"A Sound of Thunder" Characters
The main characters in "A Sound of Thunder" are Eckels and Travis.
- Eckels is a hunter who has paid a great deal of money to travel to the past and shoot a dinosaur, yet his confidence and bluster disappears when he actually comes face-to-face with a T-Rex. His panic in this moment changes the course of history and ultimately costs him his life.
- Travis is an employee of Time Safari, Inc. Furious when Eckels, through his carelessness, fails to heed his warnings about not disturbing the natural order of the past, Travis shoots him.
Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 834
Eckels is a big game hunter whose ambitious desire to kill a dinosaur falters at precisely the wrong moment. He is an emotional man, as evidenced by his defensiveness at the beginning of the story; he gets red in the face and belligerent when a Time Safari, Inc., employee...
(The entire section contains 834 words.)
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Eckels is a big game hunter whose ambitious desire to kill a dinosaur falters at precisely the wrong moment. He is an emotional man, as evidenced by his defensiveness at the beginning of the story; he gets red in the face and belligerent when a Time Safari, Inc., employee suggests he might be too scared to go through with the trip. This propensity to experience urgent emotions quickly gets the better of him when he is in the prehistoric jungle with the others, about to face a Tyrannosaurus Rex in real life.
At first, Eckels is skeptical of the rules of time travel established by Time Safari, Inc. This skepticism may reflect an unfortunate lack of intelligence, an ego-driven resistance to authority, a childish impulsivity or, most likely, a dangerous combination of all three qualities. Eckels’s playfulness with his rifle suggests that he is a foolish man who is unable to take his situation seriously. His playfulness may also reflect his anxiety about the unfamiliar situation in which he finds himself, which later leads him to panic and step off the Path.
When Eckels arrives in the prehistoric jungle, he finally seems to grasp the enormity of his decision to time travel. He begins to lose control of himself and his hands start to shake, his loosened grip on his gun mirroring his loosened grip on himself and his actions. When he sees the Tyrannosaurus Rex and calls himself and the others “fools,” Eckels finally displays a measure of authentic understanding. Unfortunately for Eckels, this realization comes too late, and he breaks the rules of the safari, making a mistake that ultimately costs him his life.
Travis, the Safari Leader, is an emotional man, like Eckels, and he displays deep feeling when he explains to Eckels the implications of leaving a mark on the prehistoric jungle during their travels. His precision of thinking as well as his deep-seated respect for preserving the balance of nature imply that he is protective of the past, but the sincerity of his care for nature and history is undermined by his apparent appetite for money and adventure.
Travis usually speaks in forceful language, especially when he reprimands Eckels for treating his weapon casually. Later, to teach Eckels a lesson, he insists that Eckels remove the bullets from the tyrannosaurus, revealing a cruel side to his uncompromising personality. As they prepare to return in the Time Machine, Travis warns Eckels that he still may not survive if it becomes clear that Eckels’s actions have done something to alter the present day. An experienced time traveler, Travis understands the consequences of Eckels’s stepping off the Path instantaneously; not one to suffer fools, especially fools who alter the course of history, Travis shoots Eckels at the end of the story, delivering on his promise to deliver a “stiff penalty” if the rules are disobeyed.
Lesperance is Travis’s assistant and part of his role with Time Safari, Inc., involves tracking dinosaurs in order to mark the ones that are suitable for hunting. His authority is already well-established when he tells Eckels to turn around and return to the Time Machine, and it is his authority that Eckels defies when he steps off the Path in fear.
Lesperance displays the same respect and nuanced understanding of time travel as Travis; as well, he exhibits an understanding of the term “paradox,” a term that Eckels understands only when it is explained in terms of his own life. Lesperance appears to possess a deeply scientific mind, taking note of the falling tree that is supposed to kill the Tyrannosaurus as it falls and using precise words like “bisect” to express himself. Lesperance speaks clearly and methodically, and his tone is moderate. His rational personality contrasts with Travis’s hot-temperedness. He talks Travis out of leaving Eckels behind and criticizes Travis’s demand that Eckels retrieve the bullets from the dead dinosaur. Ultimately, Lesperance’s actions suggest that he—unlike Travis—is unflappable and able to keep a level head, even in dire situations.
Billings and Kramer
Billings and Kramer are minor characters. Like Eckels, they are both thrill-seeking time travelers and hunters, and they often act in unison, as if they make up one single character. Both men respond to the death of the dinosaur by throwing up, and they both refuse to be photographed with the dead Tyrannosaurus Rex. Both men appear to follow the rules established by Time Safari, Inc., and both survive the trip to the prehistoric jungle as well as the return trip to the present day.
As undefined characters, Billings and Kramer function as anonymous contributors to the American capitalist system of the future, consuming an expensive product and following the rules that inform that purchase. Though Billings and Kramer have done nothing overtly wrong by traveling through time, they are nevertheless punished for their decision as they too return to a present day that is markedly different from the one they left.