(urth) "Unrequited Love"

Roy C. Lackey rclackey at stic.net
Wed Jun 27 17:05:17 PDT 2007

This is my take on the story. Some of these points have already been made by

I think that the narrator is in fact a robot. The reference to "dwarves"
refers to his diminutive size. He was a boy robot like Roberta, and of
course robot children never grow up like human children. He has been "alive"
so long that he can no longer pretend he is a real boy. His human "parents"
(human, as indicated by the meat scraps at his home) eventually grew tired
of the farce of having a perpetual child (thus "our" house).

Given the "Ro" name thing, the narrator may have been named some
unimaginative variation of robot, possibly Robbie.

There are echoes of Cyriaca's tale of the loss of the wild things in human
nature to the machines mankind made.

"Either the Robinsons could not have a child of their own, or were unwilling
to undertake the travail and expense of a real child. I could not—I do
not—blame them in the least. But I wondered, because I have never had much
to do with such ‘bots, about her schooling."

He could not blame them because he owed his own existence to the same
impulse. Sending a robot to school is silly on the face of it. It is all
pretense, as the narrator knows, and as he proved when a first-grade girl
robot knew about square roots.

The narrator was not exactly the Snake in the Garden. His world wasn't a
paradise, and Roberta was already aware that she knew far more than human
children. Her human classmates would grow up and move on with their lives,
whether the narrator intervened or not; it was just a matter of time before
she would be confronted with the facts. The narrator already knew the score,
having experienced it himself. Roberta was programmed to be smiling and
pleasant, the ideal child who could never be real. The real child, Julianne,
was not particularly happy; her best friend was a robot.

When the narrator learned that the real girl was getting a fake dog, and
vice versa, that is what really set him off. The fake dog would remain a
puppy and outlive the little girl, or she would grow tired of it and abandon
it, as happened to the narrator. The robot girl's puppy would grow up and
die and cause her pain. Either way, the two robots concerned would suffer.
The narrator tried to rectify the situation by causing the dogs to be
switched, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The dogs, once
exposed to their own kind, preferred to remain with their own kind. The
girls lacked the dogs' good sense. The real dog was too real for the real
girl, and the robot dog's belief that it was really a dog served to remind
the robot girl that she, too, was not a real girl.

Robber recognized the narrator as another robot, which is why he wagged his
tail and licked the narrator's hand. The real dog could not be fooled by a
robot dog. The robot dog had to be chained to bind him to his human master,
making its suffering even greater than it would have been. That is the
narrator's only real "sin". Each dog's true love went unrequited, but I
think the same was true for the narrator.


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