Class Discussion: “The Machine Stops”

Just a reminder that you should make your at least one comment (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by Sunday (3/16).

Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by Tuesday (3/18). 

The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about this short story. Therefore, your comments need not be very long: for example, you can provide a quote/citation and a few sentences of explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc.).

“The Machine Stops”

This short story by E.M. Forster was very interesting to read. While reading it I couldn’t help but realize a few connections with a few films and life in today’s world. Written in 1909 this story was probably set in a futuristic world where humans have become completely dependent on machines. While reading the conversation between Vashti and Kuno I found it amusing that the older generation was siding with the technology while the younger generation was going against the Machine. I wondered that as our generation grew older maybe we could possibly be placed in that situation, where our children who grew with technology start to resent it. 

  After the conversation with Vashti and Kuno, Forster begins to describe the honey celled room that belonged to Vashti and how everything was there for her use. I began to compare it with the Film Wall-E, the Pixar film that was created in 2008, the way the humans counted on the machines to do everything for them was very similar, when they need food it was given to them all in the push of a button. In both pieces they forgot how to do things for themselves. For example, in page 7, when Vashti was going to visit her son she goes on the Air-ship a man drops his book, normally they would be in their rooms and the machine would simply pick up the book for them. I don’t think the man knew he could simply bend down and pick it up for himself instead he just left it there. Which dumbfounded Vashti, not because he didn’t pick it up but because it could easily happen to her and she held on to that book for protection as a catholic would hold on to a bible. 

  The lack of human contact helped me understand why the humans in this story were very protective of the machine. Since birth the machine was all it had, babies normally look for some type of a mother figure it’s in out nature. Could it be possible that as infants they began to view the Machine as that? A mother figure that would be able to give them the protection and comfort that they as humans looked for. The committee was in control of life, they decided how many births were allows and how many deaths were to be given, humans needed permission for everything. They would request the permission to father or mother a child but since birth the child would be taken to their own room and would be cared for by the machines and the cycle begins again. I questioned why humans would request permission if they had no physical contact with the baby throughout it’s life, they don’t take care of it. Technically with the machine the baby doesn’t need it’s parents. I returned to the idea of human nature, where a baby needs to be given comfort maybe adults have the need to give it, one way or another. We are dependent creatures, in “The Machine Stops” humans just depended on the wrong thing.

The Machine Stops

In “The Machine Stops” by E.M Foster, we can find a lot of similarities to our today’s life.  This story was great to read, way easier to understand than the stories before. From the beginning, author clearly explains setting of the story. He makes sure to give a lot of clear details, to make it easier for us to imagine, like this one: “hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee”(pg1).

This text was first published in November 1909, which is unbelievable for me to imagine, since over a hundred years, and we can find so many similarities to our today’s world. When I was ten, which was fifteen years ago, it was rare that people had computers at their home, and now, in developed countries, it is not any more unique that most of people use them on daily basis. Technology evolved to the point where everyone uses it to “live”. In my opinion it is great thing, because it makes our life easier in many ways, but there are negative aspects of it too. Author wrote about a Vashti and son of her Kuno. He was trying to communicate with her, but the main idea was that he wanted to meet with her, in four eyes. She was afraid of leaving a place where she lived, and she was controlled by the Machine, and Vashti’s life was ruled by it.

Overall this story is kind of scary, because I know that most of us can’t leave home without our cell phone. Technology is taking over our life’s, and what comes with it, is that we lose person to person interactions. which in my opinion leads to the name of this story “The Machine Stops”. It indicates that the Machine literally stops communication between one another.               

The Machine Stops

The Machine Stops by E.M. Foster was an interesting read.  In a way it foreshadowed the future.  The Machine Stops basically showed the reader the way life will be in the future, especially with the fact that society depends so much on technology.  One today can’t go a day without using some sort of technology, whether it is a cell phone, a television, or a computer.

In The Machine Stops, Foster used a lot of imagery to allow the reader to picture the machine.  This machine that the characters lived in was some sort of underground contraption that shielded the people of the world.  The protagonist of The Machine Stops, Vashti was so consumed with life in her machine that it physically sickened her when trying to leave it.  She even worshiped the machine manual and was in denial whenever her son, Kuno brought her obsession to her attention.  This relates to the world we live in today.  We consume ourselves with technology, and at the rate that technology is advancing, maybe some day in the future we will be living in underground machines like Vashti.

