Part – 1
(a) ‘The Sound Machine’ combines science fiction and environment in a unique way. Discuss with reference to the story.
Answer : ‘The Sound Machine’ is a popular short story which belongs to the genre of science fiction. But in tis story Ronald Dahl combines science fiction and environment. On the surface level it is about an amateur scientist who believes that there are sounds that are so low-pitched or so high-pitched that human ear can’t hear them. He is so fascinated by acoustics that he is yearning to test his theory . For this he had contrived a machine with which he wants to prove that the high frequency sound vibrations are audible to human ear. Klausner is experimenting on sound vibrations to study how the plants feel pain when they are cut. With this small machine he studies the vibrations of the plants as he asks the neighbour Mrs Saunders to snip the stem of a plant. Later he himself finds the pain and vibrations as he strikes an axe on a tree. He is sure of his experiments. He tries to convince his neighbour and then Dr Scott to believe in his theory that plants feel pain when they are injured or cut. The author wants to suggest through Klausner that most of us are deaf to the harm we cause to plants around us.
(b) Describe the sound machine and its functioning.
Answer : Klausner was an amateur scientist . He invented a sound machine. It was in the shape of a black box about three feet long. It looked like a child’s coffin. It was put on a long wooden bench. The top of the box was open . Inside the box there was a littering and some small tools. In order to test its connections Klausner began tugging gently at the wires. This fingers moves swiftly and deftly. In front of the box there were three dials. In order to watch the movement of the mechanism in the box, the dials had to be twiddled. With the help of this machine one could hear sounds which were either low-pitched or high pitched. When the earphone is connected to this machine one can hear low sharp sounds at low internals.
(c) “The Story ‘The Sound Machine’ deals subtly with the theme of concern for environment.” Discuss and illustrate.
Answer : ‘The Sound Machine’ is a very meaningful story. The writer wants to bring home five lessons that only very sensitive persons have the hearts and minds to visualize and feel delicate things like the pain of the plants. In this context we find that Dr Scott and Mrs Saunders do not have time or the sensibility to feel the agonies of the plants or even creatures that are killed for fun or experiment. Klausner is so much pricked by the pain of the trees that he asks Dr Scott to stitch the gash of the tree and paint iodine on it. The does this only to oblige Klausner. Neither Dr Scott or Mrs Saunders believe in the strange theory of Klausner. In fact they are not so sensitive to the environment around them that Klausner is. Both of them represent the worldly people who care little for the plant life. The writer draws our attention, in a very interesting manner, to the harm that we cause to the plants or trees when we cut them. By making us aware that plants, too, are like us, the writer warns us to respect plant life to conserve environment. It is high time for all the human beings to listen to the sound of nature and make all efforts to conserve the environment.
Part – 2
(a) What do you know about the setting of the story ‘The Sound Machine’?
Answer : ‘The Sound Machine’ is the story of an amateur scientist named Klausner. He is obsessed with sounds and he wants to capture those sounds which are either high pitched or low pitched. The story is set in Klausner’s laboratory which is located in a secluded wooden shed at the back of his house. The interior of the shed is an unpainted room. It has a long wooden bench. On this bench lies a black box about three feet long. It is actually the sound machine invented by Klausner. The top of the box is open. In this box, there are wires, batteries and small instruments. The purpose of Klausner is to capture those high pitched sounds which are inaudible to human ear. The other place mentioned in the story is his garden at the back of his house. It is actually the open space, ideal for listening to the sounds . It is here that Klausner hears the shrieking sound made by the stem of a plant when his neighbour Mrs Saunders was plucking flowers in the garden. Another place mentioned in the story is a park where Klausner takes his machine to test its usefulness.
(b) What is Klausner’s theory of sounds?
Answer : When Dr Scott shows inquisitiveness Klausner explains to him his theory of sounds. IT is that there are sounds that are so low-pitched or so high-pitched that human ear can’t hear them. We can’t hear any note having fifteen thousand vibrations a second. Still there are vibrations higher and higher going to infinity. The same is true about music. If our ears are turned to listening to so high-pitched sounds in the audible regions, they will go mad. Dr Scott thinks that such things are not probably. Klausner, then, tells. Dr. Scott things that he has made a simple instrument to prove the existence of many odd inaudible sounds. His sound machine can pick up sound vibrations that are too high pitched for receptions by the human ear. His machine can convert these sounds to a scale of audible tones. By turning on the machine, as if a radio, one can listen to sounds which an average ear can’t listen.
