The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov
In The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov we have the theme of innocence, change, technology, loss and longing. Taken from his The Complete Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Asimov may be exploring the theme of innocence. Margie is eleven and not very worldly. Though she is not meant to know the history of schools. She finds it hard to understand how a man can be a teacher when she is so use to robots teaching her. It is only through Tommy’s guidance that Margie learns about the history of teaching and how interesting it may have been. However there are some parts of schooling which have not changed very much. There is still an allotted time for teaching and the children do not have to do schooling over the weekends. Margie nonetheless still finds it difficult to be taught by a robot and the reader is left suspecting that Margie might have preferred the old way of schooling and teaching.
The theme of technology is self-evident in the story. The children (and adults) use telebooks to read. In today’s terms they would be similar to eBooks. Where the information is on a screen or tablet. This may be significant as Asimov may be suggesting that society has lost something. The intimacy of holding a book and reading it. To enjoy turning pages in the book as you progress in your reading. Tommy is also amazed by the book and this transfers to Margie who finds the book interesting, even if she does not fully understand it. The printing press may also be lost but people still nonetheless are reading. This too may be significant as it is possible that Asimov is suggesting that people regardless of the age they live in, enjoy reading.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The telebooks themselves can be seen to represent the advancement of technology. How over a period of time things have changed when it comes to reading. The fact that Tommy is reading a book on paper is also significant as it suggests that Tommy is able to understand how those before him might have lived. He has an insight into the past despite on one occasion his history module on his robot not working correctly. This too could be important as Asimov could be suggesting that word of mouth (from Tommy’s grandfather) can shape the individual as much as a lesson in school can. Something that Margie through her innocence does not fully understand.
The end of the story is interesting as it appears as though Margie is beginning to understand what school might have been like in the past. It is also interesting that Margie might prefer the old way of schooling rather than the more formal approach used by the robots. In whereby they wait for the student to come into a room so they can be taught. If anything Margie may actually long to be taught by a human. Though it is interesting that Tommy thinks only men can teach the student. Something which may not have been seen as significant at the time the story was written. In many ways Tommy may be a symbol of male dominance and might actually dominate Margie through both his sex and his knowledge.