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Supertoys Last All Summer Long - Analysis

In: English and Literature

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Supertoys last all summer long
Where do we draw the line? Is it okay to medicate feelings away? Who is responsible for the actions undertaken by autonomous systems? With the increasing development on genetic modification, autonomous machines and the knowledge about our brain and nervous system’s chemistry, things we see in science fiction movies are beginning to seem possible and this poses questions to ethicists and scientists. In the short story “Super toys last all summer long”, Brian Aldiss is questioning what is real and what makes something real, through a story about a woman struggling to love her son.
Already in the start of the short story, where it says, "She had tried to love him"(p. 32, l. 19), Brian Aldiss shows us that there is something, which is not right in the relationship between the mother Monica and the son David. A mother’s love for her child is endless, therefore this makes us question whether David is Monica’s real child or not. Later on in the short story, Brian Aldiss alludes to the fact that David is not a normal boy. “He went with her without protest into the house, his dark head bobbing at the level of her waist. At the age of three, he showed no fear of the ultrasonic dryer in the kitchen.”(p. 32 l. 28-32). It is not normal for a three-year-old boy to do as his mother says without protest or not to be afraid of the ultrasonic dryer, which properly is big and noisy. Through the short story, more and more tells us that the communication between Monica and David is almost non-existent. We see that when David is sitting in the nursery writing a letter to Monica, ““I’ve said –” He picked up his letter and stared hard at it. “I’ve said, ‘Dear Mummy, I hope you’re well just now. I love you….’” There was a long silence, until the bear said, “That sounds fine. Go downstairs and give it to her.” Another long silence. “It isn’t quite right. She won’t understand.””(p. 33 l. 37-46). Here we see that he is not only afraid that Monica won’t understand, but also that he can’t tell her face to face that he loves her and has to write it down in a letter. They both goes to Teddy for answers, first Monica ““…Why is David avoiding me? He’s not afraid of me, is he?” “No. He loves you.” “Why can’t we communicate?””(p. 34 l. 10-13) and later David ““You’re a very good boy. Your Mummy loves you.” Slowly, he shook his head. “If she loved me, then why can’t I talk to her?”” (p. 34 l. 90-93). Teddy comforts them both instead of confronting them with the problem, because he “specialized in comfort” (p. 33 l. 72). In the end, we discover that the reason why Monica and David does not have a normal mother/son relationship is that David is not her real son, but one of the intelligent synthetic life-forms her husband Henry has created. ““What do we do about them?” Henry asked. “Teddy’s no trouble. He works well.” “Is David malfunctioning?” “His verbal communication center is still giving trouble. I think he’ll have to go back to the factory again.”” (p. 36 l. 19-55). Here is Brian Aldiss making us understand that David is a robot by using words like malfunctioning and verbal communication center, which are used about machines. Brian Aldiss never directly says that is one of the intelligent synthetic life-forms, but is showing us all these things which makes us understand that something is wrong and in the end makes us conclude that David is a robot.
Monica is “twenty-nine, of graceful shape and lambent eye” (p. 32 l. 38-39). Even though Monica lives in a world where there are so many people it is overpopulated, she still feels lonely. “She remained alone. An overcrowded world is the ideal place in which to be lonely”(p. 32 l. 51-53). She feels very restless. “She could take up her painting. Or she could dial her friends. Or she could wait till Henry came home. Or she could go up and play with David […] went and sat in her living room, arranging her limbs with taste. She began by sitting and thinking; soon she was just sitting.”(p. 33 l. 80-83, p. 32 l. 39-42). In this quotation you can see that Monica has all these things she can do, but she chooses to sit in a her living room, like she is waiting on something to happen. The reason why she is so lonely and restless is that she desperately wants a child, and she feels like her time is running out, “I don’t think Mummy likes time very much. The other day, lots of days ago, she said that time went by her…” (p. 33 l. 59-62). Her husband is aware of her loneliness and restlessness and therefore he has made these robots who are humanlike, to keep her company. “…it is sad to reflect how many millions of people suffer from increasing loneliness and isolation. Our serving-man will be a boon to them..” (p. 34 l. 49-52), but Teddy and David are not making her feel less lonely, they are only reminding her of the fact that she does not have a real child. We see that on page 34 where Teddy is calling Monica for Mummy, “Yes. Mummy.” “Stop calling me Mummy!...” (p. 34 l. 9-10), and after Monica reads the letters David has wrote to her, “Monica dropped the pieces of paper and burst out crying. In their gay inaccurate colors, the letters fanned out and settled on the floor.” (p. 35 l. 34-37). Monica cries because she wishes it were her real child, who would write sweet letters to her and not a robot. Brian Aldiss is using the genre Science Fiction to show the main theme. The main theme in this short story is the question what is real and what is not real? He is showing us a dystopian world where almost everything is unreal or seems unreal. The way it is mostly expressed, is by the questions David is asking, “How do you tell what are real things from what aren’t real things?” (p. 33 l. 55-56), “You and I are real, Teddy, aren’t we?” (p. 33 l. 68-69), “You and I are real, Teddy, aren’t we?” (p. 36 l. 64-65). These questions makes the reader think about what is real in the story and how you can decide whether something is real or not? Is David real because he has real thoughts and feelings, or is he still not real, because his body consists of metal and synthetic flesh? The main theme is also expressed through the setting. The garden outside Mr. and Mrs. Swinton’s house is not real, “In Mrs. Swinton’s garden, it was always summer. The lovely almond trees stood about it in perpetual leaf […] She stood alone on her impeccable plastic gravel path.” (p. 32 l. 5-7, p. 32 l. 17-18). The view from the windows in the house is not real, “The garden faded; in its place, the city center rose by her left hand, full of crowding people, blowboats, and buildings (but she kept the sound down)” (p. 32 l. 48-51). Even the people in the future seems unreal. “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.” (p. 32 l. 67-70). This quotation shows that the people from the future would look beautiful to us, except their eyes. Their eyes are missing the warmth, life and soul we have in ours, and therefore their eyes make them seem lifeless and unreal. Brian Aldiss also adds to the question of what it real or not, in the last paragraph on page 36. ““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.”(p. 36 l. 69-73). Here David is comparing Monica to an unreal flower from the unreal garden, making us question whether she is real or not.
In the end, we cannot get round the fact that Brain Aldiss indeed makes us question what is real and what makes something real, by showing us a dystopian world where the lines between what is real and what is unreal are blurred. Brian Aldiss does not answers those questions; he shows us that there is not one answer. He shows us that what makes something real or unreal is us. He shows us that it is the eyes who see who sit the lines between real and unreal. Monica sees David as unreal and she cannot love him, even though it could help her out of the loneliness. However, David, who has thoughts and feelings like a human, feels real and this is making him questioning whether he is real or not, because the world around him defines him as unreal. This leaves David in a grey area, where he is not real or unreal, never really feeling like he belong. In the end Brian Aldiss leaves it to the reader to decide what he or she thinks is real. Moreover, whether it is okay to create a robot like David, who feels like they are real but are judged to be unreal by the world?…...

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