We will now outline the main themes in the short story “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury. We will also discuss some of the motifs used by Bradbury in the short story.
Connection between the past, present and future
The short story carefully explores the connection between past, present and future. As Travis explains to Eckels, every minor and apparently insignificant action can have immense consequences. Travis uses the example of a mouse to demonstrate how mankind could have never existed if a mouse would have died millions of years ago.
Danger of scientific discoveries
The short story also touches the theme of the dangers brought by scientific discoveries. In “A Sound of Thunder”, the Time Machine is, at the same time, a dangerous yet innovative piece of technology. Its discovery could have brought amazing changes into the world of the future, yet the reader only knows about its destructive use.
Man’s destruction of nature vs. Man’s destructive nature
Eckels’ main desire is to travel into the jungle and kill a dinosaur. Notice how, before Travis explains which animals are supposed to be killed, Eckels did not even think about the consequences of his acts. All he knows is that he wants to kill a dinosaur, his dinosaur, as he explains.
Motif: the sound of thunder
As you have seen, the sound of the thunder is what gives the title of the short story. Ray Bradbury’s choice is not random. Notice how, in the short story, the sound of thunder is connected to several things:
“A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury and “Nethergrave” by Gloria Skurzynski were good, well written science fiction stories. Both stories used technology to greatly change the life of the main characters. “A Sound of Thunder” involved dinosaurs and a time machine in which the characters used to go back in time. The time machine was built to go to the stories setting in a jungle, sixty million years in the past. In “Nethergrave”, the main character, Jeremy, choses to get sucked into the virtual world instead of staying the real world after having a quite embarrassing and lonely day. This stories setting seemed to be in the present time but did not say for sure. The climax in “Nethergrave” was when all Jeremy’s online friend had left him and he got a message from someone telling him to turn on his mic. I didn’t know what was going to happen or what the man wanted from Jeremy. He made the decision to leave the real world of being ignored and bullied to go to somewhere he was promised never to be abandoned.
The climax in “A Sound of Thunder” was when the men were on the time machine returning to the present time. I thought this was the most suspenseful time because I knew Echkels had walked of the path he was forbidden to leave and I was waiting to read if that small action had really affected the future. Both the stories’ climaxes made me wonder what was going to happen next. One of the themes in the “A Sound of Thunder” is that one small bad action can lead up to a massive destruction. I think a theme for “Nethergrave” is that when reality is tough, it is easy to make poor decisions that seem to make it better. Both themes are ideal to remember because they go hand in hand. If you think about it, the theme in “Nethergrave” is saying if life is hard, then it is easier to make poor decision, and if you make poor decision, than it can affect yourself or others like the theme is in “A Sound of Thunder”.
Both of these short stories show how technology can be extremely dangerous. Advancements in technology are being made every day. Even though these are science fiction stories, I thinkt the dangers of technology from the stories might actually be possible in the future. Both stories kept me wanting to keep reading, but “A Sound of Thunder” was more effective than “Nethergrave” in my opinion. It had better characterization in describing the charters, a more relatable theme, had more description, and helped the readers get familiar with the setting. The last line of Bradbury’s story, “There was a sound of thunder”, made me sit dazed for a moment, questioning if he really did kill Echkels. Overall, I thought it had more exciting action and was my favorite of the two.
Bradbury, Ray. A Sound of Thunder. New York: Doubleday, 1952. Print. Skurzynski, Gloria. Nethergrave.