“The Mask” by Stanisław Lem

posted on 2011-01-23 by Aleksandra Dec


When all your life is a mystery… And the only feeling you have is a hesitation of who you are… When your destiny must be confronted with your emotions… World between technological advanced reality and feudalism. An insect-shaped robot is sent with a mission of killing a scientist called Arrhodes.


In the first part you can see the robot in a disguise of a beautiful woman, who knows nothing about her origin and true life. The beginning that it remembers is darkness and cold flames. After it wakes up, it realizes that it is a participant of a ball, where nobody knows it. No one besides the King. Everything looks so familiar to the creature but it feels there like a stranger. Then the robot meets a man who looks a bit lost in his reality. And accidentally in the empty space between them appears an unidentified emotion - something like passion or interest. After the conversation the man is going mad about the creature.

Then in front of the mirror humanoid creature metamorphoses into its essential metallic form, which resembles a praying mantis. It is the continuation of a secret plan. Of the plan, which is actually a choice between to destroy or to be destroyed. The “soul” of the machine really wants to be released from a cruel power of its creator but it is impossible. Even though the robot follows Arrhodes to kill him, it obstinately looks for the way to avoid the destiny of a murderer what it finally does. It feels a kind of relief, when it lies down close to the dead scientist and can say that his death is not a result of its actions.


The whole plot is connected with a question: “Who I am?”. The main character, so the intelligent robot, goes a long way to discover its real face, from the beginning, when it feels the rush of gender and receives language. Then, during the ball it falls in love with a knowledge that this feeling is wrong, it should not happen. And its meeting with the monk during the chase after Arrhodes is worth mention as well because of the fact that at this time the true nature of the robot somehow comes out. Nevertheless during the whole action there are many people around it, no one understands its feelings and behavior, people are scared of it and run away while seeing the robot. The machine is afraid of itself, uncertain about its moves. However it is sure about one thing – it does not want to make a harm even though its creator wants.

This narration makes us think about the free will and the significance of a destiny in our life. It also brings the thoughts if artificial intelligence can break the limits given by the human, work on its own way and decide what would be better for it to do.


I can recommend this narrative to everyone because it says about the important matters and the way how it is written makes it even more valuable. The gorgeous writing also causes our empathy in certain situation and understanding of all character’s doubts which can be the base of asking ourselves the question: “Am I sure who I am?”.

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