What is Doug's father like in Ray Bradbury's short story "The Rocket Man"?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Ray Bradbury's short story "The Rocket Man," one of many in his anthology titled The Illustrated Man, Doug's father, referred to as Dad in the story, is a very conflicted man. His internal conflicts are expressed in his conflicting desires. On the one hand, he longs to be on Earth and continue his relationships with his son and wife; yet, on the other hand, he is passionate about his job as a Rocket Man and, not long before he returns home from his journeys, he is always off again for another three-month stretch.

One way in which Dad displays his longing to be on Earth is that, whenever he returns to Earth, the first day he is back, he practically buries himself in the earth through his gardening. He continues to dig and dig in the earth, all day long, never looking up, unless Doug and his mother are standing right beside him, and never looking up at the sky.

There is also evidence that shows his longing to be with his son and wife. For example, Doug makes note of the fact that he never brings them home any presents from outer space the way other fathers who are rocket engineers do. The reader can presume it is because it hurts Dad too much to think of his family while in space. Similarly, he says he never calls his family while in space because, as he phrases it, "If I called you, I'd want to be with you. I wouldn't be happy."

Yet, at the same time, when asked, he says that being in space is "the best thing in a lifetime of best things" and only remains on Earth for three days. At the end of the three days, he always departs once again for three whole months, showing just how addicted he is to his job as a Rocket Man.

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