Literature Week 35 Essay Farewell to the Master Vs The Day the Earth Stood Still

Prompt: “Is Kant’s nature/freedom dualism clearer in ‘Farewell to the Master’ or ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’? Explain.”

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher during the age of the enlightenment. One of his most famous philosophies was his idea of nature/freedom dualism. This idea is that as man continues to advance and experiment with science and technology eventually these tools will become stronger than the man and consequently overthrow him. This is further analyzed in the short story Farewell to the Master, then in 1951 the story was adapted into a movie named The Day the Earth Stood Still. The main differences between these two artworks are their endings, and their ultimate messages.

In both works a spacecraft lands itself at Washington DC, and a crowd of civilians and military surrounds the craft. After some time two figures appear from within the craft. One is an angelically beautiful man, the other is a large silent robot. In both works the beautiful man is shot before he can deliver his message, and the robot is left alone. We assume that the man is the master of the robot, and now that his master is gone the robot doesn’t have any orders to follow. In the movie the man survives, and most of our focus is on him and his interactions with civilians. In the short story the man dies, and all our focus is placed upon the robot.

As the short story progresses we realize that the robot does not need the man to function. The robot goes about his own actions, enters in and out of his ship, and experiments with different lifeforms. Eventually he takes the beautiful mans body into his ship and attempts bringing it back to life. It is here we realize that the robot is not the mans creation, but instead the robot has created the man to easilier communicate with humanity. The short story ends here, with the robot finally exclaiming to the reader “I am the master”. You could argue that the short story does a better job at discussing Kant’s nature/freedom dualism, since the theme of the robot being in charge is the main revelation one can take from the story.

The movie on the other hand discusses many different themes, themes of war and weapons and morality for instance. There’s much more of a focus on the human consciousness, and how we can use it to help or harm beings we don’t understand. There’s also a softer ending, as it turns out the robot is part of an interplanetary group of peacemakers who have come to warn humanity not to harm their outerspace neighbors. In the short story there’s nothing like this, the robot only taught humanity that it is in utter control. It better describes Kant’s philosophy, but its understandable that directors in the 50s wanted to create a less pessimistic film.

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