Ray Bradbury Essay, Research Paper
Ray Bradbury has long been celebrated as a master of fiction. But it is not only the wondrous realms he shows us nor the fantastic possibilities he shares, but the his characters, his embodiments of humanity that truly captures readers. Courage, weakness, love, hate, passion and cool logic fill the pages of his short stories, novels and screen plays. To focus on these themes Ray Bradbury utilizes fantastic settings and dangerous technology magnifying and examining the ageless paradox of humanity.
The short story collections of Ray Bradbury best capture his most powerful themes, and The Illustrated Man in particular bestows a wide variety and depth of meaning. For instance, int “The Long Rain” Human will and courage are put to the test, and the value of each is wieghed. A rocket crew crashed and stranded on Venus, a planet stricken with perpetual rain leave their broken ship to seek the shelter of the fabled Sun Dome, a shining beacon to marooned travelers and lost parties, a great building in which synthetic sun shines giving warmth and respite from the bleak planet without. “The Long Rain” puts forth the question of strength and endurance in an isolated struggle for one’s life. ” The rain continued. It was an Hard Rain , a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, and undertow at the ankles; it came by the pound and the ton…”(illustrated) In this extreme environment, Bradbury is able to isolate the men and show only their will and weakness. With nothing other than the rain and their nerves to keep them from reaching the Sun Dome the power of human will is brilliantly illustrated as three men trek across the drenched landscape searching for salvation. Bradbury’s main themes are what is best in America and the American people, or indeed what is best in humanity ( bradbury.htm) Along the trek in the constant, excruciating rain, crew mates are lost, not by a great flood, nor by uncontrollable circumstances, but simply due to the loss of will, the loss of hope. “…I’m tired, I don’t think the Sun dome is down that way. And, if it is, its probably got holes in the roof, like the last one. I think I’ll just sit here.” Simmons was conquered from within. There was nothing the Lieutenant could do to persuade him from suicide. And so he trekked on toward a Sun Dome he himself doubted to exist, and nearly laid down like his companions and succumbed to the rain. “He slipped and fell. Lie here, he thought; it’s the wrong one. Lie here. Its no use. Drink all you want.” Something from within pushed him from the mud, and to his feet. An intangible yet burning force, the iron rod of human will, shining and defiant, bent but not broken lead the Lieutenant onward past doubt , past fatigue, to the Sun Dome and to Life itself. As in real and more mundane occurrences The Long Rain defeated the will of some, but not all. Never can any force imaginable defeat what is best in Humans.
Another parable from The Illustrated Man , “Marionettes Inc.” shows one of Bradbury’s classic themes : “Humanity must surely master the machine or just as surely the machine will master humanity.”(Science Fiction Writers) In This story, a man, Braling desperate to escape from a bitter marriage, buys an android duplicate of himself to take his place while he vacations in Rio for a month. In the week prior to his departure, he decides to leave the robot with his wife and meet a friend, Smith, who is too interested in an android replacement so that he could escape from his wife who was too loving and affectionate, who smothered him. But before long, both men find that their plans are already ruined, and their machines already risen from slavery.
“What about her?”asked Braling, already trying to edge near the door.
“I’m afraid you don’t understand. I think- I’m in love with her.”
Braling took another step and froze. “You’re what?”
Braling Two had out grown his tool box prison, and found he rather liked Braling’s life, and that Braling himself was unnecessary baggage , to be discarded. Meanwhile Smith, on his way home planning his own retreat from his hyper-affectionate wife, Nettie soon found that he had been beaten to the deception. “Without desiring to do so, he bent forward and yet forward again until his fevered ear was resting firmly upon her pink round bosom…Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick….”(Illustrated) Two relationships and four lives spoiled by cowardice, fear and the desire to turn to a mechanical solution to one’s emotional distress.. In such a world everyone would become suspect, your best friends, your mother, your wife might all be synthetic, while the real persons had long left in order to follow sad and selfish dreams. Bradbury masterfully illustrated the danger of technology when applied irresponsibly and used as a pacifier for human emotions.
In “Kaleidoscope” Bradbury uses the complete emptiness of space to isolate men from their machines and devices to show them as they are naked and alone. A rocket ship is struck by a devastating meteor and ripped open like a tin can, spewing space suit clad men into the void of space toward a bittersweet death. “…instead of men there were only voices- all kinds of voices, disembodied and impassioned, in varying degrees of terror and resignation.”( illustrated) “Now as if they had discovered the horror, two of the men began to scream. In a nightmare Hollis saw one of them float by, very near, screaming and screaming… he would go on screaming for a million miles… Hollis reached out, it was best this way… He smashed the man’s glass mask with an iron fist. The screaming stopped.” (Illustrated) Once again Human will is put to the test, not by circumstance, but by oneself. But also a great hatred in the hearts of the men is revealed with the ship and pretense violently ripped away.
“Shut up!” said Hollis.
“Come and Make me, ” said the voice. It was Applegate. Hollis for the first time felt the impossibility of his position. A great anger filled him, for he wanted more than anything at this moment to be able to do something to Applegate. He had wanted to for many years to do something and now it was too late.” (Illustrated) But also goodness was shown by the men, floating onward forever poised to die with honor and dignity. “If inly I could do one good thing to make up for all the meanness I [Hollis] collected all these years…. When I hit the atmosphere I’ll burn like a meteor.” ” Look Mom, look! A falling star!…Make a wish.” Surpassing the themes of character and dignity Bradbury is making a point about space travel itself and the perpetuation of Humanity.. ” He seems to be saying in his luminous manner that in space, as atoms of God, we live forever. ” (bradbury.htm)
No matter what planet he sets his stories on , or how far into the future he projects, the past is always present in Bradbury’s works.(contemporary) One of the finest examples of this allusion to the past, is found in The Martian Chronicles where the colonization of Mars is compared to and made parallel to the colonization of the America’s.(contemporary) The most striking similarity is that When the fourth expedition lands, they find that all the Martians have died of Chicken Pox, a disease that humans inadvertently brought with them. “Chicken pox, God, chicken pox, think of it! A race builds itself for millions of years, refines itself, erects cities like those out there, does everything to give itself respect and beauty and then it dies.”( Martian)
Yet another allusion is put forth by The Martian Chronicles is the morality of conquest and colonization, as compared to that of the Native Americans. “How would you feel if you were a Martian and people came to your land and started tearing it up?” “I know exactly how I’d feel,” said Cheroke. “I’ve got some Cherokee blood in me. My grandfather told me lots of things about Oklahoma Territory. If there’s a Martian around here, I’m all for him.” (Martian)
Bradbury was able, in the Sea of Tranquillity at the very sight of Man’s first successful Landing on Mars, to use that setting, and all its wonder to emphasize the very real and very recent evils of unbounded colonialism, the brash and careless destruction of things we know little about and people we’ve killed before we’ve even spoken. “As for Ethics, they are elemental in Bradbury’s fiction… They appear not in obvious nuggets, like raisins in a raisin cake, but blended among the basic ingredients.” (Science Fiction Writers)
The writings of Ray Bradbury transcend race, religion and even language to pull on the deepest chords of readers around the world. His books have been translated into nearly as many languages as the bible, and never before or since has a modern author enjoyed such a truly universal audience. Bradbury’s creations have succeeded in almost every corner of the world, despite difference of culture and even language. Perhaps they have been so well received because Ray Bradbury speaks in the language of love and manages to touch the commonality within us all using his magnificent scenes and his flesh and blood characters, men and women whom embody all that are capable of, good and bad.