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As of 28 February 2016, due to decline in my health and chronic illness

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review of The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

The Machine Stops The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A saddening and melancholic tale of a all-too-possible dystopian future, of a world where all life is lived underground, below the surface of the Earth; where human contact is mostly confined to forms of video and audio communication; and where parents’ role in child-rearing ends at the moment of birth. Children are raised in “public nurseries” and later assigned living quarters, anywhere in the globe (as long as it’s underground). The protagonist, Vashti-whom I hesitate to call “protagonist” because she is a woman far more acted-upon than acting or self-reliant-lives in one room, closed off, with many acquaintances and friends with whom she only communicates by the aforesaid audio and visual modes. She gives lectures-but she doesn’t travel-she sees no one. When her son who lives beneath the Northern Hemisphere asks her to travel to visit him, she-living under the Southern Hemisphere-is distraught.

This is a future where the Machine rules all-everything is taken for granted: climate, comfort, literature, sleep, medicine-as the Machine is in charge of it all. I am reminded of psychological studies of rats and monkeys in isolation, for even though there is communication here, it is at several removes; and as Vashti demonstrates, even the idea of leaving her room (womb), of travelling, of speaking and being spoken to, seems monstrous.

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