Wisdom From Kammbia Story Review 16: George by Terry Bisson

by | Jan 16, 2023 | Marion's Favorites, Marion's Reading Life Blog, Short Story Review, Wisdom From Kammbia Column, Wisdom of Kammbia Story Review | 2 comments

I have a question.

As a parent, would you allow your child born with wings to have them removed?

That question gets answered in Terry Bisson’s short story George from his award-winning collection, Bears Discover Fire. The parents in this story have just given birth to a newborn boy named George. The doctor tells the father that he must have the wings removed if he wants the child to have a normal life. George’s father is unsure at first about the doctor’s recommendation and tries to find alternatives. Also, the father discusses the matter with his pastor and the same conclusion was reached by him.

George’s father knows his wife will not agree with the doctor and pastor’s recommendation and delays talking with her about it for most of the story.  Finally, he finds the courage to talk to his wife about removing the wings and has to do quite a bit of convincing himself to accept the inevitable.

The story takes a twist when George’s father talks with his wife. I agree with their decision and the story ends with George’s mother giving birth to a little sister that confirms their choice.

George is ultimately about accepting difference and not going along with the status quo. It is difficult to go against the grain since we are social creatures and need to fit in with others around us.  However, if you believe in a higher power, whether it’s from the three major Western religions or other forms of spirituality, then you have to accept the natural order of things and not try to go against it in order to fit into accepted norms.

Ursula K. Le Guin writes this her 1975 essay American SF and the Other: “If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—-you may hate it, or deify it; but it either case you have denied its spiritual reality, and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality. You have, in fact, alienated yourself.”

She was examining how the science fiction genre treated the “other” outside of a cisgender American white male perspective and how many of those stories and novels at the time reflected that power dynamic instead of seeing the other as a fully fledged human being.

I believe a story like George reinforces Le Guin’s essay and provides an understanding that is sorely needed in today’s world.  I will answer the question from the beginning of this review as I would keep those wings on my newborn son and help him deal with the societal consequences of that decision.  What would you do?  I would recommend that you read the story for yourself to see how his parents made their decision.



  1. Earl Mitchell

    I read the short story and feel that it was well written and they could have exchanged wings with any number of disabilities or differences we see in our society today: it was a great story and a great suggestion.

    • MHill

      Thanks for reading it Earl. I totally agree that wings could have been replaced with disabilities or other differences in our society.


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