‘The Sound Machine’: depicting the Apathy of man to the sounds in nature


The Sound Machine : by Roald Dahl 

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Question : ‘The Sound Machine’ depicts the apathy of man to the sounds in nature, which are a warning to him that if he will recklessly destroy nature, nature will destroy him. Discuss. 

Answer: ‘The Sound Machine’ written by Roald Dahl clearly reflects the human disregard towards the nature.

   The story revolves around a “crazy”, “dreamy”and “distracted” scientist Klausner who is obsessed with sounds as he himself said “I like sound.”

    He believed that there are a number of high pitched sounds in nature that are inaudible to human ear. He wanted to prove this theory that these inaudible sounds can be captured by using a sound machine.

    In order to prove that his theory is not a wild one , he created a sound machine, that register these high pitched sound, produced by plants, animals and insects and convert these sounds to the sound audible to human ear.

      Klausner himself quotes “And those are the sounds I want to listen to. I want to know where they come from and who or what is making them”.

       For the first time, he tested his sound machine in his garden  and found that the needle crept slowly across the dial and suddenly he heard ” a shriek, a frightful piercing shriek “. 

      He looked around to find the source of the shriek and ended to find the neighbouring  lady Mrs. Saunders cutting the yellow roses from the rose plants.

     Klausner heard again the same ” throatless, inhuman shriek, sharp and short, very clear and cold”, when Mrs. Saunders cut another rose from the plant.  He could find the pain in the shriek, as if the rose stems were in pain. 

      He explained his experiment and instrument to Mrs. Saunders and questioned her that although a rosebush has no nervous system to feel with and no throat to cry with “But how do you know that a rosebush doesn’t feel as much pain when someone cuts its stem  in two……..It’s alive, isn’t it?” 

      Considering him to be a strange, peculiar man, Mrs. Saunders ran inside her house.

      Early morning, the following day , Klausner experimented with his machine in the park by hitting the trunk of the tree with an axe. This time he observed a new sound – ” a harsh, noteless , enormous noise, a growling , low – pitched, screaming sound ……like a sob.” 

        Klausner recoiled from the sight of the gash he has made in the trunk with horror. He touched the gash and tried to press the edges together to close the wound .  He felt sorry for the damage and apologised to the beech tree.

      He called the only person who knew about his experiment, Doctor Scott to hear the sounds he had heard on his machine to confirm their presence.

      However, as he tried to repeat the experiment again, hitting the axe, a great branch of the tree falls off
 “It fell upon the machine and smashed it into pieces.” 

     More concerned about his safety, Dr. Scott removed his headphones and fled his spot, unable to hear the sound that the tree had made. For Dr. Scott his life was more important ,the tree and it’s pain did not matter to him.

    Greatly disappointed at the failure of his experiment, Klausner requested the doctor to rub some iodine on the gashes of the tree.

    Seeing the crazed state of Klausner, Dr. Scott agreed to Klausner’s demands. He rubbed iodine on the tree, and then carried Klausner back home.

    As readers we do not know if the result of the experiment carried out by Klausner was real, but we know for sure is that he was sensitive towards nature around him. Klausner has attached feeling to the tree based on the sound he may or may not have heard.

     On the other hand, people such as Mrs. Saunders and Dr. Scott were apathetic and indifferent to nature.

     The sound machine was destroyed by the sample ( the tree), which Klausner used to test the effectiveness of his machine.

       This story is a grim reminder to all the human beings not to cut plants and trees indiscriminately. Human beings are ignoring the nature’s sound, which it gives out through a number of natural calamities as a warning. If we continue to ignore the sounds of nature and keep on indiscriminately cutting trees , we will meet the same fate as the Sound Machine”.

        The sound machine was destroyed by an agent of nature i.e. the tree . Klausner and Dr. Scott survived as they timely got away from it. Similarly, it is high time for all the human beings to listen to the sound of nature and make all the efforts to conserve our natural environment.

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