(c) Had Klausner’s experiments been a success, how would they have benefitted mankind?
Answer : Klausner was an amateur scientist. He believed that there are sounds that are so low-pitched or high-pitched that human ear cannot hear them. He invented a sound machine. It was so designed as to pick up the sound vibrations that were too high pitched for reception by the human ear. This machine could convert them to a scale of audible tones. By turning on the machine, as if on a radio, he was able to listen to sounds which an average ear cannot listen.
Klausner carried his machine to his garden when his neighbour Mrs Saunders was cutting yellow roses in her garden. When Klausner put on the earphones and turned on his machines, he heard a loud screaming sound each time a rose was cut. He felt agitated. He took his machine out. Then he again put on the earphones and turned on the machine. He swung an axe at the base of a tree. He heard a very harsh, loud scream. He was now sure that when plants are cut they cry in pain.
Now if we suppose that Klausner’s experiments were a success it would certainly help promote conservation of environment. People would come to realise that plants and trees should not be cut down casually. Religious people would never resort to felling trees. Deforestation would cease resulting in the reduction of global warming.
Though Klausner’s machine is a figment of imagination, yet it reminds us of the experiments of Jagdish Chander Bose. He proved that plants have life and feel pain.
Part – 3
(a) What do you think, is the message that the author wants to convey in the story ‘The Sound Machine’.
Answer : The Sound Machine is a very meaningful story. It is not difficult to understand the message of the story. The author wants us to stop being def to plant life, without which our life is at a great peril. He wants to make us conscious of the conversation of plants and the need to be sensitive to their pain. Very sensitive person realize this but they are called crazy or mad by the worldly wise people. Such sensitive persons can feel the cry of pain experienced by the plants when they are cut or injured. Klausner is also one such man. He can hear the cry of rose bush when a rose is snipped from the stem. Dr Scott and Mrs Saunders are not as sensitive as Klausner. They can’t hear the slightest vibrations. They can’t feel the pain and anguish of the plants. Like Jagdish Chander Bose who invented crescograph to study and record the growth of plants, Klausner could have given a new invention to the world if his machine had not been shattered to pieces by the falling of big branch of tree.
(b) How did the machine made by Klausner get smashed?
Answer : Wishing to make another experiment the next morning, Klausner got an axe, carried it across the road into the par. Here he swung the axe into the base of the beech tree. In his earphones he heard a harsh, noteless, low-pitched screaming sound. It seemed to be the wail of the tree. The axe had sunk into the bark of the tree. There was a gash in it. Klausner felt sorry for his act.
At once Klausner called Dr Scott. He wanted to show the result of his experiment on the sound machine. When the Doctor came Klausner was very much excited. He wanted the doctor to hear with the help of the earphones, what he could hear when the axe was swung on the tree. The Doctor put on the earphones. Klausner once again struck the axe on the tree. The Doctor could hear just humming sound and nothing else. But then the ground shook a bit and a large branch of the tree came cascading down. It smashed the sound machine into pieces. It was a miraculous escape for both of them. Perhaps the writer wants to warn us. Human beings are ignoring the nature’s sound which it gives through natural calamities. If we continue to ignore the sound of nature and keep on indiscriminately cutting trees, we will meet the same fate as the sound machine.
(c) The sounds of nature are a warning to man that if he continues to destroy nature recklessly, nature will one day destroy him. Do you agree?
Answer : Klausner was an amateur scientist. He was obsessed with the sounds -especially with the sounds – in nature. He wanted to capture all the sounds made by plants, animal and insects which are not audible to man. He invented a sound machine and tested it for the first time when a neighbour Mrs Saunders was cutting the stems of rose plants. When he put on the earphones and turned on the machine he could hear strange shrieking sounds. He felt that the stems were in pain. He narrated his experience to Mrs Saunders but unconvinced she went inside her house.
The next day, early in the morning Klausner, carried out an experiment. He put on the earphone, turned on the machine and hit the trunk of the tree with an axe. He heard a scream. He felt sorry for his act. Then he called Dr Scott and repeated the same experiment but the Doctor could not hear any cries. In fact the pain of the tree did not matter to him when Klausner hit the tree for the second time a large branch fell and destroyed the machine.
