Inside the eNotes AI Fact Check Machine

Every day on eNotes, our subscribers post thousands of questions for our cutting-edge AI integration to answer. AI technology is fallible and can make mistakes, provide incorrect information, and often fails to cite its sources. When a student or teacher needs additional information, a citable source for the project they’re working on, or validation that the AI-generated information is 100% correct, they can ask for an FactCheck.

With the click of a button, the original question and AI-generated answer are posted to our network of vetted, US-based educators. Their work is not easy, as they must review the original question and answer, critique the response, and provide additional context where necessary. This process can be a lifesaver for students who are gathering knowledge using eNotes Instant Answers but may still need a final check or citable source for their essay or report.

So what does an eNotes FactCheck look like? Let’s peer under the hood at a recent example. . . 

The Question:

What are the themes present in the Anthony C. Winkler’s The Lunatic? How do these represent the characters in the novel?

The AI Answer: 

“The Lunatic” by Anthony C. Winkler is a satirical novel that explores several themes, including the following:

  1. Madness and sanity: The protagonist, Aloysius, is considered a madman by society, but throughout the novel, he exhibits wisdom and insight that often make him appear saner than the supposedly rational characters. This theme encourages readers to question conventional definitions of sanity and insanity, as well as to consider the arbitrary nature of societal judgments.
  2. Love and human connection: Aloysius’s relationship with Inga, a German tourist, is central to the book. Their unconventional love story challenges traditional norms and expectations about romantic relationships. Through Aloysius and Inga, the novel shows the power of love and human connection to transcend social barriers and judgments.
  3. Colonialism and post-colonial identity: The novel is set in Jamaica, a country with a history of colonialism. The characters’ interactions, particularly Aloysius’s with the British landowner, Mr. Phelps, reflect the lingering effects of colonialism and the struggle for post-colonial identity. Aloysius’s rejection of societal norms and his embrace of his own unique identity can be seen as a form of resistance against colonialist pressures.
  4. Nature and the environment: Aloysius’s deep connection with nature is a significant aspect of the novel. He lives in the wilderness, and his understanding of and respect for the natural world often contrast with the other characters’ disregard for the environment. This theme highlights the need for a more harmonious relationship between humans and nature.

In “The Lunatic,” these themes are represented through the various characters and their interactions. Aloysius serves as an embodiment of the themes of madness and sanity, as well as the post-colonial struggle for identity. Inga’s character represents the themes of love and human connection. Mr. Phelps embodies the lingering colonialist attitudes, while Aloysius’s connection to nature serves as a counterpoint to the other characters’ environmental disregard. Overall, the themes in “The Lunatic” intertwine to create a rich and thought-provoking exploration of individual and societal issues.

The eNotes FactCheck, by Educator Amy Troolin, M.A.

The generated response correctly identifies the themes of Anthony C. Winker’s novel The Lunatic and speaks accurately about how those themes are represented by the novel’s characters. Let’s explore a few points in a bit more detail to fill out the picture.

First, it is important to note that love and human connection, while an important theme, is certainly treated in an unconventional manner, as the response says. Aloysius and Inga are in a relationship, but their connection is flawed. Inga does not find full satisfaction in Aloysius and looks elsewhere for further enjoyment. Aloysius, because of his underlying madness, relates to Inga in unusual ways. We may question the nature and depth of the love between these two characters, as indeed we should.

Second, the novel certainly places the theme of madness and sanity in a central place. Aloysius is crazy in most people’s eyes, yet we are led to wonder if he is actually saner than many of the novel’s other characters. The response explains this well.

Finally, with regard to nature and the environment, you might think about the varying ways the natural world is approached by Aloysius and by Inga. These two have different views of the plants and animals on the island, and those plants and animals actually notice.

As we can see in this example, the AI did a good job of summarizing the major themes. Our educator confirmed that the generated response was correct while providing additional nuance for the asker to consider as they integrate the AI response into their process.

We plan to do additional “inside the eNotes FactCheck” posts soon to help our subscribers understand not only how the process works but also how it might be helpful for them in the future.