Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 478
The play begins at a time that is possibly the early 1920’s, on an unspecified island somewhere on Earth. A factory called R.U.R. (an acronym for Rossum’s Universal Robots) manufactures and exports thousands of artificial people, the so-called Robots.
Helena, a daughter of a renowned scientist, Dr. Glory, goes to the island on behalf of the Humanity League to investigate the condition of the Robots. She is told that the elderly Professor Rossum began to seek a sort of scientific substitute for God, with the sole purpose of supplying proof that Providence was no longer necessary. His son had a different goal, that of making live and intelligent working machines that would provide cheap labor. As Domain, the General Manager for Rossum’s Universal Robots explains, humans are too complicated, and a good engineer could make them more simply, which is exactly what the younger Rossum has done. The result is a mechanism that resembles a human in some ways but shows striking differences.
Amid the handful of humans, surrounded by a hundred thousand Robots, Helena stays on the island much longer than planned. She expresses her sadness as well as her intent to liberate the Robots. She fears that no more children will be born and too many mindless Robots will be produced. She influences one of the engineers, Dr. Gall, to provide the Robots with souls in order to improve their lot; he does so because he is in love with her, as are all others. She finds rapport with the Clerk of Works, Alquist, a religious person who understands the philosophical ramifications of the situation better than any other technocrat.
Five years later, Helena is married to Domain, but others retain their affection for her. Dr. Gall’s slight change in the Robot-making process in order to transform them into nearly human beings leads to a dangerous change in the human-Robot relationship. The Robots are now organized and begin a revolt against the humans. After conquering the rest of the world, they attack the island. Outnumbered, the humans hope to make a deal with the Robots. In exchange for their freedom, they offer the Robots the plans for Robot production so that they can procreate. Helena, however, had burned the plans in the hope of stopping the mistreatment of the Robots and the slow dying out of the human race.
With nothing to offer, the humans are exterminated, except Alquist. The Robots beseech him to reconstruct from memory the formula for Robot production. As he tries to cut open a Robot Helena in order to tinker with her, her friend Primus offers himself instead, but Helena rejects that option. Alquist lets them go as the new Adam and Eve, because for the first time the Robots have shown the capacity for love, giving hope that Earth will not die out after all.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 218
Island. Unnamed island in an unspecified remote location that is the initial launching ground for the robot revolt. By the end of the play, the island becomes a kind of Eden, where the last human man witnesses the birth of love between a young robot couple that holds the promise of a new kind of humanity, albeit a robot one.
Rossman’s Universal Robots office
Rossman’s Universal Robots office. Central office of R.U.R., in which Harry Domin, the general manager, meets Helena Glory, who has come to tour the factory. Harry eventually proposes marriage in a manner that suggests a business transaction. It is fitting that such a proposal takes place in his office.
Helena’s drawing room
Helena’s drawing room. Ten years after Helena and Harry marry, their drawing room is neatly appointed, revealing the humanizing and feminine influence that Helena brings to the otherwise sterile environment of the robot factory.
(The entire section contains 2486 words.)
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