Towards the beginning of the novel we experience two very different perspectives of technology and computing and the impact it has. As the plot progresses, however, we begin to see that Ethan and Roberta’s opinions converge to where they have similar mindsets towards computer programming. One could even argue that Ethan and Roberta are one in the same, yet separated by a gender barrier.
Throughout her novel, Ullman highlights the differing opinions of Ethan and Roberta to reveal the depolarizing effects that technology creates between men and women. In the beginning of the novel, we see Ethan’s affinity towards programming while Roberta has a more cynical view of computers. As the story progresses we see that Roberta has come to fall in love with programming just as Ethan has and we begin to see the narrative blend together. On page 265 Roberta claims “Ethan and I were too much alike- too invested in our brain power to yield gracefully.” Both were drawn towards coding so much that it became a source of release for them. Coding created a false sense of control and liveliness that is unnatural.
Had Ethan not tragically killed himself, I think it would be safe to assume that Roberta would have followed a similar path as Ethan, a path of over-stimulation and withdrawal from society, leading to insanity. Towards the end of the novel, I believe Roberta comes to the realization that she could have ended up like Ethan had she allowed her obsession to get the best of her. On page 334, Roberta says, “We are built to tell these stories and be understood. The computer is built to run.” Here Roberta reveals the mindset that Ethan has before he commits suicide and distinction that we must realize between the digital and analog world.
The following clip is of the first original sci-fi movie The Metropolis (1927). Contrary to The Bug, this movie highlights the role that women and men play as technology and computer science progresses. I love this movie and it is definitely worth it to watch this trailer! What are your thoughts?