THE ILLUSTRATED MAN An exploration of Ray Bradbury by Aaron Sexton THE AUTHOR • (August 1920 – June 2012) • An American science fiction writer • Best known for Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles • Bradbury often cited authors and poets such as Edgar Allen Poe, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne as his influences, though he was an avid reader of all types • He had a habit of writing every single day THE ILLUSTRATED MAN • Eighteen Short Stories • Seemingly unrelated, each story is tied to the others by the illustrated man, a man whose tattoos can tell the future. • This man is also the antagonist of Something Wicked This Way Comes • Science fiction short stories often exploring themes of space, technology and psychology. SOME STORIES • The Veldt • Kaleidoscope • This story deals with a small family of four who live in an automated house with a 3D nursery. • A more psychological examination than The Veldt, this story deals with a group of astronauts who are floating to their deaths in space. • The nursery projects an African plain full of hungry lions, feasting on strange carcasses. • When a psychiatrist tells the parents to try to remove the influence of the house from their children’s lives, the children throw tantrums and lock their parents in the nursery. • The lions get some fresh meat. • The narrator reflects on his life and the characters of the other spacemen floating around him, bitterly scorning his accomplishments. • All he wants is to mean something to someone else. • In the end, he is seen as a shooting star by an earth child SOME STORIES • The Long Rain • The Visitor • This story follows four spacemen who have crash landed on Venus, a planet where it never stops raining • In this story, Mars is a planet left to hopeless exiles, people who have contracted a deadly disease • As they search for Sun Domes—constructed sanctuaries that protect men from the rain—the rain drives them insane one by one • Our narrator is a man in the middle stages of decay who sees a rocket land and drop off a young man who can project his thoughts into the minds of others. • The lieutenant finally finds a Sun Dome and safety, but is it the real thing, or is his madness setting in? • His gift is brilliant, but the other exiles fight over who will get to use the boy’s talents and he is killed in the conflict. • His gift is lost and our narrator realizes there is no escaping his miserable existence now. THOUGHTS AND THEMES • In the very first story, a psychologist examines the negative effects of technology on the children. This theme continues throughout the collection, though it is explored in a variety of ways. • In The Long Rain, the four men’s dependence on the Sun Domes also shows us how technology can lead to a sense of false security, even on a hostile planet that was originally uninhabitable • Kaleidoscope continues the exploration of the human mind, relating the thoughts and reflections of our narrator as he deals with his whole crew’s dying thoughts. • “The others were silent, thinking of the destiny that had brought them to this, falling, falling, and nothing they could do to change it. Even the captain was quiet for there was no command or plan he knew that could put things back together again.” • We watch dying thoughts and feel connected to the human consciousness, even though the setting is a place we may never understand or reach SOME FINAL THOUGHTS Each of these stories looks at the psychology of man in the face of a future only Bradbury could have imagined. Each planet is full of life, each character deals with this strange existence in brilliantly developed thought and action, and the themes Bradbury explores remind us that no matter how far we go, we will always be humans. Technology can be cold, people can be cruel and life can be fleeting, but in the end people make it all worthwhile. Whether it is the satisfaction the Lietenant would have received for becoming a shooting star, or the more tangible satisfaction the narrator of The Visitor derives in his new “friend”, human nature is put under the microscope. It is quite often a negative view we get, but Bradbury doesn’t leave us hopeless. We see human nature in a new light, the light of a bright future full of potential.