Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the climax of the short story "A Sound of Thunder?"

Expert Answers info

Erin DuBuque eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write924 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

The climax of a story is the point at which the drama or tension is most acute. "Climax" comes from a Greek word meaning "ladder," so think of the reader climbing the rungs of the story and the climax as the moment that the top is reached.

In the famous tale of time travel "The Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury, the obvious climax is the moment when the hunting team that has gone back into the past is confronted by the enormous and terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex. At that point, as well as at the end, Bradbury even uses the title phrase "a sound of thunder." Until then, the main character Eckels has boasted of his prowess as a hunter and put on a show of courage, but when faced with the overwhelming presence of the beast, he manifests his innate cowardliness and commits the grave misdeed of stepping off the path. This irreparably alters the time line, leading to the denouement or resolution when the time travelers discover that the future they return to is not the same future that they left behind.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

The climax for me is somewhat misleading, because it isn't actually when Eckels comes face to face with the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is what we anticipate will be the climax, but it is actually when Eckels comes back to the present and he realises how his crushing the beautiful butterfly when he went off the path has had massive repercussions in the future. We are reminded of Travis's words earlier on in the story:

"Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids, Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity. Queen Elizabeth might never be born, Washington might not cross the Delaware, there might never be a United States at all. So be careful. Stay on the Path. Never step off!"

By disobeying this cardinal rule, Eckels has changed the future, and it is as he and Travis and the others realise this that the climax of the story occurs and the falling action begins as we become aware of the fate of Eckels, combined again with "the sound of thunder" as he is shot by Travis.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial