'IMAGINE, IF YOU CAN'

Love, Time and the Impossibility of Utopia in E. M. Forster's 'The Machine Stops'

in Critical Survey
Author:
Paul March-Russell University of Kent P.A.March-Russell@kent.ac.uk

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In 1909, E. M. Forster published his only work of science fiction, the dystopian fable, 'The Machine Stops'. The story portrays a futuristic world-state that exists underground, and in which the inhabitants lead separate lives united only by the Machine, a gigantic technological network that supplies all the citizens' needs. The narrative focuses upon Kuno, who disobeys the Machine and ventures aboveground, and his estranged mother, Vashti. Taking as its cue David Ayers' recent discussion of A Passage to India (1924), the following analysis argues that the reconciliation between Vashti and Kuno, once the Machine has stopped, describes a transgressive notion of love that is also related to the need for imagination within an otherwise rationalised existence. In other words, while the social setting of Forster's story is dystopian, the narrative retains a residual utopian element.

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