The main characters in this story are Vashti, an elderly woman; and her son Kuno, a man with a mind of his own. The story starts when Kuno begs his mother to visit him at his cell, because he had something to tell her. Vashti finding this an odd request of human interaction refuses at first, but then finally agrees. With great strength and will power she boards an air-ship, and heads for where her son lived. The air-ship rose to the surface of the Earth where the sun shone. Vashti closes the blinds in disgust trying to get every inch of sunlight away from her, and finds that the attendant was quite rude and vulgar for directly talking and interacting with her. Upon her arrival at Kuno's cell he tells her his experience of sneaking up to the surface of the Earth without permission from the "Central Committee." He tells her that there is still a beautiful world up there, and human race has created a monster out of the Machine. Vashti utterly appalled at what his son had told her unbelievingly departs with the thought of how foolish her son had been to even tell her such blasphemous stories. Finally a few years after the incident Vashti notices that the Machine was failing. The bath water was tainted, the air became foul, the machine stops humming introducing a new thing called silence, and nothing worked when it was summoned. Kuno had told Vashti before that "the Machine stops," but it was only in the end that Vashti finally knew that Kuno was right all along. The civilization ruled by the Machine finally stopped and human race collapses. Vashti and Kuno also die when the Machine stopped.
The protagonist in "The Machine Stops" is Vashti, while Kuno is the antagonist. Vashti's goals were simple; she just wanted to live her life under the Machine. Kuno comes in and distracts that goal. This conflict between them becomes an individual emotional conflict inside Vashti. It was a battle between her morals that the Machine had etched into her head since birth, or a possibility of truth out there somewhere that her son had just introduced to her.
"The Machine Stops" was a very haunting story to read. A world that Vashti believes is a utopia, but really is worse of all worlds, a dystopia. A world where all thoughts were controlled by an invisible veil of control that the Machine dictates. It is a world where they deny religion and spirituality, but really they are worshipping the Machine, and using its instruction book as a bible. They thank it when all goes well, cursing it when it does not. A world where they are so dependant on the machine that they all die because it fails. I notice similarities between a novel I have read in the past called 1984 by George Orwell, and "The Machine Stops." Both strive for a utopia that they can never achieve.
Forster tells a story that conveys a very real and vivid fact in our society. Even though "The Machine Stops" was written in the early 1900s the author did not fail to notice technology was beginning to rule human lives. It raised the question of whether or not it has come to the point where human race will collapse if technology comes crashing down, like it happened in the story. I don't think that the world will ever come to the same point as in the story though. Many people are beginning to think about technology's down sides. I think that not everyone will believe and conform to one ideal and lifestyle even if an idea close to the Machine was introduced into the world. In some ways it has, in forms of robots doing housework. The idea has not been embraced as a one and only solution. I have a more optimistic view about the advancement of technology, I believe that it will continue to make life easier, but it will not come to a point where it virtually lives our lives for us like in the story. These points point out the theme of the story is that some of us are letting ourselves become too dependent upon technology. I found a comparison that could be directly related to society today. The story points out that anyone that chooses to live outside of the constraints of the Machine is threatened with "Homelessness." Here, people are basically labeled "homeless" due to the fact that they are not as "in touch" with technology, and have a lack of access to it. If it was intentionally placed into the story by the author, it was very smart to point that out, and to incorporate it into the story.
"The Machine Stops," was a very thoughtfully written story, and it has brought out a lot of opinions about technology, and its affects if we did not think about what it could do. It is ironic throughout writing all this, to realize that I am working on this paper on our own version of the Machine.