Analysis of the Short Story: Super Toys Last All Summer Long sample essay
What is real? I have been trying to answer this question since we started our project about robots. It’s a very complex question. The classical sense of what is real is something natural, something that is not man-made, for example the nature or the universe. But the world isn’t the same as it was for hundred years ago and the reality concept has moved in time with the technology. For instance I read an article where computers had been taken over the stock trading instead of real manpower. The robots are mechanical artificial agents and because of the advanced technology they’ve become much more real. They become more and more like us, and if computers can take over the stock trading what can robots, who look and act like humans, do to the world? But there must be a limit to how much robots can do if they’re still being seen as machines. In my point of view you are only real if you can feel and think on your own.
In that way a robot isn’t real even though they’ve been supplied with human abilities like thinking and feeling by the aid of a programming from a computer. Having said that the robots are still in power to create real emotions in the recipient. This is demonstrated in form of Paro who is a little robot seal designed with the purpose to comfort lonely people. The problem with my definition of real is that love and feelings are artificial as well because it is a chemical reaction in our brain. So what if the robots were added the ability to feel and think would that make them just as real as us?
The short story is written by Brian Aldiss in 1969. The story is fiction and an imaginary story of future time in an overcrowded world. The literary genre is science fiction, which is characterized by a fictive environment that has experienced innovations in science or technology, which has a big impact on the society and the individuals in it. This definition is consistent with the short story. There are two places of action and the structure is a pendulum composition because it swings back and forth between the two physical settings.
The one setting is at home with Monica Swinton, David and Teddy, and the other setting is at lunch where Synthank celebrates the launching of their new developed and improved robots “The directors of Synthank were eating an enormous luncheon to celebrate the launching of their new product”, where Henry Swinton makes a speech. These crossovers from the one setting to the other are shown with a star “*”, which makes it clear for the recipient that we are having a change of place.
The story begins with a presentation of Mrs. Swinton’s garden and afterwards we get a presentation of the involving characters. The short story’s many events happen in a chronological order and it follows the common thread through the story from the beginning to the end.
The story is told in past tense and the narrator is a third person narrative. The narrator is an omniscient narrative because the narrator knows everything about the characters and their surroundings.
The narrator creates sympathy for David because the omniscient narrative makes us identify with the robot and we get inside of his head and can see his good “heart” and understand his love, the love that know one else can see and understand.
The language creates a very detailed description of the events and the surroundings. The language describes the surroundings with the use of adjectives “The lovely almond trees stood about it in perpetual leaf. Monica Swinton plucked a saﬀron-colored rose and showed it to David. “Isn’t it lovely?” she said” and the events by using verbs, which creates thrill and excitement. The excitement is for example seen in line 7 – 10 on page 1 “Seizing the ﬂower, he ran with it across the lawn and disappeared behind the kennel where the mowervator crouched, ready to cut or sweep or roll when the moment dictated.
She stood alone on her impeccable plastic gravel path. She had tried to love him”. The sudden action makes you believe that he’ll destroy the beautiful rose. This reaction from David is the reason why Monica is so despairing and disappointed. Further more the language isn’t readily accessible but manageable. There is in between some difficult words, which is an obstacle for the understanding of the text, for example “Lambent, engrossed, moist and mowervator”. The short story is written in 1969 so the choice of words is old and not always so familiar “Henry, Henry – oh, my darling, I was in despair . . . but I’ve just dialed the afternoon post and – you’ll never believe it! Oh, it’s wonderful!”.
The environment in the story is very beautiful, almost perfect. The garden is described with positive words and it makes associations to paradise, for example “In Mrs. Swinton’s garden, it was always summer”. The Swintons’ house lies in a rich part of the city with no windows. The house and their belongings are very advanced and technical, and it’s clear that there has been a big technological development, for example Monica has her phone on her wrist “She punched the Post Oﬃce number on the dial on her wrist but nothing came through” and “The Swintons lived in one of the ritziest city-blocks, half a kilometer above the ground. Embedded in other apartments, their apartment had no windows to the outside; nobody wanted to see the overcrowded external world. Henry unlocked the door with his retina pattern-scanner and walked in, followed by the serving-man”. It seems like they don’t really have contact to the outside world and live in a small bubble of isolation.
The humans are described so stunning that they almost seem inhumane, which is quite ironic. “Their wives were elegantly slender, despite the food and drink they too were putting away. An earlier and less sophisticated generation would have regarded them as beautiful people, apart from their eyes”. Eyes are the human sign of a soul and if there is no life in their eyes is there life at all? In this quote the question about who is real yet appears. The atmosphere in the first setting, the home, is filled with unspoken words and questions, ““If she loved me, then why can’t I talk to her?”. They also seem very shallow because they do everything to look good; they use a machine that makes them slender no matter how much food they’ve eaten.
There is a tense atmosphere between Monica and David because they aren’t able to communicate with each other and something in their mutual understanding has broken down. Monica misunderstands David’s intensions for example the episode with the rose and the fact that she thinks David is hiding away from her and avoiding her but when David comes down in the living room to see her she is the one who turns away and avoids David “His mother stood in the middle of the room. Her face was blank; its lack of expression scared him. He watched fascinated. He did not move; she did not move.
Time might have stopped, as it had stopped in the garden. At last she turned and left the room. After waiting a moment, David tapped on the window”. David and Monica are both shortcoming because they can’t find a way to express their caring for each other, which makes them unable to reach each other. They are suffering from loneliness and isolation even though the world is overpopulated and the technology is more advanced than ever before “She remained alone. An overcrowded world is the ideal place in which to be lonely”. The robots are partial developed to avoid this loneliness but instead they increase it. “You’re being silly, David. Mummy’s lonely. That’s why she had you”. “She’s got Daddy. I’ve got nobody ’cept you, and I’m lonely”.
