So what did Ms. Stackhouse have to say?
[Here are are the speculations of Ms. Stackhouse.]
1. The monolith - source of infinite knowledge and intelligence
A. Perfection represented in its shape; its color -- black -- could
1. Evil and death, which result from man's misuse of knowledge;
2. The incomprehensible -- man, with his limited senses, cannot
comprehend the absence (perfect black) of color or light.
B. Its first appearance.
1. Movie implies that life has reached the stage when it is ready
for inspiration, a divine gift, perhaps. [It is interesting that the
apes are expectant, waiting for something.]
2. Maybe apes become men when this inspiration is given. [Question:
Is man really a separate entity, with something (soul?) that no other
form of life possesses, or is the difference merely in quantity (rather
than quality) of intelligence? Is the evolution gradual and continuous
or in defined levels? Does the difference in quantity become in fact
this difference in quality?]
3. Inspiration is given:
a. When men (apes) need it; or,
b. When they seek it; or,
c. At the whim of the force giving the gift; or,
d. In various combinations of these three.
4. The purpose of the gift may be to allow man to create life-
sustaining forces. [In this "cycle," he creates only death; interesting
-- death from death (bones).]
5. Its disappearance (after weapon is made) -- Reasons:
a. It is taken away in punishment for misuse of knowledge; or,
b. It is no longer sought -- apes (men) consider themselves masters
now and try to continue on their own energies after the initial
impulse. Maybe the monolith is always present, but is invisible to
those who don't wish to see it or to whom it does not wish to be
c. It is taken away by the force that gave it, to prevent mortal
understanding of everything.
C. Its second appearance (on Moon).
1. Reasons for appearance:
a. Man is subconsciously seeking it again; or,
b. It is needed to remind him of his insignificance; or,
c. It is given as a new opportunity to create a meaningful
existence for humanity.
2. Men on Moon touch monolith in the same way that the apes did --
this indicates no basic change in man's nature. Then, after touching
it, they have the audacity to try to take photo -- still conceited,
still lacking in understanding of the gift.
3. From Moon, there is a strong magnetic field directed toward
Jupiter (this is where man will go next). This indicates that man will
still fail and will need monolith again when he reaches the next stage
of exploration. Monolith is always beyond human scope -- man is still
reaching at death.
4. It is ironic that men on Moon believe that the monolith was made
by a more advanced civilization. This to them is the ultimate -- they
can't comprehend that anything could be above the mortal level.
D. The monolith and infinity.
1. After HAL is made, man shows that once again he has refused,
through ignorance and conceit, to take advantage of the chance to
obtain superhuman intelligence. Maybe the system is slowing down and it
is impossible for man to progress any further on his own energies.
2. Now he is given another chance -- the monolith shows him
infinity, perfect knowledge, and the beginning of the universe, but he
can't comprehend it. Reasons for his being shown all this:
a. It may be truly another chance for man; or,
b. It may already be determined that he must die [maybe all people
are shown perfect knowledge at death]; or,
c. Maybe perfect knowledge (represented by monolith) is always
present, but our understanding of it will always be imperfect.
A. He is evil, but only because he reflects human nature.
B. His uneasiness about the mission implies that even the highest
development of human intelligence is imperfect in ability to
C. Man, trying to progress independently of divine aid, attempts,
either consciously or unconsciously, to create life, in the form of
HAL. This is not allowed. Man is reaching, or is being forced to reach,
a limit in his ability to progress further.
D. Reasons for HAL's failure:
1. Eternal human error once again in evidence; or,
2. This may be a divine punishment; or,
3. God will not allow man to become subordinate to his own foolish
E. The fact that man can overcome HAL's evil is optimistic; however, to
do this he must destroy HAL, who is nearly a living being -- again, the
theme of death, futility. [This and triviality are shown in HAL's
III. The room (at end) death.
A. It is elegant, maybe to show man's cultural achievements, but it is
sterile and silent -- nothing has meaning without the spirit of the
This is man's universe, that with which he is supposedly familiar, but
even this is hostile to him.
B. Room could represent:
1. All that man can comprehend (finite) or infinity. Even in this
limited scope, he is confused; or,
2. Man's cultural history, as men remember their past before they
3. The trivia for which he relinquished the monolith (then at death
he realizes his need for it); or,
4. A reminder of man's failure to draw on past -- it could contain
more wisdom than the present. [Monkeys responded to the monolith better
than modern man -- race is slowly degenerating.]
C. In this room, man must die, because:
1. He has reached his limit; or,
2. He has failed too much; or,
3. He has been shown infinity.
D. Question: Is his death (following degeneration) inevitable after
being shown all knowledge, or is this experience still another chance
to improve? Then, when man returns to trivia, perhaps this is the
breaking point, the end of his opportunities.
