Proposed Trope: The Pursuit of Freedom

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Freedom [1]is a term used to describe the absence of ties to any entity which could affect one's decision making process. Although this may seem to have a straightforward and simple meaning, freedom is actually a very complex and debated idea which has been discussed for many centuries dating back to the Founding Fathers and even farther into history. The definition of freedom has also transformed over the centuries depending on the general views of the population during that period. The pursuit of freedom is indeed an equally complex idea that often appears in science fiction, including The Machine Stops.

As evident in many of the class readings, not only the idea of freedom but the pursuit of freedom is very important to evolution of the characters and the story. This trope is set up to analyze how freedom impacts the way the characters analyze the world around them and make decisions. Science fiction tends to have similar themes of freedom that show up in many works. Since science fiction has a big emphasis on technology, the limiting factor which defines freedom tends to be the technology and how it restrains the characters in their lives.

"History does not teach fatalism. There are moments when the will of a handful of free men breaks through determinism and opens up new roads." ~Charles de Gaulle


Appearances in Class Readings

The main appearance of freedom in the class readings is in The Machine Stops. The society described in the short story is one of few personal connections leading the world to isolate itself as well as giving a false sense of freedom. Freedom has appeared in the majority of the class readings mainly because of technology.

Appearances in Other Media

Science Fiction

Throughout all of Spring 2011 Science fiction readings the pursuit of freedom has always been an important concept. This can be seen in numerous examples in nearly all of the short stories and books that were read, and as noted above what exactly freedom is differs from text to text.

Right after Lindsay is exiled from the Mechanist colony he arrives on Zaibutsu. There he is immediately told about the one freedom he may pursue. This freedom is the ability to die wherever/whenever he wants to. This is actually something special as in the Shaper Mechanist universe death has lost it's horror due to the numerous live extending technologies. The freedom of pursuing death always gives one the freedom to be human. In this story humans are defined by their mortality. Thus pursuing death is what makes one human.

The basis of the story is that Casey lost the freedom to enter cyberspace, due to his betraying a client. He then regains the ability by some powerful people, and must work for them in order to keep this freedom. The pursuit of freedom is a very complex issue in this story since freedom for Casey means doing illegal activities. So the question of where does freedom stop comes into play. Can one pursue freedom to the extent of total anarchy, or can we curtail certain freedoms in order for the greater good. This idea plays a big part in economic freedom. One can either let the Market take its course and let greed rule or one can restrict certain abilities in order for people to not get screwed over.

He She and It
This story analyzes pursuit of freedom from several different perspectives. There exists the pursuit of freedom by the freetowns from the corporate controlling Multis, and there exists the pursuit by Yod the cyborg. Yod wants freedom so that he can be rid of Avram and live the life he chooses. Yet he is a cyborg and thus the question of is the pursuit of freedom limited to humans comes into play. In the end Marge Piercy says Yod is set free when his decision is respected and he could pursue his own will. However, this comes at the cost of killing a human being. So again where do the boundaries of the pursuit for freedom begin and end.

The Hacker is a person that fully believes in the pursuit of freedom. Anything that impedes access is considered an obstacle to this idea, and will be either removed or bypassed. This can be seen in the Hacker ethic under "All Information should be free" and "Access to computers—and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works—should be unlimited and total." They are the anarchists, and in their opinion the boundary of were pursuit of freedom ends does not exist.

Trope Justification

Freedom is a very intricate idea which has been debated for many years due to the absence of recognition of the complexity of such a “simple” idea. Freedom is divided into many subcategories, including Freedom (philosophy), Freedom (political), Economic freedom, and Individual freedom. Each subcategory addresses a separate issue of freedom with each representing a different aspect of life. Although each is a separate entity, the sum of all subparts allude to “total freedom.” Analyzing the various aspects of freedom is a very daunting task which is open for a plethora of different arguments. Although the last 100 years have been times of incredible technological advances, people are becoming more like machines in that they are losing the physical connection and relying more heavily on technology to survive. The realization that "there is more than meets the eye" is the first step in discussing and analyzing freedom. The idea of freedom appears somewhat frequently throughout many science fiction literary works with each alluding to a different variation, no matter how slight it may be.

The pursuit of freedom is a very debatable subject which has the potential to bring up new views of science fiction and how it has changed over the years. Often in science fiction, freedom is a factor which defines the characters in the work and how they act throughout the work. This is not always true, but when present, freedom is an important topic of discussion. Though it might not be the most prevalent topic of discussion it is certainly important in developing other arguments. Other proposed tropes also discuss the idea of freedom but it is important to realize that not only the idea is important but the pursuit of happiness is equally important. In many instances it is not the final product which is important but the road to achieving the final product.

Every individual is entitled to their own opinion and therefore have their own idea of freedom and what the idea means to them. The main issue with this is that there are many factors that contribute to a person's beliefs, such as religion, government, media, and family. With all of these ideas floating around there is an uncountable amount of ideas that can be formed. Perhaps the most important aspect of freedom is the pursuit of freedom.

Freedom is a very important aspect of human life and is often limited by beliefs, economy, and social norms causing multiple interpretations of the topic. As described earlier, history itself has led to many different interpretations of freedom, all of which are equally valid. But the real question is “What is total freedom and how is it achieved?”


  1. Freedom (22nd january 2010) Taken from Wikipedia,the free encyclopedia (22nd January 2010)
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