The Machine stops is one of the greatest Dystopian tales I’ve ever read. As a race humans love Dystopias and so its no surprise I hear about so many people, including myself, enjoying this short story about Vashti, Kuno, and the Machine. In this tale Vashti is a mother who doesn’t really look or act like one, and most parents in this time period are just like her. She is short and very pale, almost sickly looking. She, as well as most everyone else in this society, is cut off from the world and is only connected to other people by this machine of sorts.
Her children, one in particular named Kuno, beg her to come visit but time after time she refuses to leave the comforts of her machine.
Kuno refuses to speak to her until she comes to visit, she is reluctant but eventually does venture out of her home, she says there is something special about her children.
The book of the machine states responsibility for your children stops after their birth and to some degree Vashti agrees with this but Kuno means so much to her she sacrifices her comfort just to go see him. She thinks he is young and foolish though and doesn’t understand why he wishes to escape the grasp of the machine. The machine is their home, it cooks for them, cleans, entertains them, anything their hearts desire, Vashti thinks it’s foolish to do something the machine could do for you.
Throughout the story Vashti brings up how certain things give her ideas and how other’s don’t, it doesn’t exactly explain what she means but to me the ideas are not even her own, they are words or thoughts fed to her through the system. Kuno has learned to have his own thoughts, not everyone has to have the same thoughts all the time. In this story no one really believes in religion anymore, the only “god” is the machine. People worship and depend on the machine so much is is practically a god to them.
On the airship Vashti talks about not liking the airship very well. Their airships are our modern day air planes, they have windows so you can see the world below you, nice seats, etc. but Vashti and the others seem to hate being in it. Vashti doesn’t like being in it, she hates seeing the stars at night and the beautiful sunrise, just like all the other passengers. They complain about being able to see outside and despite having blinds on the windows they still are disturbed by a star or two peaking out from behind the blinds.
This shows they are so dependent upon their own little world they cannot come to appreciate the beauty of the earth around them, it’s disgusting to them. She says it gives her no ideas, because all her life she has not been taught of a world outside the machine therefore she is disinterested in the world below. When they pass over Greece she completely disregards it having no interest in the ancient world below.
In the story they talk about being homeless but it’s not exactly what one might think it is. These homeless might very well have homes but none that have anything to do with the machine. Being homeless means you live down on earth and it is often the result of being cast out for not supporting the machine and it’s ideals. Kuno says he wants to live there, on earth and Vashti can’t understand why he would want anything like that.
Kuno tells her that she is obsessed with the machine but she refuses to believe it, her philosophy is why do anything yourself when the machine can do it for you? Their whole life they’ve been told earth was a desolate wasteland but thats not true, plants and people still live there Kuno has seen it himself. People can live without the machine but Vashti Refuses to believe it. Kuno believes everyone on earth will go on living just fine but everyone who is hooked to the machine will perish, they can’t survive without it.
This story is a dystopia because despite it seeming like there are no problems there are actually quite a few. It is focusing on one figure in that time’s society which happens to be the advancement in technology and blowing it to extreme proportions. In this society people are so dependant on the machine they can barely do anything for themselves and their living off the ideas they’ve been fed from it from birth. At birth the machine takes care of you, parents are abandoning their children and going off to do their own thing. It’s a severe abandonment of responsibility. Those who see these flaws and disagree with how the machine works are “exiled” and become homeless, more like machineless though. I’m sure the people on earth don’t mind, they’d rather be down there than in the clutches of the machine anyway.
Anyone within the grips of the machine is nearly dehumanized having their humanity ripped from them until they are an empty, fleshy, container. They don’t like to look at the world around them and they can’t stand one another’s touch. They don’t speak kindly to one another either. Those that have undergone this dehumanization process are too blind to see that they aren’t anyone anymore, just like everyone else, there is nothing different about them, all pale, all lazy, all threatened by the real world. So there they sit in their little bubble of protection known as the machine.
This book does seem to resemble today’s society quite clearly, though not to such extremes. Obviously there are strong connections in the technology department. The first thing I thought of was the actual machine itself, it seems to be a room with all this technology in it that resembles a lot of what we have today. Just like with webcams, tablets, and cell phones they could video chat, people no longer had to be in the room to see each other’s faces, hear each other’s voices.
Despite any amount of distance between them they could still be “near” each other as long as they had the glass plate in front of them. Another thing I noticed was the plane she sent to come pick her up from her room. It resembled modern commercial airlines like we have today. The planes there had windows, seats, and hostesses just like ours do. The only difference I could find was that they had separate rooms instead of just a few long rows of seats.
They also seemed more comfortable. The lack of belief in a god resembles society today as well. To them their machine is similar to a god but in reality there is none in their world, a large lack of religion is seen. In our society today you hear quite a bit about atheists and people straying from their previous religious faith. It reminds me quite a bit of today.
Finally the way people acted sort of reminded me like today, though once again it is much more exaggerated in their world. In their world people are very reserved and don’t like to be talked to or touched, they don’t depend on human interaction like we do today. They also have a great disinterest for anything other than their machine. Today it seems like people are much less personable and don’t like to be touched or talked to by anyone other than those are close to. I’m going to be honest, I hate being touched by most people and I’d rather spend time with myself than others, our class annoys me to no end and all I ever want to do is run and hide, but I feel like we’re being comforted by technology around us.
Foster practically foresaw the future of modern day technology, but I don’t think he foresaw how we would adapt to it. Sure there and a rare selection of these cases but for the most part I think it was extreme exaggeration. Yes many of us rely on our technology like our phones and computers far too much but we do not raise it to the same standard as a god. We do not completely replace human interaction for our cold and metallic smartphone counterparts. It also seems that many parents don’t care for their children but from what I’ve heard from modern day parents is that nothing compares to the overwhelming love you feel for your child the first moment you hold it in your arms, it’s in our nature to love those we create. Most say human nature will be our downfall but I say it’s our salvation.