In William Pene du Bois's novel The Twenty-One Balloons, what are the inventions that Mr. M had in his house?
In William Pene du Bois’s novel The Twenty-One Balloons, Mr. F. is methodically showing Mr. Sherman, the balloonist who has found himself stranded on the volcanic island of Krakatoa, the home of Mr. and Mrs. M. Mr. M is the island republic’s “founder,” having himself been shipwrecked on the island eight years earlier. While seeking shelter, Mr. M. stumbled upon a diamond mine and used the proceeds from the sale of some of the diamonds to finance the establishment of his own little civilization on the island, populated by 20 families selected for certain characteristics, the aggregate of which would enable a largely self-sufficient community to survive. Many of the professions represented in this isolated island community facilitated the development of scientific contraptions designed to make the lives of the island’s occupants as care-free and efficient as possible. Mr. F. directs Mr. Sherman (actually, Professor Sherman) to Mr. M.’s house, which Mr. F. indicates is “of simple and solid construction.” As Mr. F. shows Mr. Sherman through the house, he points out various innovations intended to conform to the founder’s concept of a technologically advanced society. Arriving at the kitchen, Mr. F. notes the following regarding the kitchen:
"The other rooms in the house have improvements too, such as walls divided into decorated revolving panels which permit a complete change of decor at the press of a button; kitchens with dish washing and drying machines-- the whole house has every imaginable convenience, we believe. . .”
The Twenty-One Balloons takes place in the period between 1860 and 1890, “the period when balloons were most popular.” Du Bois’s novel was published in 1947. Dishwashers had been invented by the time du Bois wrote his story, but not at the time the story takes place. Du Bois’s point, however, is that the scientists among the island’s population did what scientists do: develop ways to make life “easier.” As Mr. F. explains to Mr. Sherman, who has questioned the need for all of this mechanical efficiency, "Many of us are in complete agreement with you," Mr. F. "The artists all are. The scientists express them- selves through a different medium.”