A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury
In A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury we have the theme of fear, conflict, ignorance, control, naivety and change. Taken from his The Golden Apples of the Sun and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bradbury may be exploring the theme of fear. Eckels is not only afraid of the Tyrannosaurus Rex but when he realises that he has changed the world he becomes even more afraid. Pleading with Travis to be allowed make amends for what has happened. If anything there is a sense that Bradbury is warning the reader of the dangers of technology (time machine) and how man’s ignorance can be detrimental to others. How one simple incident can result in devastating changes. Not only has Eckels’ actions of accidentally killing the butterfly changed the language that is being used. Something that is noticeable from the sign in the office but he has also managed to ensure that a possible tyrant has become elected as President of the United States. It is as though Eckels’ carelessness has resulted in a complete overhaul of what had previously existed.
It is also interesting that Bradbury uses all five senses when he describes elements in the story. This could be important as by doing so Bradbury may be attempting to bring the reader into the story. To give science fiction fact. He uses sight when describing the sign on the wall as seeming ‘to quaver under a film of warm water.’ He uses touch when Eckel’s feet ‘sank into the green moss.’ He uses sound when Travis and the others rifles are firing ‘their sound was lost in shriek and lizard thunder.’ He uses smell when Eckels is told to get out of the time machine by Travis ‘a chemical taint so subtle, so light’ and finally he uses taste when Eckels is at the front desk in the office ‘a warm phlegm gathered in Eckels throat.’ It might also be important that Travis is so strict. As he is fully aware that any changes that he or those travelling with him may make can have a disastrous effect. Something which rings true in the story and costs Eckels his life. Though some critics might suggest that Travis’ action towards Eckels is harsh it might be important to remember that life as Travis knows it has completely changed due to Eckels’ actions.
It may also be a case that Bradbury is suggesting that though one should be careful with technology the realities of a time machine are something that cannot be controlled and as such its creation should not be pursued. One simple error can cause a chain of catastrophe events to occur. Events in which mankind will not recover from and is forced to adapt to. It is also possible that Eckels has taken on more than he can handle. Something that is clearer to the reader by the fact that Eckels is afraid of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Though initially Eckels showed enthusiasm for what was to occur when the reality hit him he changed his mind. With his only concern being his own safety rather than killing the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Which may be the point that Bradbury is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that an individual needs to think carefully about their actions prior to venturing into a task that may be too much for them. Which is the case when it comes to Eckels. Eckels thought that his adventure would be fun and rewarding to him. However it has turned out to be the complete opposite.
The end of the story is also interesting as Eckels ends up paying the ultimate price for his actions. There is also a sense that Eckels is being naïve believing that he can change things back to how they were. However Travis appears to know better and it is for this reason that he ends up killing Eckels. What was meant to be an adventure for Eckels has cost him his life. The reader is also left uncertain as to how much damage Eckels has caused. Though if the change in language on the sign and the fact that Deutscher is President are to be considered then possibly Eckels has changed the direction of mankind. Which may leave some readers to suggest that the story is a warning for others of the dangers of technology and how easily a man can change the course of history. Though Eckels has paid a heavy price he has also changed the world permanently. Something that is only too clear to Travis who feels as though he has no option but to kill Eckels. Whether Travis kills Eckels out of anger or if he considers his actions to be just is left to each individual reader to decide.