Critical Analysis of Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder

The strength of Bradbury’s writings lies in his effective and gripping narrative. He brilliantly describes each and everything in the story as if painting a picture on the canvas and making it come to life through his usage of words. This is quite evident in the way he describes Tyrannosaurus Rex, with metaphors which create a surreal effect in the reader’s mind.

“Each lower leg was a piston, a thousand pounds of white bone, sunk in thick ropes of muscle, sheathed over in a gleam of pebbled skin […] eyes rolled, ostrich eggs, empty of all the expressions save hunger.”

It is interesting how he connects and interweaves present, past and future.It is visible in the way Travis describes how even a minute change in the past could alter everything in the future. The story is created around the death of a single butterfly and how this alters the course of history.The shift to Old English shows a regression:


These inter-connections show how delicate is the existence of all living beings and we live in ignorance of all this and forget about any potential impact our small decisions or actions may have on earth and all its beings. A small butterfly could make such a drastic change. This, in itself, is a strong cautionary evidence for us to mind our ways and gives a great lesson to us that our today’s actions can affect the future without us even realizing it while being in the act. This makes us also realize the harm that we unknowingly do to nature and the severe repercussions all our actions might have. It also tells us that all the living beings, regardless of its forms are inter-connected. That makes it an ‘Environmentalist story’, too.

The story is an endeavor by Ray Bradbury to create ecological consciousness among its readers. It attempts to make us sensitive towards the environment. The trope of time-travel successfully brings forth the consequences of a heedless consumerist culture and a warning along with it. The living forms, irrespective of magnitude, be it Tyrannosaurus Rex or the butterfly, both are subjected to disposal as long as they cater to the hunger for adventure and make the whole business profitable. Such consumerist tendencies in a capitalist society are full of greed which more than often compromises with the environment. This commodifies the nature where humans are at the center as the consumers. It just views environment as a source of consumption of resources and thrill. The ecological sustainability is downplayed and the economic growth has a cost which only nature has to pay. The story also highlights the attitude of people, who think of themselves as above the nature. The humans are ready to do anything to satiate their desire for thrills.

The word Anthropocene was coined by the Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen “to suggest that the biosphere and geological time has been fundamentally transformed by human activity. The Anthropocene discourse focuses on how human history and natural history are enmeshed in each other.” The anthropocentric worldview that Bradbury has highlighted, questions the disregard of human beings towards all other living forms. It lays stress on the need for humans to be answerable for their actions and mindful of not just other human beings but also the non-human forms.

The nonhuman factors play an important role in the science fictions which concern with environment and such stories mostly lead to utopia or dystopia by the end. It is also visible in the other forms of science fictions such as films or comics. “A Sound of Thunder” is set in 2055 andbegins with the exciting idea of traveling into the past with the help of time machine and the thrill associated with hunting dinosaurs. The act of unknowingly killing a butterfly replaces the democratic government with a fascist government whose leader is “a militarist, anti-Christ, anti-human and anti-intellectual.” All the struggles of centuries for civil liberty and democracy seem to be futile in this new setup. It has also resulted in the change of human perception as everybody prefers a dictator by the end. Industrialization and war seems to be at the fore as Eckels and the other hunters could smell chemicals and change in color around them when they come back from the past.

The term ‘butterfly effect’ is credited to this story, a concept of Chaos Theory, introduced by the meteorologist and mathematician Edward Norton Lorenz in the 1960’s. The concept is similar to the link between ‘cause and effect’ as explored by Bradbury in this story. It says that the flapping of wings of a butterfly in one world leads to hurricane in some other world.

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