A Sound of Thunder

by Ray Bradbury

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What are four examples of foreshadowing in "A Sound of Thunder"?

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One example of foreshadowing in "A Sound of Thunder" takes place when the Time Safari employee comments on the outcome of the recent election, which reverses when Eckels returns from the past. Likewise, the employee's comment about the dangers of people panicking during the expedition foreshadows Eckels's reaction to seeing the dinosaur.

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As Ray Bradbury's story "A Sound of Thunder" introduces its characters, setting, and plot and as it builds tension toward its climax, it incorporates several details that foreshadow occurrences that take place later in the story.

First, we have the sign that Eckels sees when he first approaches the Time Safari office. We might think at first that the inclusion of the text of this sign is merely for our information and to set the scene, and it does indeed do this. But it also points ahead to the end of the story when Eckels sees the sign again and it is quite different. We remember that we've seen the sign before, and we marvel at the change.

As Eckels waits for his trip to begin, he discusses the latest presidential election with the man behind the desk. A candidate by the name of Keith has won victory over the potential tyrant Deutscher. Both Eckels and the man are relieved. We wonder, perhaps, why this is important to the story, but it, too, points forward to a change that has occurred with Eckels gets back. Deutscher has won the presidency, and the man behind the desk is happy about it.

Shortly after the discussion about the election, the man behind the desk makes a rather alarming comment to Eckels. "We don't want anyone going who'll get scared and do something silly at the first sign of danger," he says. This is, of course, exactly what Eckels does later in the story, with tragic results.

When the group arrives in the past, Travis gives clear instructions. "Stay on the Path," he orders. Then he explains the potential consequences of changing anything, even the smallest element, of the past. It could be catastrophic: and indeed, later in the story, it is. Travis's warning becomes a foreshadow of what actually happens with Eckels, who steps off the Path and inadvertently changes the past. He changes the future, too, which is exactly what Travis says they do not want to do.

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Bradbury hints at the tragic outcome of the Time Safari by foreshadowing important events at various moments throughout the story. One example of foreshadowing takes place during Eckels's conversation with the Time Safari employee behind the desk regarding the recent election. The employee responds to Eckels's comment about Keith winning by saying,

"We're lucky. If Deutscher had gotten in, we'd have the worst kind of dictatorship... Said if Deutscher became President they wanted to go live in 1492. Makes you think. If the election had gone badly yesterday, I might be here now running away from the results."

Their conversation regarding the outcome of the election foreshadows the dramatic reversal of the election upon Eckels's return. Following Eckels's tragic mistake, the course of human history dramatically changes and Deutscher is president.

Bradbury also foreshadows Eckels's reaction to witnessing the Tyrannosaurus Rex for the first time when the employee behind the desk comments, "We don't want anyone going who'll panic at the first shot. Six Safari leaders were killed last year, and a dozen hunters." The moment when Eckels sees the massive dinosaur, he panics and runs off the Path.

Once Eckels and the other members of the Time Safari crew arrive in the past, Travis issues a warning about the importance of staying on the hovering Path. Travis explains that the Path is anti-gravity and says,

Doesn't touch so much as one grass blade, flower, or tree. It's an anti-gravity metal. Its purpose is to keep you from touching this world of the Past in any way. Stay on the Path. Don't go off it. I repeat. Don't go off. For any reason! If you fall off, there's a penalty.

Travis's remarks about the Path and the penalty attached to stepping off it foreshadows Eckels's tragic mistake.

In addition to Travis's warning regarding the importance of staying on the Path, Travis also explains the implications of accidentally disturbing the past and dramatically changing the future. Travis elaborates on the "chaos theory," also known as the "butterfly effect," which is when a small change in the past is multiplied exponentially and alters the trajectory of human history. Travis's explanation foreshadows the outcome of Eckels accidentally stepping on a prehistoric butterfly. After Eckels runs off the Path and steps on a prehistoric butterfly, they travel back to the present, where Deutscher is the president and the United States is a dystopia.

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Foreshadowing occurs in a story when an author hints or suggests what might happen later in the story. Four examples of foreshadowing in Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" are as follows:

First, the official behind the desk at the Time Safari tells Eckels that "'We guarantee nothing,'" foreshadowing or hinting that events might go very, very wrong.

Second, when Eckels accuses the official behind the desk of trying to scare him about time travel, the man says:

"We don't want anyone going who'll panic at the first shot."

This foreshadows Eckels' panic on the safari.

Third, when characters in a short story stop to have a conversation about the wrong man luckily not being elected president, this hints or foreshadows that circumstances might change in an ominous way due to the trip to the past. We are set up for a return in which Deutscher is the president.

Finally, Travis's repeated warnings to "'Stay on the Path. Never step off!'" foreshadow exactly what will go wrong when Eckels panics.

In this first part of the story, Bradbury creates suspense and unease by emphasizing how careful one must be while time-traveling so as not to change the course of history, leading us to worry that history will be changed in a terrible way on this safari.

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