As Thomas Reed West puts it, "the predominant literary sentiment toward the discipline of the machine has been one of lament" (xii). Many authors have composed pieces dealing with industrialization and the correlated obsolescence of man. Poet e.e. cummings is among them. In his poem "of all the blessings which to man," cummings describes a world to which progress will doom mankind-- a place where technology rules over humanity.
Cummings's poem opens saying that the most supreme gift progress offers mankind is "the an/ imal without a heart" (3-4). This heartless living thing is the machine. Machines can be made to act, and can often appear as if they think, but cannot feel. This is the greatest present presented to us by progress? To view that as a gift is to hold logic highly supreme over emotion, a preference this piece laments as being unfortunately accepted.
This industrialization and elimination of the need for humans is similarly unfeeling and coldly logical. The age of machinery presents its nearly silent coup d'etat rebels, the mechanical beings themselves, as a huge "collective pseudobeast," aimed at eliminating not only a need for humanity but a need for emotion (5). The poem's speaker notes that this being only preexists "its hoi in its polloi" (8). This shows the aim these machines allegedly have-- not simply to overtake the teeming masses of people but to become the teeming masses (hoi polloi) themselves, even to make humanity forget that they were ever in charge. This hearkens to the government employees constantly rewriting history in George Orwell's 1984, as these machines hope to make the people forget how things eve...
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...y have done too good of a job. Their creation will change them from tame rulers to beings whose prolific creation ("teem") overcomes them.
Movies and literature alike have often served to villainize technology. These topics survive and persist, perhaps because we are morbidly fascinated with our own predicted downfall. Many people will admit to being concerned, as cummings is in "of all the blessings which to man," that the world will one day be run by machines. This potential future governing force is "without a heart" and "couldn't use a mind," and that may scare humans most of all (25, 28).
Rotella, Guy. "Nature, Time, and Transcendence in Cummings' Later Poems." Critical Essays on E.E. Cummings. Ed. Guy Rotella. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1984.
West, Thomas Reed. Flesh of Steel. Charlotte, NC: Heritage Printers, 1967.
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