The Shah of Bratpur in Player's Piano

1601 Words Mar 6th, 2010 7 Pages
One literary technique that authors often employ is to use a character who is a “visitor” to provide insight into a society’s culture. In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Player Piano, the author employs the Shah of Bratpuhr in such a manner. Instead of seeing a society that is better because of its reliance on machines, the Shah instead observes that the people of Ilium have become slaves to their machines instead. Instead of observing a society that worships a religious God and looks to him for inspiration and guidance, the Shah sees that Proteus’ world instead ridiculously worships and obeys the dictates of the giant computer brain EPICAC. Instead of admiring Paul Proteus’ society for granting worth based solely on intelligence, status, and …show more content…
Having the distance of a visitor instead of one already immersed in the brainwashing in Ilium, the Shah is thus able to provide insight into the ridiculousness of a society that relies on a machine instead of humans for its knowledge and guidance. The Shah is also able to cut through the façade presented in Ilium about the powers of the President, as a spiritual leader or otherwise, providing insight into who or what truly holds the power in Paul Proteus’ world. To underscore the significance of the Shah’s insights as an outsider to Ilium, Vonnegut even has the announcer at the ceremony say ‘Perhaps the Shah will give us the fresh impressions of a visitor from another part of the world, come from another way of life’ (120). And so the Shah does, in ever a dramatic way, when he turns his back on the President and drops to his knees to perform some sort of worship ritual at the foot of EPICAC, as he asks a riddle which in his culture will identify the arrival of an “all-wise god” (122). When he gets no response from the machine, the Shah then likens it to “Baku,” or a false god. In doing so, the Shah once again underscores how ludicrous it is for the society of Ilium to essentially worship a machine. Not only do the people of Illium worship the machines, they also compete with the machines. Part of the Shah’s journey is to Cornell University, where he experiences more

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