There is a comparison that can be made between the lives of the characters to life today.  In The Machine Stops, people no longer saw the use in traveling to different places and being on earth.  Like E.M Foster explained, if everywhere is the same, what’s the point of traveling?  I personally feel like in todays day and age, people take what we have for granted.  Not enough people go out and see the hidden wonders of the world.  We use the world as our personal garbage can and end up with problems such as Global Warming.  One day we may just end up having to wear masks to walk around on earth and we may get stuck underground and be “isolated” as the characters of The Machine Stops.

The world that the characters of the short story lived in was not much of a Utopia to me.  It can be considered a Utopia to people like Vashti being that she was born into that world where the sun isn’t needed and the earth isn’t important.  Living in the world we live in today and reading The Machine Stops, I could only hope we don’t end up in a world where we are isolated from others and have to talk to our friends and family through a machine.  (Even though we already do that, for example Oovoo and FaceTime)  We use modern technology to ease our lives, so we should focus today on the wonders that are before us, outside of modern technology and learnt o appreciate whats before us.

The Machine Stops

I enjoyed this short story by E.M Foster. Its a story that can be related to in many ways. Foster creates this story that is full of technology and new inventions. Its very scary but yet fascinating to see how similar it is to our society now. We can see a big message already just in the first part of the story when Kuno tries to communicate with his mother. She used the term “isolate myself” when she actually went on to speak to him. The way she isolated herself was by turning of her lights, and “isolating” herself from all her technology. Shouldn’t it be the opposite. Just in the begging of the story with this use of idea Foster lets us know how important technology is for the characters of the story. In our current society we usually “isolate” ourselves when we are going to be far away from human life. But due to all this technological equipment we acquire daily we have lost a lot of our social interactions with one another.Just in the begging of the story a true current life situation catch my attention. I agree completely and although we have no yet gotten to that point like Kunos mother in my belief we are a short step from living like that. Day my day we dig ourselves to text, receive emails, play on our phones and have technology due many things for us. Most of our work involves a mechanical equimpent . Its like we are already falling under the power of technology. Although we may not realize this we probably text more than we talk to someone on the phone or in person.

Another interesting idea that also shows how from 1990 to know we have actually turned into that world that Foster wrote about. When Kuno speaks to his mother about visiting the surface of the earth. His mother refers to the earth as the horrible “brown earth, and sea, and the starts”. With all the machinery that we have and all the new factories our earth has fallen apart. It has gone from beauty to destruction. Foster predicted in the “The machine Stops” how our life would turn into know due to the technology advancement. Creating a misfortune for us, when in our belief we only though i would make our life better and easier.

The Machine Stops blog response

This story is interesting and more fun to read than The Day Before The Revolution. The story had a lot of imaginary elements because instead of the characters living on earth they are living in some sort of air ship/space ship. They are surrounded heavily by technology that they do not have to physically do anything but just press a simple button. Anything you can think of doing, their is a button to do it for you. At the beginning of the story I was confused like every other story I read for this class. The story starts off describing a room and its shape, then what is in it. After a few sentences tells us that someone was at the door and when the person Kuno enter i did not know what was going on. I felt like he was physically in the room but he wasn’t. As i read more i notice that Kuno was the son of the lady who the author talks about first being in the room by herself. When the woman open the door for Kuno who i didn’t know that was her son. I thought he was some guy who came to see her. When the woman said hurry up you are wasting my time, i thought Kuno was doing something sexually to her. I don’t know why I came to this conclusion but i tend to analyze every sentence and not wait till the paragraph is done to sum it up. Even though the passage say the woman open the door it seem to be that the woman was speaking to her son through a time machine or something. That part was confusing because how can someone open a door but is not talking to the person who she open the door for in reality but through a machine. Maybe if I read the story over and over I would not misunderstood things such as that. People have different comprehensive skills so some might read a sentence once and understand then some one might have to read it 4 times. At a point in the story the woman seem to have no time for Kuno because he speaks about seeing her and she seem to have no time to see him. On the third page the boy talks about wanting to go to visit earth once again like if he haven’t been there before. After reading that I said to myself well ok, if he want to go to earth again then he does not live on earth. That being said i felt that the boy and his mother lives somewhere on another planet or even in a space ship. The mother talks about men killing animals and other men. This to me look like the mother does not like planet earth. Whoever read this story knows that this room that Vashti (the woman) stays in has nothing but has everything to connect with the world by the machine with all the buttons. Vashti is very concerned about Kuno going to earth because she don’t want him to die.

