Reading Response #1: The Machine Stops

In the short science fiction story The Machine Stops by E.M Forster, the characters act very different in most situations when  compared to the people from our world. For example, in this dystopian period, people never touched one another. No one was allowed to even save someone from dying. This became a law of sorts after the Machine took over. I wonder how the inhabitants of this world showed affection to one another if they could not touch each other. How do people bear children? I am also curious to hear if this extends to everyone in the community or just civilians. For example, what about doctors and law enforcement? This law or custom is shown in page 9 when a woman was touched and saved by accident.

In addition, reading the relationship between a mother and son makes me wonder how they grew up together. The mother doesn’t seem to care that much about what happens to her son, or at least she doesn’t show her feelings very well. It appears as if she places her duty to the Machine above anyone else. Speaking of which, what made the son, Kuno, want to fight against the Machine? Why was he one of the few to break out of the Machine’s grasp and rebel against it?

Forster shows another difference in the way people act in page 8 of the story as he states, “people were almost exactly alike all over the world.” The story does not go into detail in how the inhabitants are all the same, but the author seems to refer to their form of speech. Because they have lived underground their entire lives, it does make sense for the inhabitants to speak and act the same. For example, living in such a confined structure would probably eliminate any dialects and different languages.  In addition to speech, they would most likely hold very similar beliefs, morals and fashion among others.

I believe that whoever is in charge of the citizens of this world make it a primary objective for everyone to be the same. This isn’t difficult to believe because If they made an effort to control the birth and death rate, why not the personalities of their citizens as well? Controlling their own people’s personalities would allow the one in charge to stay in power for a long time because they can easily eliminate any potential rebels that could be a threat to the Machine. Besides, living in a closed area makes it very easy to control others ( you can tell them where they can go, what they can do, etc.).

Controlling people’s personalities and beliefs reminds me of the video game series Fallout, where people live in underground vaults from birth to death. This series takes place in a similar world as it is also set in a dystopian future. In addition, most of the surface area is difficult to live in because of the nuclear blasts (which results in the use radiation suits). In Fallout, there are various vaults scattered throughout the world, and each vault has different living conditions set in place in order to experiment on the people living in them. For example, one vault may be filled with only aggressive people, one gender or be void of literature. Overall, Fallout and The Machine Stops are similar because they are both set in a world where people live underground and are controlled heavily in what they do and how they act.

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