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A Sound of Thunder

by Ray Bradbury

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What is Eckel's internal conflict in "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury?

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The famous science fiction story "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury tells of a safari that travels back in time to hunt the terrible predatory dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex. Although from the beginning Bradbury establishes that time travel is extremely dangerous and missteps could affect the timeline of history, these hunters want to use this amazingly sophisticated technology to do nothing more than go back and kill large animals.

Eckels is one of the hunters on the safari. The internal conflict that he faces is between his inherent cowardice and the outward expression of machismo— or exaggerated display of manliness and power—that hunting and killing large beasts gives him. He attempts to put on a show of courage, bragging: "I've hunted tiger, wild boar, buffalo, elephant..." He obviously figures that if he can face down and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex, it will be the ultimate assertion of his manliness.

However, Bradbury gives numerous indications of Eckels' internal fear. In the office before the safari departs, "warm phlegm gathered in Eckels' throat"; in the time pod, "Eckels swayed on the padded seat, his face pale, his jaw stiff. He felt the trembling in his arms and he looked down and found his hands tight on the new rifle." When they arrive at the prehistoric jungle, Eckels' many questions betray his nervousness. When they step onto the path, Eckels has one final moment of pretend courage, playing with his rifle and saying, "Where's our Tyrannosaurus?" as if he looks forward to the encounter. As soon as he sees the monstrous dinosaur, though, his false facade breaks down, and the internal conflict vanishes, giving way to abject terror.

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Eckels internal conflict in The Sound of Thunder is fear.  He is terrified at what could happen to him on the time safari, but he goes anyway. 

Eckels is intrigued by the idea of the real time machine that he sees at Time Safaris, he wants to go, but he wants a guarantee that he will be in one piece when he returns.  After they arrive, he becomes terribly panicked and struggles with his fear, until he finally says:

"`Get me out of here,' said Eckels.  `It was never like this before.  I was always sure I'd come through alive.  I had good guides, good safaris, and safety.  This time, I figured wrong. I've met my match and admit it.  This is too much for me to get hold of.' " (Bradbury)

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