The Garbage Collector by Ray Bradbury
In The Garbage Collector by Ray Bradbury we have the theme of fear, paralysis, routine 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. The man (who is unnamed) is afraid that his job as a garbage collector is about to change. All the garbage trucks are to be fitted with a radio in case of an atomic explosion. This upsets the man because he doesn’t want to have to deal with the collecting of dead bodies. He likes his job as it is and does not wish to see it changed. If anything the man feels paralysed by the decisions that have been made. It is as though he has lost touch with reality for a brief moment. He cannot imagine it is the job of a garbage collector to collect dead bodies.
The theme of routine is self-evident. The man, every day, does the same thing. His pattern does not change until he hears about the radios for the garbage trucks. This may be significant as it is possible that Bradbury is suggesting that the man is paralysed in his life. Doing the same thing all the time and never changing his routine. It may also be a case that Bradbury is suggesting that the man is incapable of change. So set is he in his ways. Though by the end of the story fear has totally taken over the man and he wants to move to the farm his father left him. Much to his wife’s dismay.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The man has no experience in dealing with the disposal of dead bodies and is unsure of how to do it. This is significant as it acts as somewhat of precursor for the man making the decision to leave his job. The fact that when the man walks into the apartment after work and does not see or hear his wife is significant to. It highlights the state of shock the man is in. His world has been turned upside down by the radios in the trucks. How innocent the wife is may be noticeable by the fact she thinks the radios are for the men to listen to music. She does not see what the man sees.
The end of the story is interesting as Bradbury appears to be continuing with the theme of routine. The man’s wife calls the children into the kitchen telling them that they are just in time for dinner. Though some critics might suggest that the wife is about to tell the children what her husband has told her. This may not be the case. The wife remains calm throughout which suggests she is carrying on as normal. Nothing in the immediate future will change for the wife, the man or their family. Although it does look like the man has made up his mind and wants to abandon the city for good.