Pamela Zoline’s short story “The Heat Death of the Universe” is a view on what may happen to the universe should the build up of entropy, disorder and chaos reach a maximum. It is presented on a much smaller scale focusing on what can happen to the universe should the heat death of the universe come about within the immediate future. However, the concept of the heat death of the universe is still a theory in debate. What happens in the story should it be enlarged to include galaxies and space may not necessarily be true as theories can often be refuted and proven wrong.



[The annotations are what would be the footnotes in the edition. They help explain difficult terms or concepts. Each annotation clearly lists the paragraph number and bolds the term. Then, if applicable, research is presented with an appropriate footnote + a short connection to the story. Help your dumb friend understand the relevance of your research or analysis. The footnotes included here are only to show Ms. G that you did not plagiarize but gave credit where it was due from your research. In the anthology edition, these would not appear. They are only for our purposes!]


Paragraph # 2. Foraminifera are single celled protists that are usually found in watery environments. The most obvious unique structure that foraminifera possess is shells on their exterior. As foraminifera grow older, they tend to continually add chambers to their shell. This can be interpreted as a supporting point for the various mentions of perpetual action that is mentioned in the paragraph. Things such as “The earth rolls and the sun appears to mount…” are symbols of perpetual action. No matter what is happening in the world, these various elements including the growth of new chambers into the shell of the foraminifera keep happening and will follow a continuous cycle.[1]

            This connects to the story in that…. EXPLAIN HERE HOW THIS IS IMPORTANT TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE STORY…


Paragraph 5. Ochres are natural pigments usually red or yellow usually found in Australia. They were mainly used by the aborigines for purposes such as artwork, body paint and food preservatives. This reference to ochres is just an elaboration of the colors that make up a cereal box.[2]

            This connects to the story in that…. EXPLAIN HERE HOW THIS IS IMPORTANT TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE STORY…

[1] Olney, Matthew. “Foraminifera.” 2004. <http://www.ucl.ac.uk/GeolSci/micropal/foram.html#intro> (10/14/04).

[2] Heitlinger, S. Ochres.” 2002 <http://www.flg.com.au/ContempAboriginal/OCHRES.htm> (10/15/04).