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Analysis of the Machine That Won the War Essay

“The Machine That Won the War,” by Isaac Asimov, is a story that teaches a valuable lesson about humanity and also has an ironic twist at the end. The setting is the future of Earth, and a great war had just been won against an enemy race.

Two men, Swift and Henderson, are debating over who really won the war for Earth: the giant strategy computer known as Multivac, or the men in charge of making the maneuvers and programming the computer. John Henderson is an excitable man, while Lamar Swift, the military captain, is calm but rational. While the people hailed the computer, the two really knew who the heroes were.

Henderson explained the fact that Multivac was nothing more than a large machine, only capable of doing what it was programmed to do. He stated that ever since the beginning of the war, he had been hiding a secret. It was the fact that some of its (Multivac’s) data might have been unreliable.

This conflict, as you will note later, helped win the war. The great computer was capable of creating a direct battle plan which Earth forces could use to attack their enemies. However, with Henderson inputting faulty data, this caused some of the battle plans to be unreliable. His internal conflict between himself losing his job and wanting to keep it made him jingle with the programming until it seemed right.

This foreshadowing helps the reader to see that someone is going to have to act upon Henderson’s faults if the war is to be won. Swift, the military commander, received these battle plans that Henderson had ‘printed up’ out on the front (the front being the battle front).

He, realizing that some of these plans were outrageous, had to act upon a different form of machine. Swift’s motivation for not always acting upon what was laid before him helped change the course of the war. He told Henderson that when faced with the difficult decisions, he didn’t use Multivac’s data all of the time. This conflict, making these tough decisions, helps influence the climax.

The climax of the story comes when Swift tells Henderson he used a coin to make all of the though decisions instead of Multivac’s data. This use of ‘situation irony’ shows us that in the worst imaginable scenario, the outcome is actually made so simply.

The lesson I found in this story is to not always trust what you see before you, and that human beings will forever take chances even in the riskiest of situations. In conclusion,”The Machine That Won the War,” taught us all a valuable lesson about how humans think, and contained a humorous, ironic ending which stunned (or should have stunned) everyone.


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