Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 764

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Anger and Hatred
When the robots rebel and attack, it is revealed that at Helena’s suggestion, Dr. Gall has given the robots a soul and has given them the ability to appreciate their condition. But in making them more human-like, Gall has also given them the ability to hate, just as humans are capable of hating. Since the robots are treated like insignificant and expendable creations, they soon learn to hate their creators and all humans. They are without a conscience and can hate and kill at will.

Class Conflict
With the creation of robots, the earth is divided into two classes: those who have control and those who are controlled. The robots form this latter class, which is designed to be exploited. The robots are little more than slaves who are expected to work until they can work no longer, a period of about twenty years. They are designed and treated as though they have no feelings, no needs, and no expectations. The robots’ builders envision the humans as a kind of aristocracy, superior to the robots they control. As is the case in all feudal societies, eventually the peasants or slaves revolt and murder their masters.

Duty and Responsibility
As the creators of a new life form, the robot creators have a responsibility for how their creations are used, but in this case, the builders see the robots only in terms of exploitation and greed. The builders will sell their robots to whomever orders them and has the cash to pay. They ignore the moral implications of what they have done, preferring to isolate themselves on the island. When the robots rebel, rather than stop selling the robots and explore possible solutions, the manufacturers continue to sell robots. When it becomes clear that humanity is in real danger, their only thought is for their own escape.

Human Condition
This play explores the human condition and envisions a scenario where man destroys himself through greed. Technology, which offers the opportunities to solve many of the world’s problems, is used to create a slave race, who will perform all the labor while another group becomes richer. In response, humans become expendable and cease to reproduce. Evolutionary theory argues that survival is a function of the species best able to adapt. In the New World order, it is the humans who serve no purpose. This bleak vision of humanity is off-set at the play’s ending when two of the robots offer the opportunity to create a new human race.

Individual vs. Machine
In this play, the conflict focuses on who will survive, the humans or the robots. In a real sense, when the manufacturers give the robots souls and the ability to feel, they create individuals where machines previously stood. This leads to thinking as individuals, including the desire to have control. In a sense, this play proves that the individual is superior to the machine, since as machines, the robots could be controlled. But given the ability to think, they become individuals and superior beings.

Prejudice
One of the plans to control the robots involves creating robots to fit national or local standards instead of universal models. When discussing how this plan will work, the manufacturers reveal their own prejudices, since they see that certain ‘‘races’’ of robots will be built to hate other ‘‘races’’ of robots. The ensuing conflict will prevent the robots from uniting against humans. It is a plan to build in racial prejudice in a creation that would naturally not have that ability.

Revenge
The robots are a downtrodden group, who when they finally understand that they are slaves, seek revenge against their builders. They envision themselves as superior to humans and become so caught up in their revenge that they forget that humans hold the key to their existence. It is a symbiotic relationship, one that is forgotten by the robots. Revenge becomes more important than survival.

Science and Technology
Capek’s play focuses on the dangers of technology. While new discoveries offer the best hope for curing disease and easing human existence, it also presents risks if not used correctly. The greed of those who use technology without regard for the consequences is at the center of this play. At the play’s conclusion, two robots have become human and offer hope for the continuation of mankind on earth. But Primus and Helena also illustrate that it is not technology that offers the answers (Alquist cannot make new robots or modify the old), but it is human survival that matters if man is to succeed.

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