The Last Night of the World


A nondescript home in the United States.


Knows the world is ending but does not panic.

Knows the world is ending but does not panic.

Stan Willis
Co-worker of the husband.

Two unnamed daughters
Children of the husband and wife.


Husband and wife, who accept the death of their planet.


Death, which is apparently felt by all adults as rapidly approaching.


They continue with their daily routine, as always.


Presumably, the world ends.


The main theme is the acceptance of death: everyone seems to know the end of the world is coming, and have chosen not to fight this. The reason for this worldwide death is not made clear, lending the story an air of modern-day fable. Perhaps most interesting thematically is the decision for the couple to simply spend their last night as they would every other night. There is a comfort in routine: the decision to not deviate from previous behavior may be seen as a noble choice... but it also indicates one reason why death is coming. That is, the story may also be read as the life-draining nature of too much routine, of leading a basically mechanized life of fixed schedules and expectations, a lifestyle that leaves one "dead inside". Such neutrality has political consequences as well, allowing other nations to commit evil acts which were perhaps another reason why the world ends.


On October 19, 1969, a husband asks his wife what she would do if she knew this was the last night of the world. She asks what he means and he cannot explain, except he had this feeling since having a dream four nights ago. He thought nothing about it but it turned out Stan Willis also had the dream, as did his other co-workers. The wife then confesses to having the same dream, as did the other women on the block. The wife is surprised at how calmly they're taking this end, but the husband believes it's logical given how they've lived and what their nation has allowed to happen in the world by other nations. There is no panic, simply people going about their usual lives; along that line, the husband and wife finish cleaning the dishes, put the children to bed, and spend a quiet night together. They finally go to bed; but the wife forgets to turn off the water in the kitchen sink, which she fixes. They both find this funny and wish each other good-night.

Cite this page:

Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on Illustrated Man".