We think that human beings are ignoring the nature’s sounds. Nature gives out a number of sounds through natural calamities. It is warning to man. The smashing of sound machine is only symbolic. It could be any disaster that nature can inflict upon humans if treated cruelly. Thus if we ignore the sounds of nature and keep on cutting the trees indiscriminately we will meet the same fate as the sound machine.
Part – 4
(a) How would you justify the title of the story ‘The Sound Machine’?
Answer : The title of the story ‘The Sound Machine’ is quite appropriate. The whole story is about the idea that we can hear even inaudible sounds with the help of a machine. Klausner, an amateur scientist is obsessed with sounds. He believes that there are sounds, low pitched or high-pitched that a human ear cannot hear. But with the help of a mechanical device these sound vibrations or notes can be made audible to the human ear. He has made an instrument which can prove the existence of sounds. This is a sound machine. When one puts on earphones and the machine in turned on he can hear even the sounds of cries of pain when the base of a trunk is hit with an axe. Klausner tries to convince Dr. Scott and his neighbour Mrs Saunders, but he fails. In the meantime a large branch of the tree falls and the machine gets destroyed.
Thus, we see the sound machine remains in focus throughout the story. So the title is quite apt and suggestive.
(b) Klausner seems to be an eccentric man but his concerns are quite real. Discuss with reference to the story ‘The Sound Machine’.
Answer : Klausner is the protagonist in the story. He is an amateur scientist who is fond of sounds. He is weak, pale and agitated type of person. He seems to be a crazy fellow. His large head, with his hat on, is generally kept inclined toward his left shoulder as though his neck were not quite strong enough to support it rigidly. His face is smooth and pale, almost white, and the pale grey eyes that blink and peer and behind a pair of steel spectacles are bewildered, unfocussed, remote. He looks like a moth of man, dreamy and distracted. While working on his machine, he gets excited and animated. He keeps on gently scratching the lobe of his ear while explaining some point to his friend Dr Scott. In fact, he is taken to be a fantastic, peculiar person by both the Doctor and Mrs Saunders.
Whether Klausner is eccentric or not is a debatable question. He may be fantastic but his concerns are real. He wants others to realize that our attitude towards plant life is harmful. Plants too have life like human beings. They too feel pain if they are hit. They cry with pain when they are brutally cut. In fact Klausner is concerned with conservation of environment and deforestation.
(c) How does Roald Dahl show his concern for nature in his story. The Sound Machine?
Answer : ‘The Sound Machine’ deals subtly with the theme of nature. Klausner is an amateur scientist. He believes that there is a sphere of sounds inaudible to humans that is so powerful it would drive people mad to hear it. According to him, there are some sounds that are so high-pitched or low-pitched that human ear can’t hear them. In order to test his theory he has devised a complicated machine . He takes into confidence his doctor (Doctor Scott) about his theory and his machine. The doctor feels that he is not in his senses. He does not seem to believe what he says.
He explains his theory to Mrs Saunders but she too thinks that Klausner is a peculiar man and she goes inside. But Klausner being a sensitive man can feel the cry of the plants. Mrs Saunders and Dr. Scott can’t hear any sound but Klausner hears it three times. It is suggestive of the apathetic attitude most of the people have towards nature. Klausner after hitting the trunk of the tree with an axe feels sorry for his action and apologies to the tree. This shows his concern for nature. He tries to press the edges of the gash to close the wound. He invites Dr. Scott to show him the experiment. He imagines what sort of a noise would be created if five hundred wheat plants were to be cut simultaneously. When the doctor comes Klausner asks him to hear the sound but he is not able to hear any sound. Klausner then gives another blow at the trunk of the tree. Before the doctor leaves he asks the doctor to stitch the wound and apply iodine.
Thus through Klausner’s concern for nature the writer wants to remind us that we should not cut plants recklessly. We must hear the nature’s sound. It is giving us a warning. If we continue to cut trees indiscriminately we will meet the fate of the sound machine. Plants too have life. They feel the pain we should not inflict pain on them. Otherwise nature will punish us.
