The Sound Machine – Summary

The Sound Machine by Roald Dahl is a short, sharp and a frightening story that discusses about the darker and selfish side of human nature. People exploit plants and flowers for their selfish uses and seem to ignore the ‘emotions’ within these living things.


Klausner, the protagonist, was a man who was obsessed with sound. He had a theory that there excited numerous sounds in the world that were inaudible to human ears as these sounds were of high frequencies. Hence, he invented a machine designed to receive high frequency sounds and translate them for the human ears to hear them.

On a summer evening when Klausner was working on this machine, Dr. Scott came to have a look and was curious to enquire about his invention. The invention, to specify, was a three-foot long black box which resembled a small coffin that contained a complex electronic mechanism. Dr. Scott did not seem convinced with Klausner’s theory.

Klausner takes his machine outdoors to test it. Initially, all he hears through the connected earphones is a mere humming noise. Though soon, he perceives a shriek each time his neighbor Mrs. Slanders cuts the stem of a rose in her garden. These, to him, sounded like painful moans and cries of the roses on being cut.

He, further decided to test the machine through another experiment. The next day, he takes an axe and swings it into a large beech tree. Immediately, he hears an unsettling noise, similar to a scream. It was unlike any other sound that he had ever heard before. Klausner, hence, rushes back to the house and call his doctor. He experiences a sudden urge to share this news and experience with someone and the doctor was his saviour. Dr. Scott agrees to come over and listen to the sounds.

The moment Klausner smacks the tree with the axe, a large branch comes down crashing and smashes the sound machine to pieces, barely missing the two men. He asks Dr. Scott about the sound that he might have heard, but the physician was uncertain for he was attempting to save himself from any injury.

Klausner insists that the cuts in the tree should be painted with iodine as an attempt to heal it. He also commands Dr. Scott to check on the tree the next day and they leave the place, hand-in-hand.

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