The short story The Machine Stops originally written by E.M Forster and the film Contact directed by Robert Zemeckis are both stories that explore the concept of the human spirit as well as physical and spiritual reality but through different means of writing. They are both narratives about discovery of new environments or worlds made by their respective characters but not on the same scale and neither for the same purpose with both stories being able to be seen as opposites despite similarities. The Machine Stops tells the story of a mother and son, the former being enraptured by the operations of the machine as well as the lifestyle the machine offers while the latter seeks to rebel against the machine and experience life as it once was before the machine. Contact tells the story of the common thirst for new knowledge and answers involving the universe and one woman’s journey in struggling to pursue such answers. In other words the story of The Machine Stops tells a story involving the revisiting and the retaking of an old world while the story of Contact tells the story about the pursuit of a new one. Both narratives do this by having some sort of machine involved in both stories.
The machine however, takes on a different role in the respective narratives. In The Machine Stops the machine’s purpose in the story is to not only hinder Kuno’s journey to the surface and thus hindering his realization of what it means to truly be human, but also to keep humanity under its manipulative control. The role of the machine in the movie Contact is actually the exact opposite. This machine in particular is given to humanity by extra-terrestrial life and serves to give humanity a chance to push itself so that it may discover new life beyond planet Earth. This machine is giving humanity an opportunity to become more than what it already is as opposed to the machine of The Machine Stops which serves to restrict humanity. It is interesting to note how in The Machine Stops the machine which serves to control us was made by humanity in the first place while the machine in Contact which serves to benefit us for the sake of discovery was given to us by non-humans. That detail can be seen as humanity’s incapability to avoid hurting itself.
A very similar feature the two narratives seem to utilize is its use of characters. They both possess characters in their respective narratives to fuel the need for exploration and discovery in some way, shape, or form. Our lead character from Contact being Eleanor Arroway drives the need for discovery of life not of Earth. Kuno on the other hand is almost unarguably not the focus of the plot in The Machine Stops like his mother Vashti but he drives the need for exploration for a world outside the machine. Even though one character focuses on discovery while the other focuses on reclamation, both characters want nothing more to show their respective worlds that there may be more to life than their respective people of each story may realize. It would seem that in both stories the common way of thinking in each world is a major obstacle to both the heroes of each story. The Machine Stops gives us a dystopian world where everyone believes the machine is all that really matters and that it is to be seen omnipotent. No more is this displayed than with Vashti, Kuno’s mother who simply sees the machine as here god in more ways than one even though she may not realize it as she claims to be person who lacks any sort of faith. It is Vashti and her faith in the machine and even humanity’s collective faith in the machine that serves to try and stop Kuno from what he has been doing to reclaim his rightful humanity however fruitless it may seem.
Contact tells a similar kind of conflict of Eleanor Arroway but arguably for a more positive reason. Kuno makes his journey as he lacks faith in the machine as opposed to everyone else in the planet. Eleanor makes her journey while maintaining…