ENG 3U1 -70
23 March 2015
Literary Analysis of “The Flying Machine”
“The Flying Machine” by Ray Bradbury is set in ancient China in an empire, ruled by Emperor Yuan. The story examines individual ideas of power that are portrayed as beauty and the fear of technological advancement outside of the control of the Emperor. It is told in the third person perspective and includes many literary devices and descriptive elements to explore the individual character’s differing ideas of beauty. Also examined, are the ethics of containing technological advancement and possible negative ramifications of technology evolving and therefore the loss of ultimate control over his empire. The emperor considers his empire to be beautiful when all is in order and his people are fully under his control. The flying machine exposes his vulnerability and puts his power at risk. These are some of the core ideas that “The Flying Machine” explores. Through the use and development of literary devices such as tone, diction, imagery, and very specific themes, Bradbury effectively displays the importance of the possible negative outcome of technology moving forward too quickly and resulting in risks to the Emperor’s empire. One of the themes of the story is the ethics around the creation of technology and the fear of change; the fear of change in technological advancement and the negative impact it could have on mankind and providing freedom. Towards the end of the story, the Emperor mentions he does not fear the creator of the flying machine, but rather another man with “an evil face and an evil heart” (Bradbury 4). He is afraid that another man will not see the beauty in what the inventor has created, but instead he will see it as an opportunity for corrupt and destructive plans such as the freedom to move outside the walls. If this invention were to allow people to leave the walls, the Emperors authority would be demolished. One of the important parts of being Emperor, is that he has control over everything within the wall. He thrives on being in charge and having control over all of his servants, and is of higher status than them. Perhaps, creating something of this level, without the permission of the Emperor, would give his people choices and allow them to be free. Allowing the inventor to have this flying machine would put his power in jeopardy, and allow him to be vulnerable. He questions the flier of what he has done: ’What have you done?’ demanded the Emperor. ‘I have flown in the sky, Your Excellency,’ replied the man. ‘What have you done?’ said the Emperor again. ‘I have just told you!’ cried the flier. ‘You have told me nothing at all.’ (2) The inventor speaks in a very confident, but respectful tone, but is quite obviously proud of his creation. He does not realize the negative ramifications that his invention may have on the empire, he is just proud of the beauty in it. The Emperor tries to warn him that someone else may not see the beauty, but may use it for evil, but he does not understand, so he is executed so that no one will know of him or his invention. The story utilizes the term beauty and applies it to two different meanings; the raw beauty of a creation, to the flier, and the beauty of power, to the Emperor.
A very important aspect of this story is the setting. Being set in ancient China, something like the flying machine would be considered a “miracle” (1), given the time. Being a country where all information is carefully controlled, something that showed innovation would be considered a threat. An invention such as this appearing in modern day would be notable, but would not be of the same level of significance as it is during an ancient and restrained period. Intricate and advanced technology did not exist at this point in time, causing the Emperor to immediately be cautious about the situation and aware of the danger that could be caused by someone thinking for himself and creating this...
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