A ticket to the past, a chance to visit the creatures that once ruled the surface of the Earth, a chance to hunt a living Dinosaur down. In the short story “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, Eckels was lucky enough to be able to travel back in time and hunt the giant that once ruled the surface of the Earth, a living Tyrannosaurus Rex. Even in real life, every little mistake you made in the past can result in an absolutely different future.
Travis and the safari company knew they were taking a totally inexperienced person on a Dinosaur hunt and that is why they had every small detail set up so nothing in the future would be altered. In the exposition of the story, Eckels was warned to not go off the path that was set for him, then Travis explains: “say we accidentally kill one mouse here. That means all the future families of this one particular mouse are destroyed, right?… For a want of ten mice, a fox dies. For the want of ten foxes, a lion starves. For a want of a lion, all manner of insect, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into destruction and chaos… Step on a mouse and you crush the pyramids. Step on a mouse you leave your print, like the Grand Canyon, across eternity” (226 Bradbury). Travis specifically told Eckels to mind everything he does in the past and even explains the consequences the death of a small mouse can bring. But however, Eckels does not take responsibility for his actions. The time machine gave man the power to travel back time to explore the unknown. But however, great power follows inseparable responsibility, and because Eckels carelessly killed the butterfly the future changed, the election results changed. Duetscher became president.
The time safari company was extra careful with an explanation of the rules because if the future was altered, they would be the ones responsible for it and to help contain the rules, the importance of explaining extreme consequences of what happens if an accident happens is very important. Eckels does not realize how irresponsibleness can lead to serious consequences. This is shown when the safari team and Eckels finally arrive at the time of the Dinosaurs. Travis orders Eckels to never leave the ‘path’ no matter what happens, “He [Travis] indicated a metal path that struck off the green wilderness, over the steaming swamp, among giant ferns and palms… “It’s anti-gravity metal. Its purpose is to keep you from touching this world of the past in any way. Stay on the path. Don’t go off it. I repeat. Don’t go off. For any reason! If you fall off, there’s a penalty’” (225). Throughout the story, Eckels was told many times so be severely careful, despite that, he still steps off in fear and confusion, and the results of that was the death of a butterfly. When Eckels went back to the future he realizes what he had done and cries, “No, it can’t be a little thing like that. No!” (236). Eckels was shocked that just the death of a small butterfly could change the society he lived in. This is an example of the main theme of the story. The butterfly represents a small thing or maybe a mistake in the past and the dictator president or the signs in the travel company represents the change in the future. In detail, the butterfly can also symbolize a chain reaction called the ‘Butterfly Effect‘, like Travis’s example with the mouse.
And in addition to that, Eckels is most likely a dynamic character for he represents both the protagonist and the antagonist. It varies as the story progresses. In the beginning, Eckels starts out as an innocent man that just wanted to hunt down a Dinosaur, but towards the end when he killed the butterfly and unbelievably changed the election results, he could also be seen as the antagonist. The dynamic change doesn’t define one’s quality, but instead how those qualities change over time. And the change in the story is the lack of responsibility resulting in the death of Eckels.
From all of the above, we can see Bradbury tried to reflect the serious consequences of carelessness and the opposite of that, the importance of responsibility and how it could contribute to a whole different society or future. Bradbury did not just write the story for entertainment, there was another whole purpose. Bradbury tried to communicate that every step matters like how ‘The Path’ can symbolize the right way and falling off in confusion and fear can represent throwing away the responsibility, going off-track.