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The Maturity of Utilitarianism

The Egg by Andy Weir is a short story presenting a vision of the afterlife through a second-person perspective. The main character has a conversation with God in a blank void and comes to realize that they are every human who ever lived. Their accumulation of experiences becomes the font of knowledge for the being they’d mature into, with the universe existing only to help them grow. Although it’s not explicitly stated or prescribed, Weir uses many narrative techniques to emphasize the Golden Rule as a moral framework for one’s life – ‘Treat others as you would want to be treated.’ The Golden Rule is often used as a key principle in consequentialism (also known as utilitarianism), an approach to ethics that views the good of an action solely by the outcome it provides for humans (Kim 2). Despite the references to religion and character of God, the story does not prescribe any rules directly. By looking at individual human lives solely through their interpersonal impact, Weir argues for utilitarianism as a basic moral framework.

In order to more directly engage with the reader, Weir uses the second-person perspective and an immediate death of the main character. The story begins with the phrase, “You were on your way home when you died” (Weir para. 1). By using the second person, Weir (through God) is directly telling us (the reader) about existence and inviting us to make our own conclusions. To avoid alienating the reader, Weir’s main character dies immediately and has few defining features mentioned in the story. Everyone dies, and since everyone is the same ultimate being, everyone will have this conversation with God. 

God only mentions the main character’s life in two instances: to discuss their family and to discuss their initial death. At the beginning of the story, God’s sole descriptor of the main character’s life is “You left behind a wife and two children” (Weir para. 2). This asks the reader to think of one’s life as who they left behind rather than material possessions. God praises the main character for their familial concern. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there” (Weir para. 17). Concern for loved ones is an attribute highly valued by God. This evidences the idea that the maturity of a greater being is achieved by learning how to positively impact others. Later, the main character is more specifically told about their family, still with no mention of any material conditions. Rather than wondering about the traditional question of financial impact for one’s family, God delves into the emotional impacts the main character made in their lifetime.

Later in the story, when God mentions that the main character is every human throughout history, they immediately jump to famous historical figures. God’s immediate response is to point out their impacts or those who impacted them rather than make some moral statement or implication. “‘I’m Hitler?’ You said, appalled. ‘And you’re the millions he killed.’” (Weir para. 55-56). God presents those related to these historical figures to prompt the reader to view the moral worth of someone through the impact on others they have, rather than some abstracted notion of “good” or “evil”. This also opens up the broader impact one has, rather than just their specific impacts on one or two people; Jesus’ mention invites us to think of the worldwide impact one human can have on others.

Throughout the story, Weir emphasizes the insignificance of a single human life. Early in the story, God compares a human life to something as simple as sticking a finger in a glass of water. Later, when God reveals that everyone throughout time is unitary, the reader is led to think of themselves as just a small part of humanity throughout time. If you are only one out of a hundred billion, you are more likely to see others as equals and thus try to maximize positive impact. Finally, the story itself is abrupt. The bookends of The Egg don’t celebrate human birth and death, but rather use them as transitory points. When God is done expositing, he simply ends the story by reincarnating the reader. “And I sent you on your way” (Weir para. 67). All of these factors serve to effectively shift the focus away from the reader’s personal feelings and experiences, and towards the impact they have on others.

Let’s break it down. First, he proposes that a single human life is relatively insignificant, and equal to other human lives. Secondly, he proposes that every human is the same ultimate being, and said being experiences all positive and negative experiences throughout humanity. If these two propositions hold true, then the goal of a single human life should be to simply make positive impacts on other humans. Weir uses various devices to engage the reader with these propositions, such as use of the second person, straightforward tone, and historical and religious allusions. When asked about the meaning of life, God responds that it’s “for you to mature” (Weir para. 41). However, this ultimate maturity is not simply the accumulation of experiences, but rather the lesson that said experiences provide. Maturity is learned benevolence, gained only through the impact of harmful and positive experiences to oneself through billions of lives. God does not judge humans for their good and evil, but rather hopes for their well-being and self-love. According to The Egg, the universe is ultimately utilitarian. If you are everyone, you must act positive to others. The impact you make on others is just as important as your personal well-being.


Works Cited

“Create Infographics, Presentations & Reports.” Piktochart, Accessed 17 Nov. 2020.
Kim, Grace. “Utilitarianism and the Golden Rule.” The Harvard Ichthus, 25 Aug. 2010,
Unsplash. Beautiful Free Images & Pictures | Unsplash. Accessed 17 Nov. 2020.
Weir, Andy. “The Egg.” Galactanet, 15 Aug. 2009,

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