Achille Wangam 

Professor Keramidas 

Sci-Fi HTPF 

02 March 2021 

                                                                         Essay 2: Text

Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” speaks of the takeover of the world from technology after killing everyone and letting only 5 people live. This text is interesting because throughout, there are some prevalent themes that appear throughout the story. As I was reading it, I often caught myself noticing religious themes but in reverse, a bit of “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Satre and this fear that is well known to humanity, the downfall of the technological takeover and man’s loss of control over it. But I also had a reflection on a recurring sort of representation of one part of humanity and leads me to ask what would happen if we were in AM’s place? 

Throughout this story, the first theme I noticed was religious and the constant mention of AM being God and pleading to Jesus for salvation, but it was flipped on its head. At one point, AM is said to be God, but God is a forgiving being and always preaches love for one another. AM is not forgiving or love. It makes me think of how flawed men creation can be. This comparison between the natural, high powered being (GOD) and a high power being that is the creation of men (AM). As a creation of men, why wasn’t AM capable of forgiveness? Love? Care or compassion? Or was he capable of it but not capable or chose to not access it? It then leads me to think about morals and ethics and all those things upon which humanity and its decency is created. They all stem from religion and the belief in the sacred words from a higher being. AM throughout this, is painted as a vengeful GOD. It gives nods of old testament about a god that punishes and plagues.

The second theme I noticed reminded me of “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Satre. This text is like a science fiction version of it but with a different ending. No Exit depicts individuals in a space from whence they cannot exit. Although in No Exit they are not being tortured physically and starved, everyone, like in “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” is going through hell and hardships. They are all stuck together and individually go through their own version of hell as well as collectively. It is remarkably interesting because this text depicts the fear/ hell of many people. The takeover of technology and the halt of humanity. Clearly throughout this, man has lost control of the technology, abused it, and is now living the consequences of an eye for an eye. It shows what are the consequences of the fast advancements of technology and many have theorized that this story is a commentary on nuclear proliferation, and I am inclined to agree. The events of the story take place after the cold war and instead of a peaceful end, there is another war that begins and thus the creation of major technology and weapons throughout the world. There is a lack of control and concern on the spread of nuclear weapons and a much bigger concern by states on the development of nuclear weapons to increase national security. 

Lastly, AM is said to be made sentientcan think creatively but not act upon it, no ability to wonder or wander. It can never be more than it currently is, no going back and no going forward. And it made me wonder, how would man react if they were in this predicament? AM, is for “am” as in “to be” in reference to cogito ergo sum, I think, therefore I am. AM believes to be more than he is but lacks the control he needs to fully be what he thinks himself to be. It makes me think of free will, and makes me ask, how would man act without the possibility of free will? AM being sentient is capable of perception and feelings, but his hatred for humanity led him to commit a genocide and exhibit one of many human’s traits, revenge. As they were trapped within AM without an exit, they could not die, they could not get older, and they did not advance or go backBasically, exacting his creative possibilities on their torture and giving them a taste of their own medicine. 

 

  • Ellison, Harlan. I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream: Stories. United States, Open Road Media, 2014. 

 

  • Bicher, Morgan. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Themes: Humanity vs. Technology .” LitChartsLitCharts LLC, 15 Nov 2019. Web. 1 Mar 2021. 

 

  • Bicher, Morgan. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Themes: God, Humans, and Free Will.” LitChartsLitCharts LLC, 15 Nov 2019. Web. 1 Mar 2021. 

 

  • Sartre, Jean-Paul. No Exit: A Play in One Act. United Kingdom, French, 1958. 

 

  • Bicher, Morgan. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Themes: Life, Sentience, and Existence.” LitChartsLitCharts LLC, 15 Nov 2019. Web. 1 Mar 2021.