The mistake that ruins time!? No going back? This may be fictional, but still, a Sound of Thunder is an elaborate/detailed science fiction story written by Ray Bradbury.
The government hired TIME TRAVELING safari guide, Travis, to take paying tourists to time travel back to the prehistoric era to shoot dinosaurs. All directions given by Travis must be followed. Why? According to Travis, there would be a chain reaction in time that would carry on towards the future. Time paradoxes also don’t exist, you can’t go back to before you have made a mistake.
One of the scared tourists/hunters, Eckles, accidentally walked towards a different path and kicked up dirt in the process. The others noticed, and had him take out the bullets from the dinosaur as punishment, and head back to the future. Though once he came back, he realized that within the mud he stepped on was what seemed a like butterfly. Eckles noticed that the signs have warped (changed) to improper English. He was panicking and questioning everything that had just happened… Travis was right.
As punishment for ruining humanity, Eckles was killed by none other than the man that tried to lead him towards the correct path: Travis. “There was a sound of thunder.” (Bradbury, 470).
Ray Bradbury explores the concept of fear and regret of the unknown by showing that:
Eckles was trying to grasp the idea of how a chain reaction through time would work, and what would happen as a result. From the utter shock of seeing the dinosaur, Eckles stepped on the wrong path. This is where regret is then frequently mentioned. Eckles wants to then “pay anything. [Even] a hundred thousand dollars!” (Bradbury, 381). So as punishment, Eckles was forced to take out the bullets from the dinosaur corpse, and when realizing the consequences of his actions through just looking at the atmosphere Travis almost leaves him. The author’s perspective on this concept is, in short, the author thinks that instructions should be followed (especially when delivered by the wiser) or else consequences will occur, especially because one mistake would be detrimental to our future.
“For want of ten mice, a fox dies. For want of ten foxes, a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos and destruction. Eventually, it all boils down to this: Fifty-nine million years later[;] a caveman, one of a dozen in the entire world, goes hunting wild board or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. So the caveman starves. And the caveman, please note, is not just any expendable man, no! He is an entire future nation.” (Bradbury, 130).
In the story, Bradbury believes that mistakes shouldn’t be made when of high importance, or at least, have confidence in what you are doing or else you will regret it later.
Travis constantly reminds Eckles to stay on the right path or else you will have consequences with the government and states that “If you disobey instructions, there’s a stiff penalty of another ten thousand dollars, plus possible government action, on your return.” (Bradbury, 11). Disobeying instructions in this case would cause chaos in the future. Once Eckles, Travis, and the others leave, the world will adapt with the butterfly being killed, thus expanding the impact of the death of the butterfly until the present day.
. One of the reasons might be that Eckles was relying on a theory, and not proper evidence (until the end of the story) as even Travis admits that “Of course maybe our theory is wrong. Maybe time can’t be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways. A dead mouse here makes an insect imbalance there, a population disproportion later, a bad harvest further on, a depression, mass starvation, and, finally, a change in social temperament in far-flung countries.”.
“Eckels stood smelling of the air, and there was a thing to
the air, a chemical taint so subtle, so slight, that only a faint cry 430 of his subliminal senses warned him it was there. The colors,
“white, gray, blue, orange, in the wall, in the furniture, in the sky beyond the window, were . . . were . . . And there was a feel. His flesh twitched. His hands twitched. He stood drinking the oddness with the pores of his body.” (Bradbury, 429+430).
“Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling, “No, it can’t be. Not a little thing like that. No!”
Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, 450 was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.
“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.
It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’s mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?”
This shows that Travis was right since there is no possibility for a time paradox, Eckles’s mistake is PERMANENT. Eckles’s fear drove him down the wrong path, and because of that, he ruined time. Luckily though, this story is fictional. But again, the author teaches a great lesson about following directions, consequences, and the regret it would cause.