“The Machine Stops” Reponse – Allen

In “The Machine Stops”, at first you may think it’s based on a utopian society but in reality, it is a dystopia. This is a science fiction based dystopian story which is primarily centered around this thing called The Machine and the main character Vashti. From what I analyzed, it seems Vashti and perhaps others living in this society have become accustomed to this new way of life of machinery. It seems everything they do relies on the works of these machines such as touching a button to call for food, clothing and even music. Vashti also refers to this “Machine” quite often, as if its a living thing or a higher being of some sort. The beginning of the story gives us a brief summary on what has happened to earth and what “rules” the world now, which is the Machine. People who are living in the Machine might seem happy but people like Vashti’s son Kuno, wants to explore the world outside of the Machine or what they call the surface of the earth. What really intrigues me is this line, “You talk as if a god had made the Machine.”(Forster 2) This really shows the despise Kuno feels for the Machine because in a way he blames it for turning his mother into this machine relying person who can’t do anything without the machine and who is ignorant of the outside world. It really saddens me to see how reliant Vashti is on the machine. In her isolated room in the machine, she has a book called the book of the machine which has instructions on how to deal with any future events that may happen or contingencies. It’s so sad it even tells her what buttons to press and all. After reading throughout the middle part of the story, i start to believe the possibility that the Machine may refer to their god. In page five she quotes, “O Machine O Machine! Thrice she kissed it, thrice inclined her head, thrice she felt the delirium of acquiescence. Her ritual performed.” A normal person would not go this far to worship somebody unless they were some kind of higher being. Another line from the story that I found really fascinating was “So the human passions still blundered up and down in the Machine.(Foster 5)” After reading this line multiple signs, it supported my idea on what this society is really like, a dystopia. This line suggests that human passion was unnecessary and is foolish to consider. Blundered up and down, meant that careless mistakes still existed in the machine. This suggests that in the Machine, mistakes are unrealistic and abnormal. I feel that mistakes are what societies need. Mistakes are how people learn and grow, they learn from what they did wrong and try to improve themselves on being better people. In the middle to the end of the story, it displays some irony. Vashti starts to see the flaws of the Machine and realizes the thing she worshiped so much, was only a step back into despair which separates her, from her son.

No ideas here

The  Machine Stops is wonderfully written. While reading this story, I could see some similarities between the lifestyle of the people in the book and our current society. The reliance on machinery is so heavily put forth in the story that it puts things into perspective on how we as a society may slowly be losing touch with one another as people. The story it self, has a scary quality about it. When you read about how Kuno had practiced his muscles to, it only makes you think, how frail are these people at this current point in the story? I imagine after years of living cooped up in the rooms, without having to do much other than pressing buttons, the human being has deteriorated to something that may resemble a sliver of what humanity used to be. Simple day to day activities such as walking from one place to another can greatly influence the general health of a human being, and the people in the story don’t even seem to do that. The story seems to reflect what it would be like if humanity had completely given up it’s rights to free thought and just indulged in the glitz and glamour of technology. Vashti’s love and incredible denial of how the Machine could be wrong, borders on cult like behavior to me. She is incapable of seeing through the veil that has been place in front of her. This to me shows that humanity truly has just bent to the rules and knows no other way to live. I believe the text can be seen as precaution, to allow ourselves the privileges of which machines bring us, but do not allow ourselves to hand over our free will and free thought. We as people should always have a check system, to make sure to continue on wards with human contact to benefit ourselves as a race.

