One theme that emerges in analyzing different scenes in R. U. R. is how work basically effects those who perform it. The characters frequently argue about why people work and what the effects are on workers of things that seem unrelated to the work itself.
Early in act 1, Helena Glory and Harry Domin converse about the effects of using robots to replace humans in the work force. Helena, who wants to improve workers’ conditions, believes that workers are honest and hard-working. She acknowledges that some jobs can be dull—as when she questions the typist, Sulla—but also advocates for improved conditions for the robots that would equal benefits human workers receive. Domin, however, believes that workers do not care about the work itself, which is the reason they make so many unrelated demands. He rejects anything that does not directly advance “the progress of work” because it “makes man more expensive.”
Later in the act, Helena meets with the factory’s managers and one manufacturer. She explains that the purpose of her visit is to improve the robots’ conditions in the same way that she promotes positive changes for humans. Alquist, the sole “builder,” heads the Works Department. He expresses his concern that the increasing use of robots will result in massive human unemployment. The others disagree about the related effects. Domin claims:
Things will be practically without price. There will be no poverty. Everybody will be free from worry and liberated from the degradation of labor.
There was something good in service and something great in humility. There was some kind of virtue in toil and weariness.