David is three years old “At the age of three, he showed no fear of the ultrasonic dryer in the kitchen”. David’s verbal communication is malfunctioning and he has a hard time finishing his sentences and expressing his love. In spite of the defection he loves his mother very much which is expressed in the text several times, for example David’s letters “Darling Mummy, I’m your one and only son and I love you so much that some times –”. In these messages David also expresses a hate for Teddy because he feels that Teddy is taking his place as the Swintons’ son. Even though David has feelings like a human and other human abilities such as talking, thinking, painting and running, he is a robot, which is told in the ending. I assume David is one of those robots Henry is talking about with synthetic flesh and a mini computer for brain. David tries to define what is real but even though he feels like a boy of flesh and blood he questions it because his surroundings make him feel unreal “I hate that old psychiatrist—he makes me feel like I’m not real”.
The other robot in the family is Teddy. The name Teddy gives associations to a little bear. There are many signs that indicate that Teddy is a robot for example “The speech pattern of his master’s voice activated him” and “Why waste time talking to this machine”. Teddy sees Monica as his mother but when she refuses this relation he doesn’t seem hurt like a human would have been. Teddy is very helpful when David needs him, for example when writing the letters to their mother.
Teddy is also patient, kind, attentive, comforting and listening “The bear’s eyes regarded the boy unﬂinchingly. “You and I are real, David.” It specialized in comfort”. Teddy’s abilities are properly the abilities he is programmed to have; therefore the circuits of teddy’s brain and its capacity are limited. In the text Teddy is categorized as a super toy which is a robot with a computer for brain and without life “There have been mechanicals on the market with mini-computers for brains—plastic things without life, super-toys—but we have at last found a way to link computer circuitry with synthetic ﬂesh”
Monica Swinton is married to Henry Swinton and is twenty-nine years old, has lambent eyes and a grace full shape. Monica paints “She could take up her painting”. She desperately wants a child and when Teddy and David haven’t satisfied her needs she is still very lonely and the desperation for a child of her own is even bigger. This desperation finds expression in the choice of replacing her robot child with a biologically child. She has tried to love David but she has given up because he can’t reciprocate her love, and when she can’t understand him and his way of loving she can’t find a way to love him. Monica doesn’t like time very much because it goes by her because she feels it is a waste of time living in this world and it seems like the only thing that can save her is a baby. “I don’t think Mummy likes time very much. The other day, lots of days ago, she said that time went by her. Is time real, Teddy?”.
Henry Swinton is Monica’s husband and the managing Director of Synthank. He is very successful and he only cares for the development of the robots, not the ethics or the consequences of his development. His relationship with David doesn’t seem very strong because David only talks about his mother and Henry appears as a career father who is very busy with his work. He wants, like his wife, a child of their own.
The most important symbol in the short story is the rose. The roses appear several times and have a common importance “Monica Swinton plucked a saﬀron-colored rose and showed it to David. “Isn’t it lovely?” she said”, “Roses occasionally suﬀer from black spot”. “These roses are guaranteed free from any imperfections” and “First I’m going to have another rose!” Plucking a bright pink ﬂower, he carried it with him into the house. It could lie on the pillow as he went to sleep. Its beauty and softness reminded him of Mummy”. A rose symbolizes love, which is the feeling David and Monica can’t show to each other, and the key to the shortcoming.
Love is also of crucial importance when defining what is real. The quote from line 42-43 on page 4 the rose symbolize the robots because it says roses occasionally suffer from black spot, meaning they aren’t perfect but Henry replies “These roses are guaranteed free from any imperfections”, meaning the new developed robots are perfect. But for me this perfection is artificial. The people at the luncheon with Henry also seem artificial because their eyes are without life and they wear plastic face-masks to look pretty “Some of them wore the plastic face-masks popular at the time”. So maybe the humans have become just as artificial as the robots.
Another symbol is the crayons, which Teddy suggests David to use on his letters “Why not do it again in crayon?”. The crayons help David coloring his letter in a figurative sense and when David can’t express his feelings verbally he can express them in the aid of colors. It also symbolizes that life isn’t in black and white but much wider.
The theme of the story is not only one thing but several things. In my point of view an appropriate theme is unreal vs. real because the story’s main focus is on the question: What is real and what isn’t. Another theme is love, which plays a big role between the characters and in the story in general. Technology and the future are also themes in this story because the plot criticizes a possible future where the technology is very advanced, and instead of making the world better it makes it worse and depressing. This brings us closer to the author’s messages. Brian Aldiss criticizes the society for being to technological, which makes the society and the individuals artificial and shallow. It takes away the focus on the things that matter, for example love and caring for each other. Brian Aldiss doesn’t believe that we should have relationships with robots because they’ll never replace the connection between two humans.
I don’t believe that there is one definition on what is real but many definitions. In this story the scientists have found a way to develop a robot with intelligence by having a computer working just like a human brain and synthetic flesh so it also looks like a human. These robots are invented with the purpose to reduce the loneliness and isolation that are raging the overcrowded population.
“Personal isolation will then be banished forever!”. I’m a bit skeptical about robots and their future role in our society for example the possible unemployment, an artificial lifestyle and what the advanced robots’ existents will do to the individuals in the society as seen in the story. The fact, that in Japan they have already developed these robots, which look like us, really creeps me out. But will robots ever be able to replace another human being and the connection there exists between two humans? I think the situation with Monica and David is a clear example of this is not the case even though the robots are added human abilities.
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