A Sound of Thunder

by Ray Bradbury

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

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The most obvious foreshadowing is when Travis warns Eckles about leaving the path. He states that even if Eckles stepped on and killed a mouse it could result in mice dying out, which in turn could effect other animals who rely on mice for food. Billions could be destroyed by...

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the killing of just one animal.

However, there are more subtle hints littered throughout the story. At the very beginning, the reader can detect the nervous disposition of the main character Eckles when the author states that "Warm liquid gathered in Eckels' throat. He swallowed and pushed it down." Eckles than gives an indication of the danger of the situation he's putting himself in by saying, "Don't I get some kind of document promising that I will come back alive?" The reply by the office, "we promise nothing," is equally ominous.

In fact, the entire end of the story is summarized in the first page. First, the official says that Eckles would face government action if he doesn't follow his guide's orders, and second, they talk about what would have happened if Deutscher instead of Keith was elected. "We're lucky. If Deutscher had gotten in, we'd have the worst kind of government."

The aggression of Travis and how serious he takes his job is foreshadowed from the moment Eckles meets him. Travis first of all talks to him angrily about what would happen if he went off the path and then he shouts at Eckles when Eckles jokingly points his gun at an animal.

Finally, Eckles outlines just precarious it is to travel back in time.

In sixty million years, Election Day over. Keith made President. Everyone celebrating. And here we are, a million years lost, and they don't exist. The things we worried about for months, a lifetime, not even born or thought of yet.

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Probably the most important and critical example of foreshadowing to be found in "A Sound of Thunder," is the scene in which the hunting expedition first arrives in the distant past, and Travis goes over the protocols, as well as the existential threat that time travel represents. This scene ultimately sets the stage for everything that will follow in the story.

Here we find Travers' instructions to stick to the path, as a way of protecting the timeline. As he says it, to "touch so much as one grass blade, flower, or tree" is forbidden. He then proceeds to describe the existential dangers that time travel involves, and the ways that even the smallest, most apparently insignficant, changes can have catastrophic implications on the larger timeline. He uses as his example a single mouse, killed before its time: on its own, it might not seem like a dramatic change, but in effect you have not just killed that mouse, but also every mouse that has descended from that initial mouse, which would have impacted the predators of those mice, and so on down the line. As he puts it, to step off the path and risk even the smallest, most apparently insignificant impact this far back in time, is to risk unseen, catastrophic damage to all of history.

This scene proves prophetic, because Travers' warnings are precisely what come to pass later in the story. Eckels panics in the face of the Tyrannosaurus, leaves the path, ends up stepping on a butterfly, and proceeds to change the course of history.

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There are several instances of foreshadowing in Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder":

1. The title itself acts as a prediction since thunder often precedes a storm, which can be a dangerous occurrence.2. As he enters the Time Safari, Inc. office in order to pay for his trip Eckels's nervousness is apparent as he is described in this manner: "Warm phlegm gathered in Eckels' throat; he swallowed and pushed it down." (His lack of nerve serves as a predictor of what he later does.)3. The words of the official also foreshadow future events: 

If you disobey instructions, there's a stiff penalty of another ten thousand dollars, plus  possible government action, on your return.

4. Eckels's conversation with the man-behind-the-desk hints at how easily circumstances can be altered by time. After Eckels looks at the Time Machine, he remarks, 

"Makes you think, If the election had gone badly yesterday, I might be here now running away from the results. Thank God Keith won. He'll make a fine  President of the United States."

The man agrees, saying that the other candidate, Deutscher would have instituted a dictatorship. He adds that before the election, people called, wondering if they could go live in 1492 if Deutscher were to win. But, he adds, the company only does safaris.This foreshadows the change of time that Eckels causes, giving Deutscher the election, after all.

5. The man's warning to Eckels, "We don't want anyone going who'll panic at the first shot. Six Safari leaders were killed last year, and a dozen hunters" also foreshadows the panic that Eckels does feel when he sees the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

6. The guides' strict warning to Eckels to not stray from the Gravity Path because Time can, then, be altered certainly suggests the grave mistake of stepping on a butterfly that Eckels makes.

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 What is foreshadowed in the story "A Sound of Thunder"?

There are, indeed, several hints of things to come in Bradbury's short story. When Eckels arrives at the Time Safari, Inc., he swallows hard and "a warm phlegm gathered" in his throat. Evidently, he is nervous about his trip to hunt the Tyrannosaurus Rex. When he asks if the safari guarantees that he will return, the official tells him that his company has no guarantee upon anything but "the dinosaurs." He also adds,

If you disobey instructions, there's a stiff penalty of another ten thousand dollars, plus possible government action, on your return."

And, as Eckels looks around, he notices

a sound like a gigantic bonfire burning all of Time, all the years and all the parchment calendars, all the hours piled high and set aflame.

Here are suggestions that something serious may happen with the manipulation of "Time" if things do not go as calculated. As he waits, Eckels talks about the recent election, grateful that the man who has won the presidential election is in office since his opponent would have created a dictatorship. The official assures him that all he has to worry about is shooting his dinosaur.

The foreshadowing here is that the outcomes of the present time may change, Eckels may have trouble shooting his dinosaur, and he may have to pay a penalty for disobeying instructions.

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