Mechanical Justice (Kuprin)

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Mechanical Justice
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: An inventor created a mechanical flogging machine to replace human-administered corporal punishment, but during a demonstration, he accidentally became its victim, leading to the machine's destruction.

A large gathering of people attended a lecture in a provincial town, where a man in a Department of Education uniform presented his invention, a machine designed to administer corporal punishment. He explained that the machine was intended to replace human-administered punishment, which often led to negative emotions and resentment. The machine was designed to be impartial, efficient, and adjustable in terms of the severity and speed of the punishment.

The Lecturer — narrator; inventor of the mechanical flogging machine; passionate, idealistic, and later becomes calm and melancholy.

During his presentation, the lecturer explained the importance of corporal punishment in Russian history.

Yes, corporal punishment is part and parcel of the very soul of the great Russian people, of its mighty national sense, its patriotism and deep faith in Providence.

The inventor demonstrated the machine using a leather mannequin, asking the audience to suggest a number of strokes for the punishment. However, during the demonstration, the inventor accidentally dropped a heavy chronometer into the machine, causing it to malfunction and administer punishment to him instead. The audience tried to help, but they were unable to stop the machine without the key, which the inventor had left at home.

As the lecturer became the victim of his own invention, he cried out in pain and desperation.

For the love of the Lord! For the love of the Lord!

Eventually, the town's fire brigade was called to destroy the machine and rescue the inventor. After recovering from his injuries, the inventor returned to his job as a teacher, but his experience with the machine had changed him. He became a calm, sweet, and melancholy man, and never attempted to recreate his invention.

The destruction of the machine marked the end of the idea of mechanical justice.