Question

Choose at least five of the following questions to answer.

1. Who is the narrator? From what point of view is the story told? Why do you suppose Vonnegut chose to use this point of view?

2. What do you think the letters E-P-I-C-A-C might stand for? Why do you think so?

3. What is the significance of EPICAC's being "too big, in fact, for even Von Kleigstadt to understand much about"?

4. The narrator states that EPICAC "looked like a machine, but he was a whole lot less like a machine than plenty of people [he] could name." How, in your opinion, can a person be like a machine? How can a machine be like a person?

5. Who is Joe Stalin, why would "the Brass" want to fire a rocket into his overcoat, and how does this allusion contribute to the story's setting and meaning?

6. What does the narrator imply is the reason for EPICAC's underperformance? How does the narrator go about implying this?

7. Why does Pat think she could never be happily married to a mathematician? To what extent do you think you can accurately predict someone's personality type according to their profession?

8. The first time the narrator attempts to converse with EPICAC, he sets only about half of the computer's dials so that "his circuits were connected up in a random, apparently senseless fashion." What is significant about this?

9. What is ironic about the narrator's reference to EPICAC's response to the narrator's first question as an "absurd coincidence"?

10. What does Vonnegut accomplish by having the narrator and EPICAC communicate with the particular code they use?

11. Does this story contain a serious message, or is it solely meant to entertain? Explain.

Part II:

You are working for a high-tech firm exploring the idea of creating a computer that is fully capable of experiencing human emotions. Your supervisor asks you to write up a short (150-200 words) memo explaining to the board of directors why you think they should or should not proceed with the project. Write the memo.

Solution Preview

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1. The narrator is the young Mathematician who works directly with EPICAC and directly supervises the devices’ well-being. The point of view of the story is told from the very heart of this young mathematician to add both flare and romance to a science fiction story that might otherwise be very boring and void of substance. This choice was also very ingenious to heighten the utilization of personification on behalf of the computer as the computer had a personal relationship with the young mathematician who would eventually and ...

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