What is the plot of "A Sound of Thunder" as written on a plot graph consisting of the initial incident, rising action, climax, and resolution?

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"A Sound of Thunder" begins with Eckels standing before the Time Safari Sign, then paying the ten thousand dollars to travel back in time. I feel that this decision, to go back in time to kill the dinosaur (and be aware, he is told upfront that the company will make no guarantee for his safety) represents the story's initial incident, which draws readers' attention and sets up the events that will follow.

From here, in the story's rising action, they travel back to the late Cretaceous period. Time Safari has set up a path elevated above the ground for its patrons to walk on, while the time travelers are only allowed to shoot pre-vetted animals, who would have died without interference. Travis, the safari leader, warns that even the smallest change could have unforeseen and catastrophic effects on history. From here, they depart to find the Tyrannosaurus.

I would say the story's climax can be found in the encounter with the Tyrannosaurus itself, which Bradbury describes as overwhelming. Terrified, Eckels flees in panic, while the hunters kill the dinosaur. The story's falling action and resolution follow from this point. Eckels and the hunters reconvene at the Time Machine, where Eckels must face an enraged Travis. He is forced to return to the dinosaur, removing the bullets from the corpse, before they return to the present, which we discover has changed as a result of these actions. Here we learn of the crushed butterfly on his shoe. As the story resolves, all of history has been rewritten in this moment, while Eckels faces execution at Travis's hands.

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The initial (or inciting) incident is the event that initiates (or begins) the rising action. I'd say that inciting incident of this story is when Travis, the safari leader, explains the rules to Eckels, the hunter who wants to kill a T-Rex. When Travis shows Eckels the path on which he must stay, Eckels challenges him a bit when it comes to the reasons. He thinks it would be no big deal if he accidentally were to step on a mouse that wasn't supposed to die yet, for example. He doesn't see how a small change in history could result in a huge difference in his present.

After this, the rising action begins. Eckels clearly does not take this expedition seriously—not nearly as seriously as his guides would like. His guides continue to encourage him to "stay on the path," though Eckels is not really paying attention. When he does see his dinosaur with the red mark, Eckels begins to cower and he won't keep quiet; he says that he wants out, to go back, that he "miscalculated." Travis yells at Eckels to get back to the time machine, and the climax arrives when Travis realizes that Eckels has stepped off the path while the other men had to take down the dinosaur because he was too scared. Travis says,

This fool nearly killed us. But it isn't that so much, no. It's his shoes! Look at them! He ran off the Path. That ruins us! We'll forfeit! Thousands of dollars of insurance! We guarantee no one leaves the Path. He left it. Oh, the fool! I'll have to report to the government. They might revoke our license to travel. Who knows what he's done to Time, to History!

This is when the conflict between the two men comes to a head and is at its most tense. In the story's resolution, Travis evidently kills Eckels, as he warned he would. Earlier, he'd advised Eckels to pray that the present is still the same, saying, "I've got my gun ready." In the end, the "sound of thunder" refers to his rifle's boom when he kills Eckels because everything is different.

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In "A Sound of Thunder," we can write a plot diagram in the following way:

  • The initial incident occurs when Eckels gets into the time machine owned by Time Safari Inc. and travels back in time to shoot a dinosaur.
  • Two events constitute the rising action. Firstly, Eckels is told by Mr. Travis that no matter what happens, he must not step off the path because his actions may alter the course of time. Secondly, when the dinosaur approaches, Eckels becomes terrified and runs away.
  • In the climax, Eckels steps off the path and, without realizing, kills a butterfly.
  • In the resolution, Eckels learns that he has killed a butterfly and returns home to find that this action has indeed changed the course of time. He does not recognize the written language, for example, and a different political candidate has won the election.
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The plot of a story basically consists of 5 parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  Here are the elements in this story.

Exposition is the part of the story where we are introduced to the characters, the setting, and the initial conflict.  In this story, we learn that it is the year 2055 and a company has created a way to travel through time.  They use it to hunt dinosaurs.  We are also introduced to Eckels, the protagonist, when he learns about this company.  He meets his guide, Mr. Travis, and his assistant Lesperance, who marked the path thy need to stay on.  There are two other hunters, Billings and Kramer.  The initial setting is both 2055 and the time of the dinosaurs, and the conflict at first is to shoot a dinosaur without interfering in the past.

The rising action is the events in the story leading to the climax.  In this case, these are the events of traveling through time, learning how to hunt dinosaurs, and setting off on the specially marked path.

The climax is the most interesting point of the story, and the point of no return.  In this famous climax, poor Eckels steps off the path and kills a butterfly, therefore changing history completely.

The falling action is the events that go between the climax and the resolution, or ending.  Usually these events are related to the events of the climax, and could not have happened otherwise.  Travis is furious with Eckels, and berates him for stepping off the path.

The resolution is how the conflict is resolved.  In this case, Travis shoots Eckels, we learn that words are spelled differently, and the man they didn’t want in office is president.



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