Marionettes, Inc. by Ray Bradbury
In Marionettes, Inc. by Ray Bradbury we have the theme of control, change, happiness, selfishness, escape, conflict, independence and freedom. Taken from his The Illustrated Man 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 control. Braling feels as though his wife is controlling his life something that Smith would tend to agree with. So annoyed or angry is Braling that he decides to buy a marionette in order that he has the freedom to live his life as he wishes. However Braling does not realise just how dangerous things will become for him when Braling Two decides that he has fallen in love with Braling’s wife and wants to live with her as husband and wife. Something that Braling himself is attempting to escape from. Though doing so on terms that do not disturb the status quo for Braling. Hence Braling not simply divorcing his wife. If anything Bradbury may be highlighting the dangers of technology and how a machine can eventually overtake mankind. Something which is clearer to the reader when Smith discovers that his own wife has replaced herself with a marionette.
Throughout the story both Braling and Smith wish to be in control of their lives yet ironically the complete opposite happens. Neither man could have foreseen just how problematic their lives might get especially for Braling. Who appears to have the utmost faith in Braling Two. Though Marionettes, Inc. do not yet have a licence for their products. This too could be significant as just as Bradbury may be suggesting that machines can have their dangers and that man is in conflict with machines. He may also be suggesting that unlicensed machines are particularly dangerous. So advanced is the technology used with a marionette that it has the ability to feel and make decisions based on how it feels. Something which may be considered by many to be dangerous for the preservation of mankind. It is also interesting that both Braling and Smith wish to change their environment which not only suggests that both men are unhappy but that they may also feel as though they have lost control of their environment (wives). Which is somewhat ironic as Braling ends up losing his life in pursuit of happiness while Smith has been fooled by his wife before he can fool her.
It may also be a case that both Braling and Smith are acting or wish to act selfishly in order to pursue their own sense of happiness. Which may leave some readers wondering as to why both men don’t simply divorce their wives and then pursue the happiness they seem to crave. Braling too appears to be living a dream when it comes to his desire to go to Rio. Not only is he seeking independence from his wife but he also seems to be again acting selfishly. It is as though both Braling and Smith want the best of both worlds. They wish to remain committed to their wives though at the same time have the independence they had when they were single men. Which some might consider to be impractical. The fact that Smith’s wife has also left him may suggest that she too is as unhappy in her relationship with Smith. Though how long Smith’s wife has been gone for is difficult to say. However she does have to return home at some stage to recharge the marionette. Which may be important as Bradbury could be suggesting that though the marionettes can fall in love with humans. They do only have a six month life cycle.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a sense that Braling realises that he has no control over Braling Two. It is for this reason that the reader suspects Braling was attempting to call Marionettes, Inc. If anything Braling Two has the ability to not only kill Braling but in reality he will replace Braling without Braling’s wife knowing. Not only is Bradbury highlighting how dangerous machines can become but he may also be highlighting how little value a machine may place on human life. It is as though the marionettes have changed from being useful tools to becoming the better of mankind. Life’s dynamic has changed dramatically and the only ones who will pay the price are not the marionettes but man himself. Though man is the one who has the ultimate responsibility for his actions. Unfortunately for Braling he has paid for his desire for freedom with his life. While Smith keen to acquire a marionette for himself has been beaten to it by his wife. Both men have been driven by possibly selfish desires and both men have lost out. Society has ended up creating a tool (marionette) that can think for itself, feel for itself and as such have desires of its own.