E. Maybe he knows what is happening to him but is powerless to change
it. The changes in the man may be a vision shown to him as punishment,
or they may merely represent the various stages in the life of one man
or of all men.
IV. The themes
A. Animalism and human failure
1. Throughout picture, there is constant eating, made to appear
revolting; also, exercising, wrestling.
2. At end, goblet is broken. This may imply that man's failures will
3. Animal nature and conceit remain the same throughout. Will there
never be any true progress? The monolith is always shown with sunrise
and crescent. When first seen, this is a sign of hope, of a beginning;
but the sun is never any higher except when man is shown infinity. This
last fact may symbolize hope that, despite all his past failures, man
will ultimately rise above animalism; or it may merely represent the
perfect knowledge he cannot comprehend.
4. There is a delicate balance between the animal and divine nature
in man. We will never be permitted to go beyond a certain point (as
individuals and as a race).
1. It is shown:
a. In the rescue and subsequent release of Frank (after the
struggle to catch him);
b. In the meaningless talk -- "People talking without speaking."
2. Is all that we do in vain? Each person certainly dies without
attaining all understanding. Will our race (history) also terminate and
begin again, continually, with no progress ever made?
C. Whether the movie is terribly pessimistic or optimistic depends on
the answer to the question, "Does the man at the end represent just our
'cycle' or all 'cycles' for eternity?"
1. Pessimistic: Man may never become more "divine" -- all chances
for rebirth may be merely a mockery. Irony -- no matter how much man
ruins his life, chances for improvement are always given. Since he will
probably continue ruining his life for eternity, this may be the cruel
tantalizing by some capricious god.
2. Optimistic: The preceding is impossible to believe if one assumes
that there is some life-giving, life-sustaining force in the universe
that is the source of absolute good. With this belief, one can hope
that someday man will be able to use the divine inspiration offered him
to propagate life-sustaining forces. Probably he will never be able to
understand more, but he will use his understanding better. The sunrise,
fetus, etc., seem to indicate this hope. Also, it seems that, despite
human stupidity, new opportunities to become sublime are always given.
Someday, perhaps, man will learn that he cannot truly "live" unless he
accepts the gift, in the form of the monolith, that demands human
subjugation to a divine force. Then he will not be required to create,
and to experience, only death.
* * * * * *
The following bio of Ms. Stackhouse was furnished by Eugene Stackhouse.
Margaret Ann Stackhouse was born 24 January 1952 at Plainfield, NJ.
was the daughter of Doctor James Stackhouse (a descendant of Thomas
Stackhouse, Jr. who came to Pennsylvania with William Penn in 1682) and
Mildred Woodward Stackhouse. Margaret graduated as a National Merit
Scholar from Plainfield High School in 1970 with Highest Honors and
almost perfect SAT scores. She received the Rensselaer Award for
Mathematics and Science, and was selected for the National Science
Foundation's Special Physics Program at Cornell University. Her
philosophical analysis of the movie "2001" received considerable
attention and was published in "The Making of Kubrick's 2001",
Jerome Agel. She entered Princeton University in 1970 and graduated in
1974 summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Princeton University
Scholar, as well as other awards.
In 1975 she went to Athens and studied modern Greek. She spent the next
2 years in Turkey where she married, mastered Turkish, and became
engrossed in the Middle East. In 1978 she and her husband returned to
New York where she was awarded a fellowship in Middle Eastern Language
and Culture at Columbia U. School of Graduate Studies. Her marriage
ended and she received a Master of Arts degree in 1981. She then won a
year's fellowship at the American Institute of Indian Studies in New
Delhi. She died of a tropical disease in Bangalore, India, 19 October
1984. A poem (one that I like, especially, not profound, but fun):
BALLAD OF THE MANTIS
A question which has torn my mind
And haunted me by night and day-
Whose answer still I cannot find-
Is, "Does the mantis pray or prey?"
His folded hands betoken one
Reciting Holy Church's laws-
Yet, the Credo scarce begun,
He grabs a fly between his jaws.
Never during mastication
Does he lose his pious gaze
Thus I reach this speculation:
He prays to prey, and, preying, prays.
(From: "SHARDS: A Collection of Poems" by Margaret Ann Stackhouse
Deerhaven Press, Morristown, NJ)
The above bio was furnished by Eugene G. Stackhouse: "I am a professional
genealogist and the family historian of the Stackhouse Family. I have
a database of over 4500 people descended from the 2 brothers who
came here with William Penn. I say all this because Margaret and I
are distant cousins, specifically 6th cousin once removed, and most
people are not aware of such distant cousins. I have met Margaret's
parents many times. They have recently moved from New Jersey to North
Carolina. Her father is my 6th cousin. He is a graduate of the
Dental School of the University of Pennsylvania.: 508 E. Locust Ave.
Germantown, Philadelphia, PA 19144-1308 Historian for Stackhouse."
The above poem could have been written by Emily Dickinson.
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