The Stories of Ray Bradbury

by Ray Bradbury
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In Ray Bradbury’s "The Other Foot," there are three main characters: Hattie, Willie, and the captain of the rocket ship. Discuss how the actions of these characters contribute to the story’s religious or moral perspective.

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Hattie and Willie are husband and wife, part of a black community that settled Mars twenty years ago. After they left, a nuclear war destroyed civilization on Earth. They are excited and curious, therefore, about the arrival of the rocket ship, especially the rumor that it is carrying white people.

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Hattie and Willie are husband and wife, part of a black community that settled Mars twenty years ago. After they left, a nuclear war destroyed civilization on Earth. They are excited and curious, therefore, about the arrival of the rocket ship, especially the rumor that it is carrying white people.

Hattie expresses no particular ill will towards whites, ready to offer them Christian charity. Willie, however, wants revenge on the whites for all the ways they abused blacks back on earth. The two have the following conversation:

“What right they got coming up here this late? Why don’t they leave us in peace? Why didn’t they blow themselves up on that old world and let us be?”

“Willie, that ain’t no Christian way to talk.”

“I’m not feeling Christian,” he said savagely, gripping the wheel. “I’m just feeling mean. After all them years of doing what they did to our folks."

Willie goes on to remember the lynchings that affected his family, and the blacks who had to work in shacks doing laundry. He remembers blacks having to sit at the back of the bus. He has a rope in his hands, preparing to lynch the whites, and has rounded up a "mob" who will put them in their place from the start—the lowly place blacks once occupied on earth.

Hattie has a Christian spirit of forgiveness, while Willie has a non-Christian spirit of revenge that to him seems to be justice.

The white captain of the ship is worn, thin, and very tired. He comes with a spirit of Christian humility. He says:

But we’ll come here and we’ll work for you and do the things you did for us—clean your houses, cook your meals, shine your shoes, and humble ourselves in the sight of God for the things we have done over the centuries to ourselves, to others, to you.

Even Willie is moved by the captain's words and humble spirit. When the captain shows them the extent of the destruction on earth and tells them that only 500,000 people are left, those listening come to the conclusion that whites have paid their price already. It is time to start over. Willie, the anti-white ringleader, moves to a stance of Christian forgiveness and reconciliation:

“Yes,” said Willie at last. “The Lord’s let us come through, a few here and a few there. And what happens next is up to all of us. The time for being fools is over. We got to be something else except fools. I knew that when he talked. I knew then that now the white man’s as lonely as we’ve always been. He’s got no home now, just like we didn’t have one for so long. Now everything’s even. We can start all over again, on the same level.”

The story shows through the captain that a spirit of Christian love, humility, and willingness to suffer can help bring about peace. All three of the main characters end up in the same place of wanting to work together in brotherhood and charity rather than hate. The whites may be treated as second class citizens, but it sounds as if the community will start off on a better foot and let bygones be bygones. The story condones this kind of reconciliation. We can both applaud this spirit of mercy and wonder if some kind of reparations are nevertheless due to atone for past racism.

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