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"The secret of the machines", by Rudyard Kipling; analysis and interpretation

Alles zu Rudyard Kipling  - The secret of teh machinesThe poem “The secret of the machines” by Rudyard Kipling deals with the problem of modern technology and automation. In the beginning the reader gets informed about how machines are produced and what kind of treatment they need. Afterwards the machines explain how they can serve humanity. But machines are not only useful; they can also lead to big disasters, if they aren’t used in a right way. The poem ends with the statement that machines, although capable of great deeds, are still nothing more than creations of the human brain.
The poem is divided into eight stanzas, of which four consist of eight lines and the other four have four lines each. The structure of the poem is rather regular. The rhyme scheme follows the pattern of ababab throughout the entire poem with no exceptions.
Hearing the title of this poem (“The secret of the machines”), one could ask himself: what secret? This question is given an answer to throughout the poem.
The poem can be divided into three parts according to their content. In the first part, which consists of ll.1-24 the “evolution” of machines and the privileges given to mankind thanks to them are described. The second part, which comprises ll.25-36, deals with all the extraordinary works machines are capable of doing, like for example landscape-shaping. The third part, consisting of ll. 37-49, talks about the dangers humans are exposed to as a result of machinery use. To analyze the poem more detailed I want to concentrate on the distinct stanzas now.
In the first stanza several stylistic devices are used. A very distinguishing feature for the first stanza is the anaphora, which is used in the beginning of ll. 1-4 “we were”. There are also plenty of enumerations e.g. l. 5 “some water, coal and oil is all we ask”. This stanza refers to the use of machines in different departments, such as industrial production, agriculture and administration.
In the second stanza an anaphora can be found at the beginning of each line again (ll. 9-12 “we can”). What follows then, are only enumerations throughout the whole stanza, which say what kind of different jobs can by done by machines, for example: l. 10 “we can print and plough and weave and heat and light”. The author chose this structure in order to emphasize on how many various works can be done with the help of machines. The repeated word “and” in the second stanza makes it more eurhythmic.
In the third stanza metaphors are used. One example is l.16 “the arch of heaven” which wants to show us that people can communicate over a really long distance thanks to the machines. The machines spoken of in this stanza are the telephone, the telegraph and the transport machines, like for example ships. When these machines were invented it was for the first time possible to communicate over long distances. In this stanza the machines address directly to the reader, as a representative of mankind.
A stylistic device that is used in the fourth stanza is the ellipsis in l.24 “’neath”.
In this stanza is talked about the enormousness of machines. Like for example of big ships which have nine decks which is metaphorically called a “monstrous nine-decked city” in the text.
The fifth and sixth stanza is talking about the relation of the machines to the environment. Machines can change landscapes, as written in l. 36 “and the valley we have dammed becomes a lake”. Machines help humans to deformate the landscape the way they want it to be. For example they dry up lakes or they flood valleys according to their specific needs.
The seventh stanza tells us that machines are emotionless and have no feelings. And most important: it tells us about how dangerous machines are. That if you just make a simple mistake you could even die.
In the last stanza the typography changes, because the dream of the “perfect machinery” suddenly seems to fade away. Machines aren’t perfect after all and nature always wins over. And after all, machines aren’t miraculous creations, but nothing more than creations of the human brain.
In my opinion we can rely upon machines in transport and communication, which are getting more complicated all the time. This is inevitable as we move further into a technological age of computers and increasing automation. We must accept the fact that our lives depend on machines more and more. But then suddenly some simple apparatus fails. The ball-point pen won’t function; the computer will not be ready to execute your orders. It can be exasperating. If the machine is faulty, the simple job of mowing the lawn turns into a battle of you and the mower, which assumes a life of its own, thwarts your efforts and refuses to cooperate. The once efficient machine, your friend and servant, has become your enemy.
I think that it is very important not to over cross the limits and think rational about machinery. We shouldn’t give machines so big responsibilities, per se automatic control of space shuttles with humans inside.
(approx. 850 words)
Eine ausführliche Analyse und Interpretation des Gedichts "the secret of the machines" von Rudyard Kipling (850 Wörter)
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