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What is the theme of "The Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury?

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prava | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 10, 2009 at 2:35 PM via web

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What is the theme of "The Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 10, 2009 at 9:17 PM (Answer #1)

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A Sound of Thunder is a time travel story that conveys a theme of the importance of all events and actions.  The story focuses on a single event that occurs on the time travel safari that is run by the Time Safari Company and how a small mishap, the killing of a butterfly, changed the course of evolution.

Bradbury points out in this story how the careless behavior of one of the travellers causes a shift in the course of evolution. The story also focuses on a the fact that the group who takes the time traveling trips is a group of rich businessmen and Bradbury is saying that the fact that this type of company exists, and that people have nothing else to do with their money, is vulgar and obscene.

Bradbury, like other Science Fiction writers, such as H.G. Wells, writes about the fear of technology going too far.  In this story, I think Bradbury is commenting on how technology has been misused.  The technology that has allowed these time travelers to take a trip with Time Safari is clearly an expression of materialism and over consumption on the highest level.

For their personal pleasure, these people, rich people who have nothing else to do, alter the course of human evolution and nearly destroy human existence.

Therefore, the theme that Bradbury is trying to convey has to do with the Butterfly Effect and Chaos theory, which states that a small difference can have an enormous impact on future events.

"The butterfly effect is a theorem of chaos theory that small variations in the initial conditions of a dynamical system can produce large variations in the results. A Sound of Thunder. In that story, a time traveller accidentally steps on a butterfly in the distant past, causing broad changes in the present."

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 10, 2009 at 9:24 PM (Answer #2)

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The theme of Bradbury's short story is related to how everything in has a purpose and there is a causal connection for all of the events that subsume us.  There are things interlinked to a degree that we cannot see, so to disrupt one element could be catastrophic.  The idea that the time travellers seek to go back in time for sport or recreation (to kill the T. Rex) indicates this. It is another example of how modern tragedy is caused by the appropriation of the world in accordance to one's own subjectivity.  Eckels' fear that causes him to veer off the path might be one of but several moments of damage that the hunters caused to the time/ space continuum.  The resulting transport back to the future and the eventual victory of the Fascist candidate only proves that there are events in a sequence whose method we might not be able to envision.   I sense that this particular story is a good way for Science Fiction writers to present a position that critiques modernism and the supposed "growth" and "evolution" of society.  The theme can be applied to not only those who wish to appropriate the world in accordance to their own subjectivity, but really anyone who is so blinded by their own sense of accomplishment and individual superiority that they cannot see that they, too, are part of a chain of events and time that should not be broken.

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