-Rafal Napierala

The Machine Stops

The story “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster is a very engaging story , right from the beginning it starts making you imagine things in your head, it opens to a whole new world. The Story involves two main characters. A mother and a son , their names were Vashti and Kuno. They live completely opposite from each other. In this world the author created Humans aren’t able to live above the earth’s surface, they live underground. The whole living civilization underground. But thanks to the technology that they have many have been able to live for so long. In this Story, technology starts looking like a good thing , like a great tool that human rely on. The story explains the life Vashti lives, and her lectures and talks she has with other people, but in this world thanks to technology they dnot have to physically see each other in other to talk, now it’s rare when people physically see each other. It’s like instant messaging but they can see each other virtually. I feel like it’s like a virtual thing where you see the person, you hear them, but you can’t literally touch them. And the story says Vashti has a conversation with her Son. But the conversation quickly gets serious when her son has to tell her something. He explains it’s something really serious and that he can’t say it through the way they were communicating. She asked why, if she could see him and hear him, but he didn’t feel it was good enough. She didn’t want to travel. This this underground world , it’s really rare when someone travels, so she really didn’t want to travel. Many have gotten used being in their cells, since it provides them with anything they need. Her son got mad but at the end she ended up going . While she traveled she had so many difficulties and she wasn’t happy about it. When she got to him , she argued to him all she had gone through. But he didn’t care and just explained he was going to die. It was a shocking part for me because of a simple thing he didn’t follow , it was unfair to me!  If people don’t do things the way it is to be, it’s bad , so basically you can’t do things in your own type of way. This then turns into an argument , she doesn’t support in the things her son does,he compared her to the committee, that she reacted the same, what he told her was really shocking to me . “You are beginning to worship the Machine, He said coldly (Forster pg 11).” He was explainging that she was making the Machine as a god. she denied it, but honestly everyone except this kid Kuno is worshiping the Machine. It bothered me a little because people nowadays can’t be without their phones. If I panic when I loose my phone for a minute, imagine the world in a few years. Is this story some how a reflection of how our world might turn out to be.

“The Machine Stops” Analysis

In E.M Forster’s “The Machine Stops” introduces a utopian type society. I did not see it as your typical utopian society though. With a utopian society you image everyone happy and life is very simple and all is well. In this short story things seem a lot more depressing. I imagine the opening scene as something out of a popular video game series called “Fallout”. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic society where people are trapped in “vaults” and can never step into the outside world due to radiation. When the main character in the game steps out onto the earth for the 1st time, everything is like a desert with not a lot of plant life to be seen and a lot of destroyed buildings and towns. The color scheme is very bland and not a lot of vibrant colors. That’s how I imagine this world to be like. Now back to the depressing vibe I get from the imagery, when the protagonist Vashti hears the doorbell ring, she says this in response “I suppose I must see who it is” (Forster, 1). I just imagine a letdown person slowly move their chair over the door and kind of emotionlessly answer it. To me this does not seem like a utopian society.


Now throughout the story, this thing named “the Machine” is constantly being referred to. Now at 1st I thought that the Machine simply referred to Vashti’s house in which everything was mechanized. I soon realized that the Machine actually referred to the whole mechanical system that pretty much ran their entire society. There are also a lot of references that they see the machine as a type of God. The author specifically capitalizes the M in Machine. To me that signify that the machine is almost a person and has a name and not just an object. Vashti gets into an argument with her son Kuno in the story and Kuno says “You are beginning to worship the Machine” (Forster, 11). Vashti then responds with this “I worship nothing! I am most advanced. I don’t think you irreligious, for there is no such thing as religion left. All the fear and the superstition that existed once have been destroyed by the Machine” (Forster, 11). It almost seems like that this society has gotten rid of religion completely and viewed it as an almost taboo subject where everyone doesn’t have a God. However, Kuno believes that his mother is worshipping the machine as a God. I kind of agree with him. Especially when Forster writes “O Machine! She murmured and caressed her Book and was comforted” (Forster, 7). That’s almost the same thing to me as in our world when someone is distressed they yell out “Oh God”. The author not only identifies the Machine with a capitol but the Book as well which I’m assuming is either a manual or a way for the Machine to talk to people. I was not too clear on that.