The Sound Machine – theme of Appearance Vs Reality


 The Sound Machine : by Roald Dahl

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 Question: How is the theme of ‘Appearance Vs Reality ‘ reflected in the story “The Sound Machine” ? Give examples from the story to prove it.

Answer: Appearance versus Reality is the main theme that runs throughout the story.

     The protagonist of the story, Klausner is a crazy, “dreamy”  and “distracted” person, who is obsessed with sounds as he himself said ” I like sound”. 

        He believed that there are a number of high pitched sounds that are inaudible to human ear.

     ” 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.”

      He wished to hear the sounds made by fly , a bat and innumerable other creatures.

       He wanted to prove this theory that these inaudible sounds can be captured by using a sound machine. So he invented a sound machine to convert these inaudible high pitched sound into audible to human ears.

      He worked hard for hours to create such machine. At first which appeared to be an earnest effort and devotion but later turned into an obsession.

      He told Dr. Scott that he had watched  a number of times the needle of his machine recording the presence of sound vibrations in the air , when actually there were no sounds at all.

      This suggests that Klausner was sure that his machine was capable of recording those sounds which human being are not capable of hearing.

     However Klausner made no attempt through out the story to capture the sounds made by any other creature, except the plants. That rises a doubt about the believability of his theory and effectiveness of his machine.

    To test his machine, he took it to the garden. As he turned the knob of machine, the needle slowly crept across the dial and “suddenly he heard a shriek, a frightful piercing shriek” . He discovered the shriek only came when his neighbour Mrs. Saunders cut the stems of the yellow roses in her garden.

     Klausner requested Mrs. Saunders to cut another rose to test his belief and he heard again  the same frightful, throatless shriek .

      This led him to believe in  another theory  that plants  give out painful, shrieking cry when they are cut.

     Klausner went to Mrs. Saunders and told her what he had heard. He then explained to her, at length, how plants being living things, feel as much pain as humans do. He raised a question to her –
“how do you know that a rosebush doesn’t feel as much pain when someone cuts it’s stem in two….. It’s alive, isn’t it?” 

        After Mrs. Saunders exited, Klausner performed the same experiment with white daisies. He heard a faint high – pitched cry, but this time he did not feel that this sound had anything to do with pain or any human emotion . Klausner got confused he himself doubted his theory.

      Further, in the story, he took his machine MTO a park, early morning. He first tried to convince himself of the truth of his theory. He hit the trunk of a beech tree with an axe and heard a new sound
“a harsh, noteless , enormous noise, a growling, low – pitched screaming sound… a sob”. 

      He then called Dr. Scott to prove his theory. However, as he tried to repeat the experiment again, hitting the trunk of the tree for the second time, a branch of the tree fell on his machine
 ” It fell upon the machine and smashed, it into pieces. ” 

    Klausner demanded from Dr. Scott if he heard any sound when the axe struck the tree. Dr. Scott denied having heard any sound  because he was more concerned about his own safety , he fled his spot unable to hear the sound that the tree had made.

     So the sound machine, which could have proved Klausner’s theory was destroyed. This is suggestive of the fact that Klausner was not able to prove his theory, and nobody except Klausner could ever hear the sound of plants. Thus it might have been a figment of his imagination.

     Another theory he claimed is that plants cry out when they are cut. The Sound Machine which could have proved these facts, was destroyed by the very sample ( the tree). Klausner being a sensitive person , might have felt that since plants are living things, they also undergo similar feelings as human beings. It also suggests that he appeared to be associating the falling of the branch with the tree defending itself.

     Finally, there are different perceptions of reality and every person sees it according to his own thinking.

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