Does Ray Bradbury have an optimistic or pessimistic view of mankind?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Literary critic David Mogen identifies a trope of Ray Bradbury's work as "joyous absorption in the experience of living." Mogen and Gary K. Wolfe, another critic, observe that Bradbury's fiction expresses warnings accompanied by a thematic hopefulness for the human race. This is based upon two cultural tales at the heart of many an American writer: the Garden of Eden and the Frontier. 

While there is certainly a dark depiction of the future of America in his short stories "The Veldt," "There Will Come Soft Rains," "The Pedestrian," and "The Sound of Thunder," in which technology has become a foe to human communication and the qualities of human relationships, there is hope in man's exploration of new realms such as that of space and the "new frontier" mentioned at the beginning of each episode of Star Trek

Nevertheless, there is no question that Bradbury did, indeed, see a dark side to a future in which technology could dominate the lives of humans, depriving them of those things that feed the soul and ignite the imagination, such as great art, literature, and music. Yet he had hope for humanity that like Adam and Eve would fall, but could be redeemed. In his seminal novel, Fahrenheit 451, Montag is nearly dead spiritually--his wife Mildred is certainly lost--but he encounters Christine (whose name is significant: Christ-ine) and, as in the New Testament parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15), he "was lost" but now "he is found." Having met the vivacious and imaginative Christine, Montag's perception becomes clearer and he identifies the malaise in his home. He makes efforts to revive Mildred spiritually, but she is lost. However, Montag saves himself by contacting Faber and by his bold decision to be like the woman who so loved her books; he goes to a new community where each person has memorized one of the great works of literature (the Bible is included as a literary work). From the decay and degradation of the soul in his dystopian society, Montag overcomes the barriers to his spiritual rebirth and is introduced into a new life.

Certainly in "Pioneers," a part of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, there is a purity and innocence brought to an empty place that is evocative of the Garden of Eden, critic Mogen notes. This, too, is a feature that underscores Bradbury's intrinsic optimism.

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