Can technology be both beneficial and disastrous for humankind? Sadly the answer is yes. As we all know, there have been numerous technological advances that has positively impacted society. However, these new technologies have also brought negative effects to our planet Earth, and hence, humanity. This is the main point in which The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster revolves around. This enticing short story focus on the idea of how technology has taken dominance over human beings throughout the past years. The characters live under the orders of “the Machine”, a technological instrument that has taken control of this futuristic society, to the level of being worshiped and keep them away from any human interaction with each other. Foster introduces Vashti and her son Kuno as the main protagonists of the story and accompanies them as they fight against their own beliefs and what technology is truly doing to humanity. Using several literary elements, Forster clearly predicts a future in which machines will eventually control the world and bring the human race to its own destruction.
In the short story, Foster utilizes symbolism to portray the main idea of how the power of technology can negatively affect society as a whole. The Machine is presented to the readers as the symbol of control and dominance to the society of this time. An example is shown when Kuno, the main character’s son, emotionally breaks after his mother’s rejection to come and see him. However, the mother, Vashti, could not sense the same type of emotion as her son since “the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression”(pg. 3). Living enclosed inside the Machine without any human contact has provoke in her a lost of her emotions and human feelings. Another example is when Vashti is left alone by her son after talking through the Machine. She feels lonely, so she relies on the thousand of buttons provided by the Machine as a way to dismiss those depressing feelings. The protagonist devotes her life to this technological instrument, to the point that she feels insecure about leaving the Machine and go to see her own son. The Machine has isolated her from the outside world and has brainwashed Vashti’s mind creating in her a sensation that only inside the Machine she will be secure.
There is also interesting to observe the contrast between the mother and her son from the story and the different points of view towards this worshiped deity known as “the machine”. The mother, Vashti, simply relies on this device and feels like living under the Machine’s command and order would make her life more secured and easier. For instance, when the son, Kuno, requests his mother to visit him, Vashti shockingly reacts by stating that the Machine is more than the sufficient place to see him. However, Kuno insist in seeing his mother personally and not through “the wearisome Machine”(pg. 2) which causes Vashti to contradict her son by not defaming the Machine. Irritated by the fact that his mother venerates the Machine like it was made from God, he replies to her by saying that “Men made it. The Machine is much, but it is not everything”(pg. 2) Tough humans created this technology for a positive purpose, the Machine has become a device in which the society of this time feels dependent to it.
To conclude, I found this short story really fascinating and captivating since it leaves the readers a insightful message that society, in general, should not rely extremely in technology because of the tragic consequences that it might occur in the future. Despite the technological progress, machines have also makes us become less humans and more dependent to them. “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” – Albert Einstein.