« Ideas near and far! | Main | How intrusive! »

February 10, 2007

Ideas near and far!

Forster, ''The Machine Stops'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"You know that we have lost the sense of space...I determined to recover it...Up and down, until I was tired, and so did capture the meaning of 'Near' and 'Far'. 'Near' is a place to which I can get quickly on my feet, not a place to which the train or the air-ship will take me quickly. 'Far is a place to which I cannot get quickly on my feet; the vomitory is 'far', though I could be there in thirty-eight seconds by summoning the train

I think that Forster is an absolutely brilliant author. This quote, for example, is unbelievable. He was able to capture something so basic to every individual, and put it into the perfect words to convey the true meaning of near and far. Often times, it's more difficult to explain something basic, that is used everyday, than something much more complex. The concept of a sense of space is one that I can honestly say I have never thought about before.

Also, can anyone explain the whole "ideas" concept? Is it literally "ideas" that the characters are trying to get, or are ideas something else? I'm not sure if I missed some type of explanation or what.

Posted by CheraPupi at February 10, 2007 1:37 PM


I think the fact that she's being asked for "new" ideas is all the more ironic given the fact that the ideas are all taken directly from older literature. Forster fools us by giving this concept that Vashti's a lecturer and making us think that there's still intellectual activity in the future, and by the end we realize that this completely not true. If we knew at the beginning that everyone's become a thoughtless automaton, we'd know their society's doomed and there wouldn't be much of a reason to continue reading the story.

Posted by: Matt Henderson at February 20, 2007 9:14 PM

Ohhh, I do understand a little better. But at the beginning, everyone's asking her if she has any new ideas. So are they asking her for ideas that she has put in a lecture? or new ideas for a lecture? I do understand what you're saying Matt. Thank you!

Posted by: Chera Pupi at February 11, 2007 6:36 PM

I wasn't so curious about ideas, but I was surprised that Vashti had no ideas when she looks out the window, especially given the vivid description Forster gives. I think I get it now, though, that she couldn't allow herself to gain first-hand emotions and ideas from the outside world, so she could gain nothing from it.

Posted by: HallieGeary at February 10, 2007 9:25 PM

Matt, that's a great quote that you found. An excellent example of turning to the text to answer a peer's question.

Chera, does that answer satisfy you?

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 6:52 PM

I think the "ideas" in the story are ones that have been passed down from previous generations. A little toward the end of the story, a lecturer says "Beware of first-hand ideas...Let your ideas be secondhand...for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element - direct observation." Everyone seems hesitant to think for themselves, so they term "ideas" as ideas which have already been accepted by their mass culture and made a part of everybody's lectures. The idea of experiencing anything directly scares them because they live up far away from the earth, so that's why Vashti looks down at geographical wonders like the Himalayas and says "No ideas here."

Posted by: MatthewHenderson at February 10, 2007 3:38 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?