Ray Bradbury

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Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Bradbury, Ray 1920–2012

Bradbury is an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, author of children's books, and editor. He is considered dean of the school of science fiction and fantasy that is concerned with the human implications of futurism, rather than with the wonders of advanced gadgetry. His fiction is based on the inhumanity, apathy, and technology of modern society. Bradbury is essentially optimistic, however, in his portrayal of the importance of human values and the imagination. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 3, 10, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

John B. Rosenman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Faulkner's "That Evening Sun" (1931) and Bradbury's Dandelion Wine (1957) share an archetypal pattern that Maud Bodkin described in 1934. In her pioneer study, Archetypal Patterns in Poetry, Psychological Studies of Imagination, she refers to a "pattern" of the "Heaven and Hell Archetype" in which Satan struggles "upwards from his tremendous cavern below the realm of Chaos, to waylay the flower-like Eve in her walled Paradise and make her an inmate of his Hell, even as Pluto rose from beneath the earth to carry off Proserpine from her flowery meadow." As we shall see, both writers emphasize a hell (for Faulkner it is a "ditch," for Bradbury, a "ravine") that is inhabited by a devil figure who threatens a queenlike Eve in the warm security of her home. Considered collectively, these mythic and other correspondences between the two works reveal much about how literary minds, apparently working independently, can reshape archetypal materials in similar ways.

As symbolic hells, Faulkner's "ditch," which appears also in The Sound and the Fury, and Bradbury's "ravine" are dramatized as dark and (especially in Bradbury) as mysterious and malignantly alive. Both exert a primal, terrifying force and exude an ominous menace that pervades the works with an air of expectancy and suspense…. In Dandelion Wine, the ravine divides Green Town into "halves" and separates civilization from an encroaching wilderness. Suffused with "a danger that was old a billion years ago," the ravine gnaws and gradually erodes the town, stalking it like some primeval jungle monster that slowly swallows it alive. (p. 12)

When it comes to the women, such resemblances between the two works seem to stop. Lavinia Nebbs, the "prettiest maiden lady in town,"… does resemble "the flower-like Eve" spoken of by Bodkin, but the Negro laundress and prostitute Nancy in "That Evening Sun" is neither a maiden nor beautiful. However, in "That Evening Sun," we have an Eve or queen whom Nancy creates as a symbol of herself. Trying to keep the Compson children with her in her warm cabin so that her husband won't enter and kill her, Nancy, who had earlier crossed the ditch to get to her house, tells them a story about a queen who has "to cross the ditch" where a "bad man" is "hiding," in order "to get into her house quick and bar the door."

Lavinia Nebbs must do exactly the same thing. Descending into the ravine at night, she must cross through it to the safety of her home on the other side, where she can "bar" her door. Like Nancy's cabin, which is brightly lit by a lamp and has a fire in the hearth, her home is a place of refuge. (pp. 12-13)

Faulkner's and Bradbury's hells have mythological, metaphysical, and psychological implications. Most obvious, perhaps, is that they resemble the caverns, abysses, pits, and underworlds found in Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Poe and others and suggest much about how man views creation and his own lost innocence. The fact, for example, that each divides a town in two implies a dualistic vision of the universe in which the forces of darkness forever wage war against the forces of good. In Christian terms this view is postlapsarian, but from the broader standpoint reflected in everything from Greek myths to fairy tales, it is archetypal.

What Faulkner's and Bradbury's hells convey most intensely is the horror of cosmic aloneness…. Bradbury, in this regard, describes his...

(The entire section is 2,349 words.)