What imagery is used in the Ray Bradbury story "A Sound of Thunder"?

"A Sound of Thunder" is very imagery intensive, in keeping with Ray Bradbury's lyrical writing style. Metaphor is intermixed with vivid sensory detail as Bradbury recreates vivid scenes around such subjects as a Jurassic Jungle, an encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the experience of observing its death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As a writer, Bradbury was renowned for his highly lyrical prose. Much of his writing was extremely imagery intensive and flooded with metaphor. "A Sound of Thunder" is no exception.

In this short story featuring a time-travelling safari, Bradbury recreates the world of the late Cretaceous period in extensive detail, down to the sights and sounds:

The jungle was high and the jungle was broad and the jungle was the entire world forever and ever. Sounds like music and sounds like flying tents filled the sky, and those were pterodactyls soaring with cavernous wings, gigantic bats out of delirium and a night fever.

Later, Bradbury introduces the hunters to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and again, the imagery is extensive, melding together visual impressions and metaphor to create a picture with words:

It came on great oiled, resilient, striding legs. It towered above half of the trees, a great evil god, folding its delicate watchmaker's claws close to its oily reptilian chest. Each lower leg was a piston, a thousand pounds of white bone, sunk in thin ropes of muscle, sheathed over in a gleam of pebbled skin like the mail of a terrible warrior.

Note, however, that the excised portion represents only the beginning of a much longer description which carries forward from this point. For some additional details, Bradbury likens its eyes to "ostrich eggs, empty of all expression save hunger." When running, "it ran with a gliding balletic step, far too poised and balanced for its ten tons."

Sometimes, this imagery depends on the use of contrasts: the dinosaur's overwhelming power is in tension with "its delicate watchmaker claws," much as its "balletic" grace is in tension with its extraordinary weight. In short, Bradbury's intention here is not simply to introduce his characters to a dinosaur, but more importantly, to create in his readers a vivid impression as to what such an experience might actually entail.

Later, when the dinosaur is killed, this same use of imagery is in effect. Bradbury writes,

The monster lay, a hill of solid flesh. Within, you could hear the sighs and murmurs as the furthest chambers of it died, the organs malfunctioning, liquids running a final instant from pocket to sack to spleen, everything shutting off, closing up forever. It was like standing by a wrecked locomotive or a steam shovel at quitting time, all valves being released or levered tight.

Again, note how the preponderance of detail extends beyond the image of the dead dinosaur and also applies to the simile comparing the animal to a destroyed train: he doesn't simply end the simile there, but actually expands on it—the train is "at quitting time" with "all valves being released or levered tight." We have in this passage the visual and auditory details of the dying animal being woven together with this train metaphor, all in order to create a vivid impression of this dying animal.

This is all very representative for Bradbury's overall writing style: he was a writer who delighted in the resources of language itself, which (in many of his stories) often seems just as important as the story being told.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 23, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ray Bradbury uses visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile imagery in his story.

Auditory imagery appeals to our sense of hearing. Here are examples of auditory imagery from the story:

Sounds like music and sounds like flying tents filled the sky, and those were pterodactyls soaring with cavernous gray wings, gigantic bats of delirium and night fever.

The rifles cracked again. Their sound was lost in shriek and lizard thunder.

Here are examples of visual and tactile imagery from the story:


It towered thirty feet above half of the trees, a great evil god, folding its delicate watchmaker’s claws close to its oily reptilian chest.

Each lower leg was a piston, a thousand pounds of white bone, sunk in thick ropes of muscle, sheathed over in a gleam of pebbled skin like the mail of a terrible warrior.

Visual imagery lets us form pictures in our minds as we read, while tactile imagery appeals to our sense of touch. We can almost feel the "pebbled skin" on the dinosaur's lower leg. In our mind's eye, we see an image of a tall, gigantic, and fearsome creature.

Olfactory imagery appeals to our sense of smell. Here are examples of olfactory imagery from the story:

In the slime, tiny insects wriggled, so that the entire body seemed to twitch and undulate, even while the monster itself did not move. It exhaled. The stink of raw flesh blew down the wilderness.

A windstorm from the beast’s mouth engulfed them in the stench of slime and old blood.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 23, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Remember, imagery is when words and phrases are used that are meant to appeal to your five senses in order to help you further experience a story.  So, any time you see something in "A Sound of Thunder" that lets you better hear, see, smell, or taste (gross) something in the story, well, you've got imagery!

Here are some examples:

"the sign burned in this momentary darkness" (burning appeals to your sense of touch)

"Eckels glanced across the vast office at a mass and tangle, a snaking and humming of wires and steel boxes, at an aurora that flickered now orange, now silver, now blue." (helps you to better see the story)

"The Machine roared...The Machine slowed; its scream fell to a murmur" (appeals to sense of hearing.)

"Far birds’ cries blew on a wind,and the smell of tar and an old salt sea, moist grasses, and flowers the color of blood." (this is a great one...it appeals to sense of hearing, smell, and sight!  The mother-lode!)

So, there you've got it.  One of the great things about Bradbury is his rich use of language, and you can't read one of his stories without tripping over the use of imagery.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial