When Tommy finds an old, paper book in his attic and pores over it with Margie, it becomes a symbol of what society has lost with the advent of technology. At first, the children are skeptical of the book because the "telebooks" they are used to contain many books in one. But within the pages of this old book, Margie and Tommy learn about the way school used to be for their great-grandparents' generation. In comparison to the education they receive at the hands of a mechanical teacher, the old way of life seems much preferable.
Mechanical Teacher (Symbol)
The narrator describes Margie's mechanical teacher as a "large and black and ugly" robot with "a big screen and a slot" for homework. This description stands in stark contrast to the mere humans that used to act as teachers in centuries past. Thus the mechanical teacher represents the technological advancements that appear to now dominate Margie's world. Further, the mechanical teacher occasionally breaks down; once when giving Margie geography tests that are too difficult for her, and again when attempting to teach Tommy history. The teacher therefore represents not only technology itself, but also the problems that arise alongside.
In contrast to the printed book, telebooks represent the promise of technology. According to Tommy and Margie, telebooks have moving words on a screen, "the way [it is] supposed to" be. A further advantage of screens is that they can hold "a million" books at once. Without this, Tommy fears that a paper book would simply have been thrown away "when you're through." Tommy and Margie clearly see telebooks as a superior alternative to printed books. In this way, telebooks are a symbol of society's overall acceptance of the benefits of technology.
The Fun They Had Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Fun They Had is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.