Stability by Philip K. Dick
In Stability by Philip K. Dick we have the theme of fear, stability, control, power and freedom. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Dick may be exploring the theme of fear. The main priority for the Controller is to ensure that the stability that exists in the world remains. It is as though they have a fear when it comes to changing how things are operated. Something which in modern terms may be similar to how a government might operate. With stability being the utmost importance and any change of the status quo being rebuked. However Benton’s invention can cause problems. He has invented a time machine and appears to have brought back with him a globe that is uncontrollable and as such is deemed to be dangerous. Though a time machine may have numerous qualities that might benefit man. The globe itself appears to be full of evil. That is if the legend the Controller talks about is true and it may be true when Benton wakes the next day and discovers he is working for the machine. It is as though any control he had in his life is gone.
How important stability is to the Controller is noticeable by the fact that he leaves Benton with two options. He can either kill himself or be arrested. Not exactly attractive options for Benton. There is also a secretive element in Benton’s existence though he does follow the rules. He invents the time machine and seeks approval for it from the Controller. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Benton is a law abiding citizen. He does not wish to cause harm to anybody. Though he may be suspicious of the Controller and the power the Controller holds. He still nonetheless for most of the story adheres to everything that the Controller has said to him. This may be important as Dick may be highlighting not only how submissive Benton is but how submissive society in general is. In order to maintain stability or in order to maintain what people are told stability is. Submission and acceptance of the rules is imperative. There is also a sense that Benton’s freedom has been taken away from him. Not only is he given two options on how he should die but his time machine is a prohibited item due to the effects it could have on stability.
Absolutely everything in life in controlled by the Controller with Benton and others having very little freedom. Though some critics might suggest this is the price to be paid for stability it seems to be an awfully high price to pay. Not only are people physically controlled but mentally they are subservient to those in authority. There is very little if any free will to develop as a person. It is as though people are no more than caged animals. Something that Benton may realise when he is walking through the wheat fields. He has freedom. Though it may not necessarily be a good thing to those in authority. It is easier for those in authority to control an individual rather than allow them the freedom of expression. To live their lives as they see fit. Though Benton himself may be harmless the globe may not be and it is for this reason that Benton is to be ostracized from society. Something that some readers might consider to be an extreme measure. Particularly when Benton does not know the full strength of the globe nor are the Controllers prepared to let him find out just how powerful the globe actually is.
The end of the story is also interesting as the controllers worst fears appear to be realised and Benton (like others) become a slave to the machine. What is also interesting is that any rebellious streak that Benton might have had is long gone. He is answerable to the machine (or globe) and appears happy to be. Which may leave some readers to suggest that the Controller has been right. However it is also noticeable that Benton is not discontent. He may be submissive to the machine but he is not discontent. Which might suggest that Benton’s ability to think for himself or his will power has been taken away from him. What had started out as an adventure for Benton has turned somewhat into a nightmare with the world being controlled by machines rather than by humans. Though at the same time when the world was controlled by humans (Controllers) people did not necessarily have any freedom either. Which may be the point that Dick may be attempting to make. He may be suggesting that an individual’s independence and freedom be it controlled by a machine or another human being. Is still none the less being controlled. Leaving the person without the ability to fully explore their life.