A Sound of Thunder

by Ray Bradbury
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What are some examples of symbolism in “A Sound of Thunder”?

One important symbol in “A Sound of Thunder” is the butterfly, which symbolizes the fragility of existence. Two tightly intertwined symbols are the Tyrannosaurus Rex and thunder itself. Together, they represent uncontrolled power and its sometimes fatal consequences.

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Throughout “A Sound of Thunder,” Ray Bradbury relies on the juxtaposition of opposites to create an ironic effect. This is especially apparent in the contrast between two elements that serve as primary symbols. One of these is the butterfly, which represents the fragility of existence. In strong opposition are the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the first part of whose name means "thunder lizard," and the sound of thunder referenced in the title. Together, the mighty creature and the related noise stand for tremendous power which, if left uncontrolled, may lead to death.

The butterfly that Eckels unknowingly crushes underfoot symbolizes fragility and vulnerability because the creature is light and frail. Although it initially seems to be the most fragile animal, it is also shown to be powerful because of the effect it has on the future. This paradox has given rise to the phrase “butterfly effect,” used to refer to the unintended consequences of even small actions.

As a symbol of power, the T-Rex is a fearsome beast that is obviously a threat to the human hunters. The thunderous noises it makes are also correlated with the sound of guns—both those that kill it and the one that later kills Eckels. The dinosaur and the gun similarly stand for power, including the ability to cause death.

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