A Critical Analysis of
Isaac Asimov’s Short Story
The Fun They Had
( read the story )
by Thomas Jay Rush
Asimov’s story lacks almost all the qualities that one would normally look for in a well written story. His short story writing career started in 1939. This particular story was written in 1951 – 12 years after his first story. It seems to me that if this is the level of the man’s work after 12 years of writing then he wasn’t trying hard enough.
The story related a lame episode in a young child’s life about 200 years in the future. Teachers have been replaced with robots. Schools are non-existent. A young boy finds an old book – which is a total novelty to he and his little friend, a neighborhood girl. The story relates their surprise at the foreign idea of a person teaching a child in a school setting. Then the story ends.
I find no effective use of simile or metaphor, no use of symbolism or artistry of any form. I find no under-story, by which I mean a hinted at second layer to the story. The story is just one layer deep, relating boring events that happen to boring characters.
The basic idea behind the story is silly and sophomoric. People have stopped teaching children anything. Children cannot even imagine a day when a human being would stand up in front of a group of children to expound upon some sort of information. How silly. Why would anyone ever think that would be a good idea? I can imagine a day when robots exhibit perfect fidelity to humans when it comes to communicating with human beings. I can even conceive of a possibility where robots would be better communicators than people – but why in the world would anyone choose to replace a teacher with a machine that is so pathetically worse at communicating than Asimov’s robots are? It makes absolutely no sense.
Of course, one may interpret the story to be saying that such a thing would not be a good idea and switching to a system where students do not interact with robots is not a good idea, but that’s not saying much. Its like say ‘We shouldn’t use murders to teach our children.” Everyone would just say ‘No shit, Sherlock’.
Beside the point that the story is so silly is the fact that the story exhibits no artistic effort whatsoever that I can find. There are very few similes and/or metaphors. There are no allusions or references to other writings or other writers, there are no artistic turns of phrase.
Scholar James Gunn, in 1980, wrote of Asimov’s I, Robot:
The robot stories—and, as a matter of fact, almost all Asimov fiction—play themselves on a relatively bare stage.
I think this quote applies to this story as well. This may be his style but it’s quite poor.
I love Isaac Asimov. I spent many hours reading a reasonable portion of his 500 published books, but this particular story leaves me very disappointed, which is perhaps why I am so harsh in this analysis.
Even the title of the story sucks. All Mr. Asimov did was take the last four words in the story and make it his title. How ridiculous. No wonder he was able to write 500 books if they sucked as much as this story. I guess it just goes to show that ‘Bad Writers are Easy to Find’.