Ray Bradbury

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How does the author create suspense in the short story "A Sound of Thunder"?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Bradbury initially creates suspense when one of the Time Safari officials tells Eckels that their company does not guarantee his safety during the expedition. Eckels's expedition to the distant past, where he will hunt a prehistoric Tyrannosaurus Rex, is suspenseful and provides an element of danger to the plot. Travis, the Safari Leader, adds to the suspense by informing Eckels that six Safari Leaders and a dozen hunters were killed last year. The reader senses that Eckels is risking his life for the chance to hunt a deadly Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Once the hunters and Safari guides travel back in time, Travis proceeds to lecture everyone on the importance of staying on the path and obeying every directive. His emphasis on obeying the rules and not altering the environment increases the suspense and foreshadows Eckels's tragic mistake. The tension continues to rise as Travis elaborates on how one mistake can dramatically alter human history, which makes Eckels's expedition even more daring and uncertain. Bradbury continues to increase the suspense when the hunters hear the sound of thunder, which is actually the sound of the Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping through the forest. Bradbury's description of the horrific, massive dinosaur and Eckels's impulsive reaction intensifies the mood of the story as the reader wonders if Eckels ran off the path.

The suspense continues to rise once Travis discovers that Eckels did not remain on the path and could have possibly altered the future indefinitely. Knowing that Eckels left the path, the reader is excited and nervous to discover if Eckel's accidentally altered human history when they travel back to the present in the Time Machine.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Beginning with the ominous Time Safari Inc. warning--"We guarantee nothing except the dinosaurs"--everything about the premise of Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" adds to the natural suspense of the story. Going back to the past in the Time Machine, hunting a runaway Tyrannosaurus Rex, being warned that the tiniest mistake in time can create a larger one in the future--these are just a few of the direct actions that help to create suspense.

Bradbury's description of the prehistoric time heightens the foreboding feel that runs throughout the tale. The idea of cheating past actions by avoiding mistakes altogether the second time around is an inherently questionable philosophy with little margin for error. Eckels, the hunter whose courage fails at a critical time, is not a man to count on when the whole future of civilization rides on his weak shoulders. When he turns and runs, the reader knows something has gone wrong. The reader can only wait and wonder what will go wrong next.

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