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Tick-tock, tick-tock...

E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops is now my favorite reading selection for EL 150 thus far. I typically don't read science fiction, but this story was definitely worth it. Its portrayal of a possible future for humanity seems almost like a prophecy.

Forster obviously had an excellent ability to extend the trends of his time far into the future, for him to come up with such a compelling theme, and a story that introduces many technologies we are capable of right now.

One of the most horrifying aspects of the story is the fact that its characters remain physically isolated from each other almost indefinitely, and find actual face-to-face interactions with other people to be distasteful, improper, and, in most cases, unecessary. Vashti even makes a big deal out of going to visit her own son, finding it to be a waste of time... In fact, she seems almost uncomfortable when she finally goes to him, constantly caressing "the Book of the Machine"... It's like she cares for it as a child, somehow using it to fill the gap that belongs to her real child.

I noticed some vampire-related references in this story, such as the fact that the humans are afraid to let the sun touch them. I also figured that the humans' bleeding at the end of the story, in order to finally "recapture life," as Kuno puts it, could be considered a biblical connection... They are bleeding out their lives in the same way that Jesus bled out his on the cross, in order to be (ironically enough) reborn and "[learn] their lesson" (wash away their sins). The narrator even talks about the "sin against the body" that they all committed.

Although this story was written in 1909, it is so well-developed and uses such transcendent language that it could almost pass as a contemporary short story. Forster's mastery of simplistic literature is uncanny... There were very few words (not including those the author made up) that I could not recognize, and the plot was really easy to follow. When I first started reading, I expected this story to be much more difficult to read, and full of complex, sophisticated language or ideas... Fortunately, I was proven wrong. A pleasant surprise, through-and-through.

Note: I considered analyzing this story in more depth, but I would actually prefer not to... I liked it, and I don't want to risk spoiling it by looking at it too closely. I think I summarized most of my most important observations, anyways.

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Comments

I think that the media is sort of a double-edged sword... It does a lot of good, by keeping us connected over long distances and giving us a common sense of community, but at the same time, it does some bad, too, by desensitizing us to its content (which deals almost exclusively with humans).

About that isolation... I guess that's essentially what media does to us. It alieninates us from humans. I mean, if you did not have to leave your house, or even your room to speak to someone, would you?

I was surprised at the ease of the story too. I guess I went in thinking the same as you Chris- that it would be a harder selection. Instead, I enjoyed it and also noticed how remarkably current the story seemed. To think of all that technology in 1909, not *1999* is pretty amazing.

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