Discuss one or two of the themes in The Adding Machine. 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one of the most dominant themes in the drama is the dehumanization of the modern setting.  This dehumanization is one in which humans are not only being replaced by machines, but a condition in which humans interact as if they are mechanized.  The replacement of Mr. Zero with an adding machine is one such element.  The fact that everyone in this world is named with numbers is another example of the theme.  Mr. Zero himself has no numeric value, reflecting another aspect of his humanity denied. The jurors that so quickly judge Zero as guilty, people with whom he dined, are reflective of another dehumanizing condition in which individuals fail to acknowledge bonds between one another.  The world of the drama has become the social realization of the conveyor belt in the Ford Factory that Rice visited, leaving an indelible impression of his thoughts on the future.  In choosing to return to Earth as a worker with a "better" adding machine, as opposed to staying with the love of his life, Zero demonstrates how deumanization has taken a firm hold of individuals in this life and in those that follow.  

Another theme present is the driving force of conformity. Conformist notions of the good are evident throughout the drama.  There is a noticeable lack of individuals who are committed to their ideas and willing to embrace them.  Zero is reunited with Daisy in the Elysian fields of the afterlife.  He dances in joyous rapture with her and then when someone is approaching, he tells her to straighten her hair and fix her skirt.  Zero's life with Mrs. Zero is one predicated upon the conformist world of henpecked husbands, women of the domestic realm, and living for the veneer of happiness as opposed to its actual realization.  Conformity drives the dinner party conversation of the guests, who appropriate the world like robots parroting cliched understandings of reality:  “Politics is a man’s business”; “Woman’s place is in the home”; “America for the Americans.”   In these settings, one sees how conformity is another of the drama's themes.

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