The Sound Machine

The Sound Machine Quotes and Analysis

"And above that there is another and another rising right up the scale forever and ever and ever, an endless succession of notes…an infinity of notes…there is a note—if only our ears could hear it—so high that it vibrates a million times a second…and another a million times as high as that…and on and on, higher and higher, as far as numbers go, which is...infinity…eternity…beyond the stars."

Klausner, p. 9

In this passage Klausner explains to the doctor his theory of the infinite presence of inaudible sounds. Dahl uses ellipses to show how Klausner gets carried away with his own explanation. The passage is significant because of the way Klausner's excitement overtakes him; moments earlier, he had been reticent and unwilling to tell the doctor what device he was tinkering with. The contrast in emotional state indicates how Klausner's obsession is making him emotionally volatile.

... and now the Doctor, looking at that strange pale face and those pale-grey eyes, felt that somehow there was about this little person a quality of distance, of immense immeasurable distance, as though the mind were far away from where the body was.

Narrator, p.10

In this passage, Dahl describes the doctor's reaction to Klausner's lengthy and spirited explanation of his sound machine's purpose. Having observed Klausner's animated way of speaking and his manic demeanor, the doctor feels there is a distance between Klausner's body and mind. The dissociation the doctor notices is significant, as the moment foreshadows Klausner's climactic break with reality.

"Did you really, Mr. Klausner?" She decided she would make a dash for the house in about five seconds.

Mrs. Saunders / Narrator, p. 19

In this passage, Dahl contrasts Mrs. Saunders's polite response to Klausner's excited explanation of how he heard her roses shrieking when cut with Mrs. Saunders's internal desire to dash inside the house. The contrast shows how Mrs. Saunders perceives Klausner to be mentally unstable, and because she fears that instability she treats him gently, preferring not to dispute his version of reality however much she believes it to be nonsensical.

"Please come. Come quickly. I want someone to hear it. It's driving me mad! I can't believe it...."

Klausner, p. 24

After testing his sound machine on the tree in the park, Klausner rushes inside to phone the doctor and have him come confirm his version of reality by making the doctor listen while he strikes the tree again. Dahl's inclusion of the statement "It's driving me mad" in Klausner's dialogue creates a moment of irony: Klausner uses the phrase in its figurative sense, unaware that the doctor has been concerned that Klausner is literally being driven insane by his obsession.

The Doctor hesitated. He saw Klausner’s hands tightening on the handle of the axe. He decided that his only alternative was to run away fast, and he certainly wasn’t going to do that.

Narrator, p. 32

After the tree branch smashes the sound machine, Klausner orders the doctor to paint the tree's wounds with iodine. The doctor is reluctant to treat the tree as a human patient, as he knows the iodine will do nothing to heal an axe cut in a tree trunk. However, he sees Klausner's grip tighten on the axe handle and realizes he ought to either oblige or run away. This passage is significant because it reveals how Klausner descends into madness, as Klausner's obsession clouds his reality so sufficiently that he subtly threatens the doctor.