Ray Bradbury Bradbury, Ray (Vol. 15) - Essay


(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."...

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Wayne L. Johnson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Since "Zero Hour" and "Mushrooms" are both primarily suspense stories, they share a number of structural traits common to such stories. For instance, the secret of the invasion is revealed to the reader almost at once. Real-life invasions usually depend heavily upon the element of surprise—such as in the attack on Pearl Harbor or in the invasion of Normandy. But in a story it is difficult to sustain reader interest if the main point is concealed until the very end. By revealing the invaders' intentions at the beginning of the story, Bradbury keeps us in constant suspense, wondering if and when the protagonists will catch on. In both stories, the method of invasion is rather improbable. This is necessary because the main character must be teasingly slow in putting the pieces of the puzzle together—but without coming off as an idiot. Because the invaders' plans are quite far-fetched, we can understand it when the main characters rationalize away the threat on the basis of its incredibility and their own need to live in a safe world where such things do not happen.

Both "Zero Hour" and "Mushrooms" focus on a small area. Though the invasions are on a world-wide scale, we see little of what is happening outside the neighborhood of the main characters. An even tighter focus is maintained in the story "Fever Dream" from A Medicine for Melancholy. Here again an invasion of Earth by mysterious creatures is taking place. But this time only one person knows, and there is no way he can tell anyone else about it, for the invasion is taking place within his own body. (pp. 27-8)

This story is a reversal of the previous stories in which the invaders were, at least in the beginning, external to the victims and brought about an internal psychological struggle. In "Fever Dream," the invasion begins within one person, and after it has conquered him, it moves...

(The entire section is 775 words.)


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The difference between the genres of science fiction and fantasy is that science] fiction is the art of the possible. There's never anything fantastic about science fiction. It's always based on the laws of physics; on those things that can absolutely come to pass. Fantasy, on the other hand, is always the art of the impossible. It goes against all the laws of physics. When you write about invisible men, or walking through walls, or magic carpets, you're dealing with the impossible. (p. 21)

I don't give a damn about the critics. I'm not interested in what they have to say. Really, I don't care about other people's opinions. If I did, I wouldn't have any career at all. I've been warned time and time again not to write science fiction by my friends, my teachers, and all the great intellectuals of our time. That's what's wrong with our culture. Too many people listen to what other people have to say. Who cares? Don't look to others for guidance. Look to yourself! That's what's great about science fiction. Every writer in the science fiction world is a different kind of writer. We all have different views of the world. (p. 23)

I'm an idea writer. Everything of mine is permeated with my love of ideas—both big and small. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it grabs me, and holds me, and fascinates me. And then I'll run out and do something about it. My poetry, all of it, is idea poetry. (p. 26)


(The entire section is 518 words.)