"A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001)

After reading this very unique short story, I was confused as to why Harty decided to create the character Cole as a robot. Initially, the main conflict of the story seems to be solely a father trying to save his injured son, but as the story progresses and flashes back to the past, the conflict reveals itself to be more complicated. There seems to be two external conflicts in this story: one between the father and son, and the other between the father and mother, Mike and Dana. The internal conflict, on the other hand, is within only Mike: his desire to maintain his marriage while refusing to allow the change of his son (by “upgrading” him). The couple of external conflicts that work upon Mike is successful in creating even more tension, pulling him apart in many directions, and therefore strengthening the tension of the inner conflict.

Now for the most unique decision on the author’s part – what is the effect of making Cole a robot? If the conflicts that I listed above are accurate, then couldn’t the story have been written without the inclusion of a robotic character, perhaps by creating a human son with an illness? Constantly throughout the story, the robotic son is described with human characteristics such as experiencing worry, dreams, pain, sadness, etc. The only difference is that the fact that Cole is robotic prevents his “death” in the case of physical injury. Considering that the main conflict is directly revolved around the parents’ son, the decision to make Cole robotic gains value. Every time Cole ends up in a terrible physical accident, Dana is reminded that living with this robotic boy is a “dream” (as she terms it), and wakes up to the reality that their real son is dead. Although the decision to make the son human and ill as opposed to robotic could result in the same conflicts listed above, the robotic feature is essential to the particular conflict in this story, in which the theme of accepting reality is presented. A human son with an illness does not easily allow for that. The decision for a robotic character seems unnecessary at first, but is actually the foundation for the conflict in this story.