Ideas for Group Discussions
Throughout his career, Bradbury has explored the regions of the human imagination, testing their limits. In general, he has presented a positive view of the imagination, presenting its enemies as vile, despicable people. In A Graveyard for Lunatics, he explores an industry that thrives on the imagination of its employees, yet often trivializes and stunts that imagination. A good discussion might begin with a discussion of the views of the motion picture industry presented in the novel. Do your experiences watching motion pictures at all parallel the experiences of characters in the book?
Another good way of introducing a discussion of the novel might be to examine how it works out the images of darkness and light, of death and life. What is Bradbury suggesting by making the graveyard livelier and the studio, supposedly the home of imaginative life, more moribund as the narrative progresses? From there, a discussion might to how death becomes more like life and life more like death. This in turn could lead to a focus on the characters. What does Bradbury do to his themes by making characters defy their stereotypes? He has those who in the hands of other authors would be dying, awaiting death, or mired in self-indulgent memories of the past — for instance, the aging motion picture actress who is constantly trying to recover her lost days of youthful glory — instead be paragons of zest and love of life — for instance Constance. What is the point?
Yet another way to approach the novel is to begin with the narrator. He is naive, sometimes...
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Several reviewers have pointed out what they believe to be the novel's major flaw: Almost any reader is going to solve the mystery of the undead Arbuthnot before getting half way through the novel. A much greater flaw than the easily-solved mystery is the use of the Beast as a kind of phantom-of-the-opera figure lurking about the back lots of Maximus Films. The idea of transplanting the classic figure from the cellars of an opera house to the dark old sets of an aging motion-picture studio is a cliché; it has been the central plot of some uninspired made-for-television movies.
The transparency of the mystery is not a major obstacle to enjoying the novel. Instead, it provides a structure which Bradbury uses to establish the central aspect of the novel — its blending of fantasy and reality. Maximus Films, like other Hollywood studios, has been manufacturing fantasies for film audiences for decades. The novel takes the fantastic images of motion pictures and blends them into the real world, making fantasy and reality one. Special effects artists such as Roy Holdstrom create monsters that seem alive in motion pictures; in A Graveyard for Lunatics these bizarre creatures come to life in the forms of the novel's various weird characters. A key to the success of this blend of fantasy and reality is the fact that the novel never fully becomes a fantasy. Bradbury shows how motion pictures shape people's lives by shaping their imaginations; if the novel...
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Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities is a zany retrospective of the "studio system" of the Hollywood motion picture industry in its decline. From the 1920s through the 1940s, Hollywood studios contracted the exclusive services of actors and other important personnel, thus giving the studios great power over the careers of their employees. Studio heads such as Samuel Goldwin and Louis B. Mayer became famous for building industry giants. By the early 1950s, the studio owners were losing control of their personnel; unions, court rulings, and the desire of actors to control their own pursuits ended the studios' ability to dominate motion picture careers. A Graveyard for Lunatics takes place in 1954, when one studio, Maximus Films, is reaching the end of its heyday. During the novel, the studio falls apart; by the end, much of it has literally been leveled, with sets uprooted and buildings razed.
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In Death Is a Lonely Business, the same narrator as that in A Graveyard for Lunatics finds a corpse in a lion's cage. As in the later novel, the plot of Death Is a Lonely Business is thin. It is a mystery about someone possibly murdering society's lonely misfits, but its interest lies in its evocation of the post World War II era and in its many zany characters.
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