"How have we used machines so
far, to make people cry? Yes! Every time man and machine look like they will
get on all right—boom! Someone adds a cog, airplanes drop bombs on us, cars run
us off cliffs." (8.6)
Leo Auffmann is pretty skeptical of machines for someone
who makes his living building and repairing them. How might his job have led to
leave off with the clock you're building. You'll never find a cuckoo big enough
to go in it! Man was not made to tamper with such things. It's not against God,
no, but it sure looks as if it's against Leo Auffmann. Another week of this and
we'll bury him in his machine!" (13.21)
If Mr. Auffmann had had computer games, he'd have been one
of those World of Warcraft casualties who forgets to drink water or sleep. Just
"Listen." They listened.
"The storage batteries are fully charged and ready now! Listen! Not a
tremor, not a sound. Electric, ladies. You recharge it every night in your
"It couldn't—that is—"
The younger sister gulped some iced tea. "It couldn't electrocute us
Interesting that the old ladies, whom you might expect to
be set in their ways, are the only ones on the street willing to take the
chance on this new contraption and its inherent risk of electrocution.
"School busses!" Charlie
walked to the curb. "Won't even give us a chance to be late to school. Come
get you at your front door. Never be late again in all our lives. Think of that
nightmare, Doug, just think it all over." (20.31)
What happens on the walk to the trolley stays on the walk
to the trolley.
DEPEND ON THINGS
… like machines, for instance, they fall apart or
rust or rot, or maybe never get finished at all… or wind up in garages… (33.10)
Leo Auffmann's Happiness Machine ends up not only in the
garage, but in flames. Why do you think Doug mentions the garage, but not the
fact that the machine burns up?
Her head bent down, one hand came
to rest and a shuddering shook the machine as the other hand wrote, paused,
wrote, and stopped at last with a paroxysm so violent the glass in the case
chimed. The witch's face bent in a rigid mechanical misery, almost fisted into
a ball. (34.31)
We see the machine suffering at the hands of humans here,
rather than humans suffering at the hands of machines. An interesting twist…
Please, he thought, don't let the
arcade fall apart, too. Bad enough that friends disappeared, people were killed
and buried in the real world, but let the arcade run along the way it was,
please, please… (34.51)
Despite Mr. Auffmann's warning about man and machine never
getting along, Doug invests more and more of his sanity in them as the book
goes along. What are the equivalent machines today—the ones in which we invest
our sanity, on which we become dependent, even though we know there's always a
chance they'll fall apart?
Here in the world of people you
might give time, money, and prayer with little or no return.
But there in the arcade you could
hold lightning with the CAN YOU TAKE IT? Electrical machine when you pried its
chromed handles apart as the power wasp-stung, sizzled, sewed your vibrant
Ah, how awesome the world must have been before people got
all litigious. The inability to electrocute yourself at will for amusement is
but one of the many casualties of human greed.
In the arcade, then, you did this
and this, and that and that occurred. You came forth in peace as from a church
unknown before. (34.55)
Interesting that a boy so invested in ritual should view an
arcade as a kind of church. What other rituals bring us comfort, and in what
other ways are churches like arcades?
But then he saw there was no
bottom to the machine. Mr. Auffmann ran along on the ground, carrying the whole
incredible frame from his shoulders.
"Happiness, Doug, here goes
happiness!" And he went the way of the trolley, John Huff, and the
dove-fingered ladies. (37.34)
It's significant here that Mr. Auffmann has to carry his
machine on his shoulders, effectively making it part of his body. In Doug's
fever dream, Mr. Auffmann's machine has actually, physically consumed him.