A Piece of Wood by Ray Bradbury
In A Piece of Wood by Ray Bradbury we have the theme of conflict, peace and hope. Taken from his The Stories of Ray Bradbury collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Bradbury is exploring two types of conflict, internal and external. The inner conflict is with Sergeant Hollis who does not want to fight in the war. He longs for peace and believes his Rust machine can achieve this. The external conflict and the one that the official really sees is the Sixteen year war. So disturbed is the official with Hollis that he suggests he sees Dr Mathews. Someone who the official believes will be able to straighten out Hollis or at least give a second opinion on what course of action the official should take.
The theme of peace is self-evident in the story. Hollis has no stomach for war and even though the official tries to be rational with him. He still considers war to be wrong. Hollis wants to live in a peaceful world and believes that his Rust machine will help him achieve this and if anything it does work. As can be seen by the degrading or rusting of the official’s gun. Hollis becomes a danger to the official because of his Rust machine and knows that he has to kill him in order for the status quo to remain. A task that is not as simple as it sounds as Hollis has started using his machine on the base.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The piece of wood that the official takes from the broken chair acts as the last remnant of hope for solving the situation with Hollis. He knows guns are no good but the Rust machine won’t work on wood. So the official intends to beat Hollis to death. A cruel gesture in solving a situation with a man who only wants peace. The officials logic when it comes to war is somewhat askew. It doesn’t really make sense and does not allow for faith in mankind. This is not surprising considering that the official may actually take pleasure in war.
The end of the story is interesting as Hollis starts to use the Rust machine to the advantage of all (except the army). A young idealistic man has found a way to end war and ensure that peace prevails. Just as the official wants and hopes for war, Hollis on the other hand has a different type of hope. He hopes for peace. Something he intends achieving even if he has to do it on his own at his own risk. In many ways the story is about an idealistic young man who takes on authority and wins. The reader feeling pleased for Hollis by the end of the story.