Quicker Than the Eye Themes
Most of the themes established in Bradbury's writing since his great early success in the 1950s are present in the Quicker Than the Eye stories. Essentially, life and experience are comic, if not absurd. There is the self-important but helpless bluster of Hank Gibson and Charlie Crowe in "Zaharoff/Richter Mark V" as they detect a conspiracy of super-rich architects to keep building on earthquake fault-lines so that the subsequently destroyed buildings will have to be rebuilt, producing more profits for them. "Another Fine Mess" is an elegy for the great comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. "The Finnegan" features a pseudo Dr. Watson in a tour-de-force mystery yarn. "The Very Gentle Murders" presents the Hitchcockian scenario of an elderly couple who bizarrely try to kill each other in such a way that the survivor may not be successfully prosecuted. Simultaneously, they succeed. Their friends conclude they have fulfilled a suicide pact. That Bradbury's comic muse has sharp teeth is evident when the couple's maid is killed by one of the traps they have set for each other. "The Ghost in the Machine" captures an essential funniness of the delay of the invention of the bicycle. The comedy is real but solemn in a family's mourning of the death of the family dog in "No News, or What Killed the Dog?" There is also the irony of the heroic content of the dirt of "Free Dirt." It is from an old cemetery full of famous people whose remains have been mixed up.
Another major theme is that awareness of the self is of paramount importance. This is emphasized in the first-person narrator present in five of the stories, including the tide story, "Quicker Than the Eye." It is a typical piece in which the first person narrator (Bradbury) is witness to the fate of the protagonist character (who is clearly Bradbury), as erstwhile victim of the prestidigitator in the fictional character of "Miss Quick" (created by Bradbury), who, on stage, picks the victim's (Bradbury's) pockets and removes his shirt and pants, as the narrator Bradbury—with his wife unkindly laughing beside him—watches his own undoing with embarrassment and rage.
Both psychologically and literally the author is all of his characters. In many of the remaining stories Bradbury includes clear autobiographical references so that the impression from the collection as a whole is that he is consciously constructing himself as he writes them. Moreover, fame is important and Bradbury makes no secret of his wish for it as reported in the many interviews he has given. He wants to be ranked with the great authors. Sensitive to this, he gives us in "Last Rites" a story of the author's time travel to the death scenes of Melville, Poe, and Wilde to comfort them with the knowledge that they and various works by them will be recognized as brilliant, although they were not so recognized during their lives.
Furthermore, the function and content of history are...
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