A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland

By John Sutherland

This little heritage takes on a really significant topic: the fantastic span of literature from Greek fable to image novels, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter. He introduces nice classics in his personal impossible to resist means, enlivening his choices with humour in addition to studying: Beowulf, Shakespeare, Don Quixote, the Romantics, Dickens, Moby Dick, The Waste Land, Woolf, 1984, and dozens of others.

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Perhaps building on the antiauthoritarian 1960s, this film views planetary rule by an advanced computer as a horrifying tyranny, d e spite the fact that the computer seems devoted to the overall good of h u manity and to solving various problems (such as wars, famines, and plagues) that humans have proved unable to solve for themselves. Paul Verhoeven's later Robocop (1987) splits the difference. Automated law enforcement is depicted in the film as an unscrupulous ploy on the part of a giant corporation, w h i c h cares very m u c h about profit and not at all about people.

T h e n again, Forbidden Planet is often rather conservative in its estimation of the capabilities of Earth technology, as in its assumption that travel to the m o o n w o u l d not be accomplished until the last decade of the twenty-first century. Similarly, while Morbius's residence is a marvel from the perspective of the 1950s, it seems odd that the twenty-third-century Earthlings of the film are so impressed by it. But then, the film is appropriately viewed from the perspective of the 1950s, not the 2200s, and the house is best seen as an example of the kind of future h o m e that was the object of m u c h fascination in the American 1950s.

For example, w h e n Carpenter/Klaatu first appears at the boarding house, the boarders sit in a dimly lit r o o m watching television reports concerning the alien visitor that urge citizens to be on the lookout, though they acknowledge that available photographs are of little help for identification purposes b e cause they are mostly silhouettes that do not show Klaatu's face. W h e n the boarders look up upon Carpenter's entrance, already jittery from the news reports, they see only a dark, ominous-looking, back-lit silhouette that immediately links the n e w c o m e r to the television reports.

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