E. M. Forster, an English novelist and short-story writer, became famous for his works “A room with a view” (1908) and “A passage to India” (1924). They published The Machine stops initially in the November edition of The Oxford and Cambridge Review. But later added in “The Eternal Moment and Other Stories” (1928). The author wrote the Machine Stops as a response to “The Time Machine” by another adept science fiction writer, H. G. Wells.
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Author: E. M. Forster
Genre: Dystopian science fiction
Page count: 48
Good reads rating:4.1 of 5
My Ratings: 9 of 10
Published: 1909 (Original publication)
Publisher: A Forster Book (May 23, 2013)
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***Warning Spoilers Below This Point***
The Machine Stops is a bone-chilling, prognostic account of a futuristic world where everybody lives under the ground in honey-comb shape cabins. The machine has complete dominance over people’s lives; it provides them with basic items. Travelling, writing or any kind of physical activity they prohibit as long as they can do it through a machine. It produces a piece of literature by pressing a button. People believe in the omnipresent and transcendental attributes of a machine, thus they submit themselves to it, forgetting that they are the creators of it. Forster brilliantly opens a disenchanted and mechanical world operated by machine and a manual comes with it.
The story revolves around Vashti and her rebellious son Kuno. Vashti, like other people, has completely surrendered her existence to the machine. She behaves and lives her life following the principles of a machine. People have lost the human touch, for they only talk through screens and carry out daily business every day from four-walled cabins. Kuno insists his mother meet him in person and not through a screen. Vashti resists and says it is not possible but finally agrees when her son keeps persuading her.
Vashti travels through an airship and arrives at Kuno’s room. Kuno confides to her mother that he did something against the machine rules and that is why he wanted to speak to her in person. Breaking machine rules result in punishment named Homelessness, an equivalent to the death sentence in today’s world. Kuno begins his story and found a way to the surface. He went there; they inflicted him with many fresh sensations that he had never experienced before. But then the machine got alarmed, found him and took him back to the underground world.
Kuno told when the machine was taking him back. He saw someone around the bushes but could not recognise. As no human being lives on the surface, it was an impossibility. Vashti looks at her son in disbelief and horror. She argues with him in defence of a machine. Kuno gets angry and tells Vashti should stop worshipping a machine. If she and other people do not cease worshipping it, they will perish soon. Resentful and indignant, Vashti leaves the room immediately.
She continues her daily life business when she observes that the machine is gradually deteriorating. Kuno sends her mother a cryptic message which shows that the machine will stop but Vashti, who is still mad at him for breaking rules, ignores his message completely. Eventually, the machine stops working, and everyone dies. Amidst chaos and horror, Vashti finds Kuno to ask him solutions because otherwise, no hope for humanity exists. Vashti kisses the sacred manual and prays to the machine when an airship crashes. After an explosion, Vashti sees dead bodies, metal scraps, and a sky.
The novel receives my ratings 9 out of 10 because we can see some of its prophecies already coming true in 2020. Especially during Covid-19, when the entire world confines to their homes, it prohibits people to touch each other and we become dependent on the internet and technology. We are working online, doing business, earning, taking online classes and communicating only through FaceTime. Would I re-read the novel? Yes. Am I glad I read it? Yes.
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