A Sound of Thunder

by Ray Bradbury

Start Free Trial

What are some examples of personification in "A Sound of Thunder"?

Quick answer:

One example of personification giving human characteristics from the text "A Sound of Thunder" is found in the sentence "Time steps aside."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to something that is not human. As we read through Bradbury's short story, we find a great deal of figurative language, and personification is one way that he heightens the tension of the fascinating ability to time travel.

One example appears as Eckels approaches the machine itself:

The Machine slowed; its scream fell to a murmur.

Giving the machine the ability to "scream" and "murmur" makes it seem human and alive. This helps us see this machine as more than a cold, steel contraption which will transport Eckels.

Before he gets into the machine, Eckels asks why he can't deviate from the path. He then becomes aware of the nature around him:

Far birds' cries blew on a wind.

We don't typically think of birds as "crying." They tweet, chirp, and sing. All of these sounds have a positive connotation, but the "cry" of a bird feels much more ominous and reminds us of painful human emotions, which helps to achieve the dark tone of the story.

When Eckels asks about whether it is possible to see the outcome of this hunt by traveling to that point in the past, Travis and Lesperance explain with exasperation that time doesn't allow that sort of paradox:

Time steps aside.

Personifying time this way helps to explain the impossibility of meeting oneself in the past. Time is more powerful than the plans of men.

The T-Rex itself is described with various types of figurative language, and there is some personification woven into that description:

It towered thirty feet above half of the trees, a great evil god, folding its delicate watchmaker's claws close to its oily reptilian chest.

Giving the T-Rex the human role of a watchmaker is another reminder of the interconnectedness of the past and the future. Humanity depends on the destiny of this one animal, as well as all organisms which have existed in the past. This T-Rex stands watching over time itself, and this event will construct the time that follows. Eckels will learn that even a butterfly stands as a "watchmaker," creating and shaping the time that follows.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As is his signature, Bradbury uses the lyrical language of poetry—such as metaphor, images, and personification—in this cautionary tale about the importance of using technology with the greatest of care.

Despite his blunt, hard-nosed persona, Travis is lyrical in his discussion of the dangers of changing the past. As he explains to the safari-goers, the tiniest change in history could cause massive consequences. For example, he envisions a scenario in which Europe stays uncivilized, saying,

Perhaps Europe is forever a dark forest, and only Asia waxes healthy and teeming.

Asia is personified as a person growing full, bright, and healthy, while Europe stagnates.

When Eckles asks if the safari guides who came ahead of them to find a dinosaur that was going to die soon saw the outcome of the safari, Travis says that is not the way time travel works. He personifies time as a thinking, reasoning person, and also as a physical human who can step aside as a person can:

Time doesn’t permit that sort of mess—a man meeting himself. When such occasions threaten, Time steps aside.

The Tyrannosaurus rex is personified in more than one way. At one point, Travis says,

There’s His Royal Majesty now.

Of course, only a human can be a literal king, but Travis is playing on the T. rex as king of the dinosaurs. Further, the dinosaur is personified when its flesh is likened to the chain mail of a human warrior,

sheathed over in a gleam of pebbled skin like the mail of a terrible warrior.

The personification helps make time travel seem concrete.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The first example of personification in Ray Bradbury's 1952 short story "A Sound of Thunder" is used to describe the process of time traveling in the advertisement for the safari: "the old years, the green years, might leap..."as Eckels and his fellow hunters return to the Cretaceous period. Years are inanimate and can only be said to leap in a metaphorical sense.

The time machine the guide and hunters use to return to the habitat of their prey, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, is said to howl, scream, and murmur, all sounds associated with the human voice, as it strains through the reaches of time. 

Finally, when the men reach their destination, the Tyrannosaurus Rex itself is described in decidedly human terms: "It ran with a gliding ballet step," and once it had the men in its grip, "the Monster twitched its jewelers hands" as it "fondled at the men."  Ballet and jewelers are constructs of the human experience, and fondling is the act of caressing, an action not usually associated with the behavior of reptiles but rather ascribed to humanity.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial