Time? How do we depict it in science fiction? Analysis of “The Sound of Thunder”

George Xu

Humanities

Assignment 2

CER+ER+…

What is time, and how do we portray it? Nowadays, many science fiction authors depict stories regarding time travel. Paradoxes and changes in history are the most prominent among them. For instance, the story “The Sound of Thunder” depicts a futuristic franchise that can send people back in time to kill animals. The main character, two other hunters, and two guides were to kill a tyrannosaurus. Yet, the story is more than what it seems. It has deep philosophical ideas such as “there are consequences to your actions”, “better safe than sorry”, and “don’t overestimate yourself”. Ray Bradbury, the author of this story, depicts in this short story that even changing something of infinitesimal importance of what should not be changed can cause enormous consequences later on.

To first notice this, we could look at the beginning of the story. At the beginning of the story, the official told the main character, Eckels, that “If he [the guide, Mr. Travis] says no shooting, then no shooting.” (Bradbury 1). After that, the official warned Eckels that “If you disobey instructions, there will be a penalty…plus possible government action, on your return.” (Bradbury 1). This demonstrates the severity of the issue. One could infer that the government would interfere as they fear of consequences. Additional support would include a part of the sign: “Safaris to any year in the past” (Bradbury 1). The government might fear damage to the world as some animals might have become extinct or some other details might have been changed.

The guides are all very cautious about what happens in the past. Later, after the safari has left the present, Mr. Travis, the guide, insisted that Eckels to “Stay on the Path!” and that “If you fall off, there’s a penalty.” (Bradbury 4). When asked by Eckels to explain, Mr. Travis said that “We don’t want to change to future. We don’t belong in the past” (Bradbury 4). This also shows Travis’s caution towards their time traveling. They even sent Lesperance, another travel guide to “note the exact hour, minute, and second” (Bradbury 7) the dinosaur was killed, as to prevent drastic changes. This was made to find only the animals “with no future, that are never going to mate again.” (Bradbury 7). He then exclaimed, “Do you not see how careful we are?” (Bradbury 7).

Yet, even with all these warnings, Eckels panicked, and “He ran off the path” (Bradbury 12). Travis was enraged and threatened to kill him: “I’m warning you, Eckels, I might kill you yet. I’ve got my gun ready.” (Bradbury 13). It can be assumed that Travis is threatening him because “Who knows what he’s done to Time, to History” (Bradbury 12).

Consequences, consequences, consequences…Eckels’ sudden panic has changed the world for the worst, all because of “a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead” (Bradbury 15). All because of one butterfly, the entire language of a nation has been changed, from “Time Safari, inc. Safaris to any year in the past. You name the animal. We take you there. You shoot it” to “Tyme Sefari, inc. Sefaris tu any yeer en the past. Yu naim the animall. Wee taekyuthair. Yu shoot itt.” (Bradbury 1, 15). Additionally, rather than Keith winning the election with most people despising Deutscher (or Lyman, in the graphic novel), Deutscher was the one who won, with the official–who previously insulted Deutscher–complimenting him for the very thing the official despises in the original timeline. Eckels “heard Travis shift his rifle, click the safety catch, and raise the weapon. There was a sound of thunder.” (Bradbury 15). Travis shot someone, maybe Eckels, maybe himself. But what would happen next, what would the survivors do? Can they change history back? We might never know…

 

 

More Information:

This is my analysis of the science fiction story “The Sound of Thunder”. This short story is made by Ray Bradley, who is a greatly distinguished author and screenwriter who participated in the production of many films and an author of multiple books. Science fiction and time are closely related, and this is depicted in this short story.

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