Study Guide

I, Robot Friendship

By Isaac Asimov


"Friendship" is interesting in I, Robot because there are many close relationships in this book—but we're not sure that we'd want to call them friendships. For instance, Gloria calls Robbie a friend, but Robbie is programmed to be a good nursemaid, so is it right to call him a friend? (Or let's make the case simpler: imagine Robbie was a baby-sitter who was paid to hang out with and take care of Gloria; would it be accurate to call him a friend?) Likewise, one of the strongest partnerships in the book is between Powell and Donovan, and we think they're friends, but they spend most of their time fighting. Are they really friends? I, Robot presents us with several relationships like these and makes us answer the question: what does it mean to be friends?

Questions About Friendship

  1. What is the best friendship in this book? How does Asimov let us know who is friends? Does he come out and tell us or does he show us in some way?
  2. There's not a lot of friendship in this book and not a lot of love affairs. How would you describe the relationships in this book? Partnerships? Companions?
  3. Do robots have the capacity to be friends? Who is the friendliest robot in this book? How does it affect our reading process to have robots be some of the main characters in this book? Does this book present an idea of what it means for people (or robots) to be friends?
  4. Notice that robots are referred to by names, not serial numbers, for most of the book. Does this make them seem friendlier and more human? Are there other ways that Asimov presents robots as friendlier than the average robot from other works of science fiction?

Chew on This

Friendship in I, Robot is a matter of equality and shared interests. And since robots have different interests and are so superior to humans, humans and robots can never be friends.

Although friendship seems so important to us in our real lives, Asimov presents a world where friendship doesn't really matter all that much.