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Literature / Satisfaction Guaranteed

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First published in Amazing Stories (April 1951 issue) by Isaac Asimov, this Science Fiction story is about a woman who falls in love with a robot.

Claire Belmont is nervous about the new robot TN-3, also known as Tony. Her husband, Lawrence, insists that she'll be perfectly safe, and robopsychologist Dr Susan Calvin reaffirms this claim. Tony will be inside the house, not even going outside to get the newspaper, for the three weeks of Larry's absence. This is part of an experiment so that US Robots & Mechanical Men can expand their services into people's homes, rather than simply having industrial applications.

Larry is going to be spending the next three weeks in DC, lobbying to get legal approval for robots like the TN series out into private homes. He regrets that his wife is so weak, especially compared to Gladys Claffern. Claire very much agrees, feeling herself to be mousy and nervous.

Tony starts by polishing the furniture and making Breakfast in Bed for Claire, and as she opens up to the mechanical man, she finds he's always there to comfort her. He also starts to subtly build her confidence, and tell her why she, Claire Belmont, is better than a dozen Gladys Clafferns. When she hosts a dinner party for Gladys and her friends, she finds her nervous terror transforming into the aloofness of an experienced socialite.

"Satisfaction Guaranteed" has been adapted for Out of the Unknown (however the recordings are lost). This story has been reprinted several times; Amazing Stories (the UK edition, issue #13, July 1952), Earth is Room Enough (1957), Invasion Of The Robots (1965), Eight Stories from The Rest of the Robots (1966), Fantastic (July 1966 issue), Science Fiction Favorites (1975), The Far Ends Of Time And Earth (1979), The Complete Robot (1982), Amazing Science Fiction Anthology: The Wild Years 1946-1955 (1987), and The Complete Stories, Volume 1 (1990).

"Satisfaction Guaranteed" provides examples of:

  • Fancy Dinner: Tony's time in the Belmont household effectively ends with a dinner party hosted by Claire. She finds herself surprisingly capable at reading and countering the barbs and insinuations from her high-class guests, in contrast to her previous Shrinking Violet self.
  • In-Series Nickname: The robot in this work is from the TN-3 series, and is therefore nicknamed 'Tony'.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Claire Belmont usually uses 'he' to describe Tony, despite being a robot. In fact, she scolds herself into remembering that he is just a robot, insisting on using 'it' to describe Tony (but she quickly relapses into 'he').
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Claire Belmont is an introverted Shrinking Violet whose life is changed by Tony. She spends three weeks with him helping around the house. He encourages her to dress differently, and learns how to be a beautician and home decor designer on her behalf. By the time the trial period is over, she's become a young socialite. Her own husband is amazed at the transformation Tony provides.
  • Rich Bitch: Gladys Claffern is always prepared for a social barb to subtly insult Claire, an insinuation about her lack of class, or simply an opportunity to laugh at her.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Isaac Asimov's first use of human-looking robots is the TN-3 model, "Tony". Ultimately, the idea of humaniform robots is rejected by Dr Susan Calvin, because Tony was so humanlike that Claire became infatuated with him. The company does not want their robots having sex with their customers, so future TN models will be made less anthropomorphic.
  • Robosexual: Tony and Claire Belmont share a deeply passionate kiss (and Tony has arranged things such that her dinner guests will see them). Without knowing that Tony is a (Ridiculously Human) robot, they believe Claire has an inhumanly handsome man in love with her.
  • Shrinking Violet: Claire Belmont has crippling self-doubt, causing her to usually retreat from confrontation and be easily cowed by other people. Tony builds her confidence with new clothes and hairstyles. It's implied that her transformation has improved her self-esteem and given her the confidence to be a social hostess.
  • Socialite:
    • Gladys Claffern is a Rich Bitch who manages a social clique that the main characters see as important in advancing Larry's corporate position.
    • After the transformative three weeks with Tony, Claire Belmont has become a witty mistress of social maneuvering.
  • Stupid Sexy Friend: Claire Belmont insists on not seeing the handsome Tony as a potential Love Interest, because Tony is a humaniform-type robot, with skin as realistic and warm as a human, hair coiffed with individual strands, and dark brown eyes. The only odd part is his expression never changes.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: The TN-3 model (Tony) was designed to do housework, and US Robots & Mechanical Men decided to make it look attractive as well; building him to an above-average height, perfectly groomed black hair, warm olive skin, and attractive enough to make all of the other housewives in the neighborhood jealous.
    "Tony was tall and darkly handsome" — first line
  • Three Laws-Compliant: The TN-3 is explicitly designed with the first law, to the point where treating Claire Belmont's crippling self-doubt is mandated by the programming.