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The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

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illegal escape from his cell, he says, “I found out a way of my own” but the “phrase conveyed no meaning to her”. This concept was not circularly pre-established from within The Machine; therefore, Vashti could not wrap her mind around it. Ideas and ideologies are simply concepts that have been created in the Machine and sustained within the Machine. Without looking out at the world to find new ideas, old ideas become diluted, twisted, and misconstrued.

Finally, irony of religious beliefs and spirituality come full cycle within The Machine. Founded on reason, logic, and ideas, the need for religion was obsolete in the world of The Machine. However, small indicators suggest that a new form of religion is underway. When deciding whether to visit her son, Vashti asserted "It is contrary to the spirit of the age”. Meaning, that it goes against the fundamental beliefs of society and of The Machine. This glimpse into the spiritual connection of Vashti foreshadows the fate of civilization due to ultimate dependence upon the Machine. As her voyage eventually begins, Vashti relies upon the Book and to The Machine to find comfort: ‘"O Machine!" she murmured, and caressed her Book, and was comforted”. Readers can sense that Vashti shares a special connection with the Book, similar to that of religious ties. Kuno, perceptive to his mother’s spirituality, accuses her of worshipping the book. Offensively she exclaims, “I worship nothing! … I am most advanced. I don’t think you irreligious, for there is no thing as religion left”. With great emotion, Vashti claims that there is no such thing as religion in the new world of The Machine. However, Kuno’s initial accusations provide insight as he foreshadows the eventual demise of the human race. To readers, this insightfulness accredits him as more intellectually advanced than his mother. As mentioned earlier, her actions correspond differently to her words; but eventually, her words fall parallel to her actions. In “Homelessness”, “the second great development was the re-establishment of religion … Those who had long worshipped silently, now began to talk. They described the strange feeling of peace that came over them when they handled the Book of the Machine”. This is the feeling Vashti felt as she caressed the Book. While Vashti downplayed her spiritual connection with the Book and The Machine, Kuno was onto the connection from the start. His prediction and foreshadowing powers go unnoticed by the “most advanced” thinkers in civilization. Because Kuno thinks outside the literal box, he is more in tune with actual reality than his mother and other lecturers.

“Ideas” in The Machine Stops does not literally translate to “formulated thoughts”. Rather, it translates to circular concepts that have been established to govern societal norms, behavior, spirituality, and common sense. Obsession with reason has led to the extinction of new ideas. Thus, these regenerated “ideas” have become guidelines and laws that civilians are programmed to accept as true and just. Even the most advanced thinkers are blind to the reality of their situation. The mother son duo ironically gives readers insight to the twisted views of this civilization. From the perspective of The Machine, Vashti represents intelligence while Kuno represents foolishness. However, by understanding what ideas, intelligence, and knowledge mean in the world of The Machine, it becomes clear that Vashti represents doltish compliance, and Kuno represents brave defiance.

Works Cited

Forster, E. M. "THE MACHINE STOPS." E.M. Forster. Oxford and Cambridge Review. Web. 02 June 2016.


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