Question 1 : ‘The Sound Machine’ makes us realize that we hear what we want to. Do you agree? Discuss with reference to the story.
Answer : ‘The Sound Machine’ is a story about the obsession of an amateur scientist named Klausner. Klausner’s belief is that there is a sphere of sound inaudible to humans that is so powerful it would drive people mad to hear it. According to him, there are some sounds that are so high-pitched or low-pitched that human ear can’t hear them. In order to test his theory he has devised a complicated machine. He takes into confidence his doctor (Doctor Scott) about his theory and his machine. The doctor feels that he is not in his senses. He does not seem to believe what he says.
Klausner takes his machine into the garden. He sees Mrs Saunders, her neighbours, cutting yellow roses across the lawn in her garden. He puts on the earphones and turns the knob of his machine. Suddenly he hears a frightful shriek – he has already heard it in his room. He hears twice or thrice the same sound. Then he suddenly realises that it has a connection with Mrs Saunders’ cutting the roses. He requests Mrs Saunders to cut another rose stem with her clippers while he has put on the earphones. Mrs Saunders considers the request with suspicion by obliges him. Once again he hears a frightful, throatless shriek. He seems to be reassured that a rosebush feels pain when its stem is cut.
The next morning he takes his machine across the road into the park. He puts on the earphones and stats his machine. Then he swings the axe into the base of the tree. He hears a harsh, noteless, screaming sound. There appears a gash into the woodflesh of the tree. He feels sorry to the tree. Then he calls Doctor Scott and asks him to put on the earphones and hear the painful sound he has heard. As the doctor does what he is asked to do, he takes another slice at the tree. As he does it, the ground shakes a bit and a large branch comes cascading down. He and the doctor are not hurt but the machine is destroyed. He asks the doctor if he heard any screaming sound, the doctor denies having heard any sound:
For God’s sake, how could I tell, what with half the tree falling on me and having to run for my life.
The writer leaves it to readers to decide whether the plants actually gives screams in pain, when hurt. It is possible that a possessed man like Klausner hears the screaming sound it has overpowered his mind for long. A man who is possessed of anything sees what he wants to see and hears what he wants to hear. Of course ,we cannot brush aside the scientifically proven fact that plants have life, though it is not certain if they do cry out in pain when they are cut.
Question 2 : Describe Klausner’s experiments with sound. Suppose it were a success, how would it benefit mankind?
Answer : Klausner was a sort of scientist. He believed that there are sounds that are so low-pitched or high-pitched that the human ear cannot hear them. We cannot hear any note having fifteen thousand vibrations a second. Still there are vibrations higher and higher going to infinity. The same is true of music. If our ears are tuned to listening to so high-pitched sounds in the inaudible regions, we will go mad.
This was the theory of sounds in the mind of Klausner. In order to test his theory he has made a simple machine which looks like a coffin. The machine was so designed as to pick up the sound vibrations that were too high-pitched for reception by the human ear, and to convert them to a scale of audible tones. By turning on his machine, as if on a radio, he would be able to listen to sounds which an average ear cannot listen.
In order to test his machine, he carried it to his garden. He saw his neighbour, Mrs Saunders, cutting yellow roses across the lawn in her garden. When he put on the earphones and turned on his machine, he heard a loud screaming sound each time a rose was cut. He got agitated. He took his machine out. Then he gain put on the earphones and turned on the machine. He swung an axe at the base of a tree. He heard a very harsh, loud scream. He was no sure that when plants were cut they cried in pain. However, Dr Scott could hear no sound when he used his axe on the tree again. There appeared a gash, like a wound, into the woodflesh. Klausner made the doctor put the iodine on it as if the tree were a living human being.
Now if we suppose that Klausner’s experiment were a success, it would certainly help promote conservation of environment. People would naturally come to realize that plants and trees should not be felled down casually. Religious people would never resort to cutting trees. It meant that deforestation would cease, resulting in the reduction of global warming which is certainly a major problem in our world.
Though Klausner’s machine is a figment of imagination, we should keep in mind the experiments done by Jadgish Chander Bose in his laboratory in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He proved through his scientific devices that plants have life and feel pain. Despite this knowledge, we continue to regard plants as non-living because we don not hear the painful screams when they are hurt in the manner human beings do in similar circumstances.
Question 3 : Who was What did he experiment with, and what for?
