The Fun They Had: The Fun They Had is a story set in a future where schools do not exist and teachers have been replaced by robots. By introducing an old book, Asimov seems to be showing the differences between two ways or learning. And, through Margie’s dreaming of kids going to school, Asimov seems to be saying that the past is better than the future.
The Fun They Had Chapter Key Notes Class 9 English Literature Book Beehive
Tommy Discovers an Old Book.
Tommy discovers the book in his attic and brings it over to Margie’s house. The book had ‘yellow and crinkly’ pages and words that stood still. Both Tommy and Margie felt their ‘tele books’ which had a million books were better. Margie was scornful when Tommy told her the book was about school.
Margie’s Dislike for School.
Margie’s hatred for school stemmed from her dislike of the ‘mechanical teacher’. The mechanical teacher comprised a robotic system which kept setting difficult tests for Margie. This led for Margie’s mother to send for the county inspector. The county inspector, a jovial man, found the issue and fixed it.
Margie was disappointed.
Tommy’s Describes the Schools of the Past. Tommy, in a superior tone, tells Margie that children went to a school building and were taught by a man. Margie wonders how a man knew as much as a mechanical teacher. Tommy explains how children of the same age learnt the same things. Margie is unsure of the old system as she agrees with her mother that every child needs to be taught according to their needs.
Margie Wonders about these Schools.
Margie and Tommy are both called in to their schools. Margie walks into her schoolroom, where the mechanical teacher announces they will begin a lesson on fractions. Margie daydreams about the fun children in the past had at school.
The three major themes of the chapter ‘The Fun They Had are:
- Education in the Future
- Technological Innovations vs Human Connection
Education in the Future
Schools in the future comprise a mechanical teacher in a schoolroom setup at home.
Schools from the future are designed to specifically teach according to the learner’s needs.
By showing the flaws of such an education, Asimov seems to favour the more personal approach of the schools of the past.
Technological Innovations vs Human Connection
Telebooks and Books: Though the telebook can store millions of books, Asimov seems to be favouring the physical act of reading.
The children are surprised how the words are immoveable on the pages of the book.
Mechanical vs Human Teacher: The mechanical teacher isn’t able to gauge Margie’s level and malfunctions repeatedly.
Margie’s surprise on how a man could be a teacher shows complete reliance on technology.
In contrast, in schools, students mingled with one another. They also had a human teacher which suggests learning is not just about understanding subjects, but also human interaction.
Margie ponders how all the children would go to school together and learn.
She also wonders about the fun they must have had.
Margie is disillusioned by the mechanized teacher, yearning for a more personal approach.
Margie longs for the schooling system of the past.
The story has five characters.
- Mrs. Jones
- The Mechanical teacher
- County inspector
Main protagonist of the story.
Curious: She asks a lot of questions about the book and school.
Dislikes school: She doesn’t like the robotic teacher who gave her difficult tests.
Limited worldview: Her worldview is largely dependent on what everyone tells her. She repeats her mother’s opinion on education and has to learn about the past from Tommy.
Imaginative: She dreams of how children must have had fun in the schools of the past.
Margie’s 13-year-old friend who discovers the book in his attic.
Confident: He seems to know a lot of schools and teachers of the past.
Opinionated: He has strong opinions about the education system of the past.
Superior attitude: He adopts a superior attitude while explaining the old school system to Margie.
3. Mrs. Jones
Disciplinarian: Believes that children should learn at regular times.
Strict: Ensures that Margie’s schooling runs smoothly.
Authoritative: Her firm views on schooling and education influence Margie. She plays an important role in shaping Margie’s views on schooling.
4. County Inspector
Friendly: The ‘round little man with a red face’ has a friendly attitude.
Kind: Gives Margie an apple after repairing the mechanical teacher.
Asimov uses a range of literary devices in this piece of science fiction to juxtapose the past and the future. Some of these are:
- Point of View
- Symbolic Imagery
Point of View
Asimov employs third person narrative in juxtaposition with Margie’s point of view.
Through this, Asimov narrates the story of Margie and Tommy.
We also get a glimpse of Margie’s thoughts which personalizes the debate between the future and the past.
Asimov uses the method of contrast, where Margie and Tommy draw parallels with the past and their present.
The ‘telebook’ with a higher storage capacity is contrasted with the old book.
Margie’s doubt about a human teacher is contrasted with her full faith in the mechanical one.
In the future, mechanical teachers teach children. In the past, it was human teachers who did so.
In the schools of the past, everyone was taught the same things. In the future school, education was individualized for every child’s needs.
The ‘mechanical teacher’ stands not only for technological development, but also represents the impersonal and robotic state of futuristic learning.
Education in the future is student-centric, with courseware designed for each student like when Margie says, “‘But my mother says a teacher has to be adjusted to fit the mind…”
The paradox is how futuristic education misses out on interpersonal interaction. The story title – The Fun They Had – shows Margie long for social interaction in schools from the past.
Margie calls the mechanical teacher ‘large and black and ugly’. This indicates her dislike for the future school system.