A Sound of Thunder

by Ray Bradbury

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What are some metaphors in "A Sound of Thunder"?

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One important symbol in “A Sound of Thunder” is the butterfly, which symbolizes the fragility of existence. Two tightly intertwined symbols are the Tyrannosaurus Rex and thunder itself. Together, they represent uncontrolled power and its sometimes fatal consequences.

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The main metaphor in this story is, as the first answer says, thunder.  The metaphor of thunder seems to be used just to describe the sheer physical awesomeness of the dinosaur, but it is much more than that.  The thunder metaphor is also used to show us how any given action can have massive ramifications that are not seen.  Any action, even one so seemingly innocuous as the killing of a butterfly, can “thunder” on and change the world.

Thunder can be thought of as a prominent repercussion of a previous event.  The lightning flashes, but then the thunder comes and demands our attention much more than the lightning does.  If you are turned the wrong way, you don’t see the lightning, but there is no hiding from the sound of the thunder.  The thunder is only a result of the lightning, but in many ways it is more conspicuous than the lightning and has more of an impact on us.

The same is true in the story.  Eckles’ actions do not seem very important at all.  You could easily turn away from them and not notice.  But what comes next—the thunder—cannot be ignored.  Eckles’ action changes the whole of modern society.  A small action has had tremendous repercussions.

Thunder is truly the major metaphor of this story, but it is not just about the way the dinosaur moves. It is also a metaphor for the impacts that  our actions can have on the world. 

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Ray Bradbury's story, "A Sound of Thunder," comes alive with vivid images and creative figurative language that creates an atmosphere of exotic and magnified life. Truly, Bradbury's figurative language immerses the reader into a rather frightening exotic world where the unexpected can easily occur.

The metaphor "sound of thunder" is used to describe the steps of the terrifying and mammoth Tyrannosaurus Rex. As it walks, the earth shakes and rumbles. When Travis, a guide, first sees it, the jungle is filled with sound: "twitterings, rustlings, murmurs, and sighs." And, then there is silence as the small animals sense the approach of a monster. "Silence. A sound of thunder." The steps of the huge dinosaur shake the earth as though thunder were rattling. Further, the sounds of the Tyrannosaurus Rex are described as "lizard thunder" as the dinosaur's great tail swings and lashes sideways. Then, when the T-Rex dies, "[T]hundering, it clutched trees, pulled them with it," and "[T]he thunder faded." This larger-than-anything creature shakes the earth with its mammoth size, creating a metaphoric thundering.

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What are some examples of symbolism in “A Sound of Thunder”?

Throughout “A Sound of Thunder,” Ray Bradbury relies on the juxtaposition of opposites to create an ironic effect. This is especially apparent in the contrast between two elements that serve as primary symbols. One of these is the butterfly, which represents the fragility of existence. In strong opposition are the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the first part of whose name means "thunder lizard," and the sound of thunder referenced in the title. Together, the mighty creature and the related noise stand for tremendous power which, if left uncontrolled, may lead to death.

The butterfly that Eckels unknowingly crushes underfoot symbolizes fragility and vulnerability because the creature is light and frail. Although it initially seems to be the most fragile animal, it is also shown to be powerful because of the effect it has on the future. This paradox has given rise to the phrase “butterfly effect,” used to refer to the unintended consequences of even small actions.

As a symbol of power, the T-Rex is a fearsome beast that is obviously a threat to the human hunters. The thunderous noises it makes are also correlated with the sound of guns—both those that kill it and the one that later kills Eckels. The dinosaur and the gun similarly stand for power, including the ability to cause death.

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What are examples of irony in "A Sound of Thunder"?

The most re-published short story in science fiction history, Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" deals with the idea of time travel and how subtle changes in the past can drastically affect the future. A group of people book a hunting expedition through a travel agency that takes them back in time--to kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. They are warned to stay on a designated path from which they must not stray; any change made by a visitor from the past may cause untold changes upon their return. (The T-Rex they plan to kill has already been determined to have died, so his death--repeated over and over upon return trips--will cause no changes, the guides assure.)

There are several examples of irony in the story. Perhaps the most obvious is how the simple death of a butterfly millions of years in the past can totally alter the future from which the travellers come. Because of the butterfly's death, a different--and more dangerous--President has been elected; the language has changed; and the town appears different. Also ironic is how the man who accidentally kills the butterfly is punished in a like manner. A final irony is the title, which refers to both the sound of the T-Rex and the gunshot heard in the end.

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What is an example of Irony in Ray Bradbury's short story A Sound of Thunder?

The irony in Ray Bradbury’s 1952 short story A Sound of Thunder lies mainly in the story’s ending.  Eckels is a man on a mission: hunt and kill a dinosaur.  Towards this end, he arrives at the corporate headquarters of TIME SAFARI, Inc., which promises clients the opportunity to travel back in time for the purpose of killing a now-extinct animal.  As the name plate at the company’s door announces:

SAFARIS TO ANY YEAR IN THE PAST.

YOU NAME THE ANIMAL.

WE TAKE YOU THERE. YOU SHOOT IT.

Eckles, however, rapidly presents himself as a potential head-ache for the seemingly put-upon tour guide Travis, whose wariness of yet another expedition into the past is apparent in his demeanor.  His inquisitiveness proves increasingly annoying to those around him, and prompts Travis to set forth the philosophical case against journeys such as this.  Explaining to Eckles and the other clients making the journey through time that any failure to comply with company rules regarding conduct while on the journey could have very serious ramifications for the future, Travis reveals the extent of his concern about client conduct and about the potential implications of a failure:

"We don't want to change the Future. We don't belong here in the Past. The government doesn't like us here. We have to pay big graft to keep our franchise. A Time Machine is finicky business. Not knowing it, we might kill an important animal, a small bird, a roach, a flower even, thus destroying an important link in a growing species." 

Eckels remains confused about this philosophical conundrum, which prompts Travis to launch into a protracted hypothetical scenario about what could go wrong should Eckels or any of the other clients wander from the specially-constructed path.  Upon hearing the approach of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that the hunters have been guaranteed an opportunity to kill, however, Eckels panics and flees, which brings us to the story’s more ironic elements.

In fleeing back to the time machine, it is revealed that Eckels broke the rules and diverged from the specially-constructed path, trampling nature under foot as he ran in terror.  The dead butterfly he has inadvertently but carelessly killed represents precisely the kind of problem to which Travis had referred: The dead butterfly will now never live out its normal life, which can result in a sequence of events at variance with the course of history that would otherwise have evolved and led these men to their encounter at Time Safari, Inc. in the first place.  When the group returns to the present, much has, in fact, changed.  The presidential election that originally ended with the victory of Eckels’ preferred candidate, Keith, has instead resulted with the other candidate’s election, Deutscher, which we have been led to believe will augur ill for society as a whole (In the words of an employee of Time Safari, Inc., “If Deutscher had gotten in, we'd have the worst kind of dictatorship. There's an anti-everything man for you, a militarist, anti-­Christ, anti­ human, anti­intellectual.”)

The first major element of irony, then, involves Eckels’ actions resulting in the exact opposite of what he had wanted, and what had originally occurred.  He has, indeed, altered the course of history through his carelessness, which prompts the story’s final element of irony, Travis’s killing of Eckels with his hunting rifle, the firing of which creates “a sound of thunder”  -- a sound eerily reminiscent of the sound of thunder heard when the Tyrannosaurus Rex emerged from the forest.

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