Answer : Klausner was a crazy but amateur scientist. He as obsessed with sounds. He himself told his physician friend Dr. Scott, “I like sound.” He had evolved his theory about sounds. The theory was that the human ear can’t hear everything. It can hear certain sounds, whether high-pitched or low-pitched. Such sounds can also be called ‘notes’. Explaining his theory, he explained to Dr Scott that a human can’t hear any note having more than fifteen thousand vibrations a second. Likewise such sound vibrations may go higher and higher to infinity, even beyond the stars. Indeed , there is a whole world of sound above us all the time that we cannot hear. Similar is the case with music being created in the inaudible regions. If made to be heard, this music would drive us mad.
Klausner was so much fascinated with his idea of sound that he went crazy to test it on a complicated machine. It was just a contraption, three feet long, having the shape of a child’s coffin. It was a black box with a littering of wires and batteries. With the help of this machine he wanted to study subtle sounds and vibrations. He made a simple instrument that proved to him the existence of many odd inaudible sounds. Klausner was so obsessed with it that he would sit for hours and watch the needle of his instrument recording the presence of sound vibrations in the air when he himself could hear nothing. He wished to listen to all those sounds as his machine was so designed to pick up sound vibrations that are too high-pitched for reception by the human ear. He wanted to convert these vibrations to a scale of audible tone by tuning it like a radio.
Taking his device into the garden, Klausner put on earphones over his head and tried to listen to any specific sound around him. At once he could hear a cracking sound produced as his neighbours Mrs Saunders was clipping the stem of a rosebush. He called out to her to repeat her act of snipping the stem once again. As she did it, Klausner heard a frightful, throatless shriek in his earphones. He took it to be the plant’s cry of pain. Later next morning he experimented on a beech tree by swinging his axe on it. Once again he heard a similar throatless cry. He felt sorry to the trees. He at once called Dr Scott to prove his theory. In Dr Scott’s presence, he swung the axe again and asked the Doctor to tell him what he listened. But then the tree shook , a big branch of the tree came falling on the device, shattering it to pieces. The Doctor and Klausner had just a narrow escape. Perhaps nature did not want any more harm to be done to the tree.
Question 4 : In what way the story ‘The Sound Machine’ deals with the theme of environment? Discuss and elaborate.
Answer : We human beings are indifferent to all species other than homo sapiens. We are least careful towards animals, birds, insects and plants. We have been considering all these existing for the service of mankind. We have been slaughtering them for our needs over the millennia. This is particularly true of plants. We are literally deaf to the harm we are causing to the plant life around us.
Klausner is considered as crazy because he is harping on something which does not interest those for whom plants are as good as dead. He is an amateur scientist and is obsessed with his theory of sounds. He makes a machine in order to test his theory. At first he uses it in his garden and finds that it registers sounds which are emitted when his neighbour Mrs Saunders cuts rose stems in her garden. He tries explaining this to her but she flees in fear.
The next day the ‘possessed’ scientist takes his machine outside in a park. He axes a tree and hears a similar cry. He quickly telephones Dr Scott whom he has already told about his theory and his machine. He wants to make sure that his machine really works. Dr Scott is made to put on the earphones. The machine is turned on. Klausner uses his axe on the tree again. The ground shakes and a large branch falls down and destroys the machine – possibly the tree’s revenge for hurting it again. When Klausner asks the doctor if he heard the scream, he says:
I don’t know …… I don’t know what I heard.
Probably the noise of the branch breaking.
Thus, like Mrs Saunders Dr Scott, too, proves to be deaf to the pain of the plants when hurt. Both dismiss Klausner as a crazy fellow. In a way, the writer indicts all those who pay no attention to the fact that plants have life. Klausner may be ‘crazy’ but he wants others to realize that our attitude towards plant life is harmful. This becomes clear the way he forces the Doctor to put iodine on the gash in the woodflesh of the tree. The Doctor obliges Klausner but behaves as if he were in the clutches of a mad man. The healing touch which Klausner administer to the ‘wounded’ tree is symbolic. All of us should realize that when we cut a tree we are harming it like a human being. Its hurt is sure to hurt mankind in the long run.
Thus, the story conveys the idea of conservation of environment and deforestation in an interesting ‘crazy’ way.