In "EPICAC," what is the significance of the poetry?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this science fiction short story, EPICAC is a super computer that begins to exhibit human qualities; at first an "it," the computer becomes "he," as the narrator begins to interact personally with EPICAC. As their friendship develops, EPICAC writes beautiful love poems for the narrator to use in winning the affection of Pat, the object of his desire. Along the way, EPICAC himself falls hopelessly in love with Pat and commits suicide by burning out his circuits in creating 500 anniversary love poems for Pat and the narrator.

The poetry in the short story is significant in several ways. First of all, it drives the plot. It is EPICAC's poems that bring the narrator and Pat together, something the narrator, a mathematician who lacked a romantic soul, could not accomplish on his own. Also, it is through the poetry that EPICAC is personified in the story, his personality and humanity developed and revealed. Furthermore, EPICAC's poetry creates situational irony in the story; how ironic that a computer, a machine, could express human emotion more deeply and more tenderly than the narrator, a human being.

Finally, this irony develops an important theme in the story, suggesting that advanced scientific knowledge and expertise do not represent the highest achievement in human development. EPICAC is created by man to make war, an example of science applied in the pursuit of power. In choosing to use his intelligence and his heart to promote love, and even to die for it, EPICAC represents the best part of humanity; he is far more admirable than those who created him.

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