The Stories of Ray Bradbury by Ray Bradbury

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The Stories of Ray Bradbury Analysis

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In his introduction to The Stories of Ray Bradbury, the author discusses how childhood memories have shaped his writing and describes himself as “the man with the child inside.” Many of Bradbury’s stories feature child protagonists, but even those centered on adult experiences display his youthful outlook on life through their exuberant prose and emphasis on the basic lessons that life teaches. Big events take place in these tales—first contact with alien species, time travel to the prehistoric age, and even the end of the world—but it is always in the quiet moments of self-discovery on the periphery of these events that characters learn what is important about life. “The Homecoming” is set during the bustle of a large family reunion of supernatural beings. Timothy, a young family member who was born mortal, spends most of the story failing miserably to imitate the behaviors of his relatives in the hope of earning their respect. At the story’s end, Timothy’s mother comforts him with the assurance “We all love you. No matter how different you are.” In trying to be someone he is not in order to fit in with the larger world, Timothy discovers the importance of being true to himself.

“Life was full of symbols and omens,” thinks a character in “The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind.” In Bradbury’s stories, the richness of life is defined by the symbolic value of its individual moments. The simplest of experiences always proves pregnant with a deeper meaning that ensures that no moment in life is superfluous or insignificant. In “The Night,” family worries over an older brother’s late return home result in the younger brother’s first intimations of mortality. The mere changing of seasons in “The End of Summer” teaches its young protagonist the meaning of death.

A fine line separates Bradbury’s genuine fantasies from stories that celebrate this magical portentousness of the commonplace. As a result, his stories often have the feeling of fables or parables, whether they approach their themes from a fantastic or a nonfantastic angle. In his supernatural tale “The Lake,” a man returns to a beach where a beloved childhood playmate drowned years before and finds a half-built sand castle waiting for him to complete. In “A Story of Love,” a grown man visits the grave of a schoolteacher on whom he had an unrequited adolescent crush and is comforted by the knowledge that he is now a respectable three years older than she was at her death. Both stories end with characters realizing that the platonic loves of their youths are the purest loves that they have known. “The Last Night of the World” and “Yes, We’ll Gather at the River” are each concerned with the end of the world—one literally, the other symbolically—and how people will face it. In both, characters show quiet dignity in the face of an event they are powerless to change.

Bradbury’s concern in all of his fiction is with the...

(The entire section is 749 words.)