It’s hard to discuss The Test without giving away key plot details. As a summary, it’s a harrowing read, filled with deep questions about ethics, human psychology, and the impact of trauma. I recommend giving it a read.
To go into a bit more detail…
The Test is an examination of what it means to be human. It starts off as a typical test and becomes a horrifying life or death situation. The novella asks an extremely complex question: what kind of person would you become in a situation of extreme trauma? It’s an interesting and terrifying question, especially when used as a method for assessing a person’s right to citizenship. The psychological implications of this test are astounding, especially when the plot digs deeper and examines its roots.
At the beginning, we see a typical immigration test and, while it’s ridiculous and asks questions no one really needs to know, it pales in comparison to the horrors that come. To say the scenario is unethical would be an understatement. Imagining a government weeding people out based on trauma is pretty horrifying. This reduces people down to sets of statistics, with their futures hanging on which box gets checked.
It’s especially difficult to watch these events unfold because we get to know the primary character well. We see him shift from excitement to fear to pure trauma. That transition is haunting, and knowing the implications of the test on his life to come makes it all the harder to stomach.
The Test is a psychological experiment to be sure, examining human actions from a personal and a government perspective. In the end, it’s clear that the “good guys” have crossed the threshold and left their humanity at the door.
By Sylvain Neuvel
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