Ray Bradbury: Short Stories

Ray Bradbury: Short Stories Summary and Analysis of "The Last Night of the World"


The "Last Night of the World" begins when a husband asks his wife, "What would you do if you knew that this was the last night of the world?" (1.) She responds that she doesn't know - she hasn't given it much thought. Her husband urges her to start thinking about it because tonight is the last night of the world. She asks if a hydrogen bomb or atomic bomb is on the horizon, but that's not the case.

He knows it is the last night of the world because of an ominous dream he had the night before. He didn't think much of it, but when he went to the office one of his colleagues had the same dream. His colleague didn't seem surprised that they had both had the same dream, and it turns out that many people in the office had the same dream. They were all at peace about it, and the atmosphere was very relaxed.

His wife admitted that she too had the same dream, as did many others in the neighborhood. She and her friends didn't think it was anything serious - perhaps they had all been reading the same book or watching the same television show, and that had caused them to have similar dreams. But after they talked about it more and realized the dreams were nearly identical, they began to think it was something more serious.

They discussed what they should do with their last night and how they felt about it. Both were calm, and they decided to proceed as normal. They agreed that it would be best to not tell the children, and they allowed the children to continue to play without a worry in their head. The only decision they struggled with while they were putting their children to bed was whether or not to leave the door open or closed. How would their children want the door on their last night?

After saying goodnight to their kids, they continued with their typical night. They washed the dishes, played a game, and spent a few night hours together. Even though they knew that it was their last night, there was no sense of urgency to do something new or extraordinary. They got into bed and kissed each other. He said to her, "We've been good for each other, anyway" (4.) They laid back and were about to fall asleep, when the wife exited because she had left the kitchen sink running. They laughed once she returned because if the world was ending, what difference did it make if the sink was running?

They then took a moment to say goodnight again, and they calmly went to bed on the last night of the world.


The premise of this story and the question that begins it - "what would you do if you had one more night?" directly engages with the thoughts most readers have had in their own lives. It's a popular question from youth to mature adulthood: "If you had one last day on Earth, how would you spend it?" The story is very short, and so it's ability to engage with its readership right away is key to its success.

The husband and wife spend their last night together in the most ordinary manner imaginable. They go about their business as usual, and while it's not the typical answer to the "What would you do if..." question, Bradbury's writing makes it seem as if it's the only good option. They way they spend their last night together strips the ideas of death and ending of its fear factor. The married pair meets its fate with grace and bravery, two traits that are admirable considering the situation.

Interestingly enough, the children are barely included in their plans. They do not want to upset them by telling them, but it causes the reader to wonder if the kids have also had ominous dreams. While this is not the focus of the short story, the relationship between the parents and children is worth discussing. Are the parents really protecting their children, or are they doing them a disservice by not allowing them to make a conscious decision about how they would like to spend their last night of the world? The lack of communication between the two groups could be a result of the situation, or it could be indicative of their relationship every other day of the year, which goes against our typical understanding of the parent/child relationship.

This story also reconsiders bravery and courage, both in a moment and in a lifetime. The husband and wife are content to live the last night they have together as they have lived every other night, which showcases the profound courage with which they have lived the other days of their lives. They are proud of the way they have spent their time on earth, and they do not feel any qualms about continuing with their lifestyle for one last day. They do not seriously consider doing something drastically different than their routines because they are happy with the way they have lived their lives.

The story forces its readers to reconsider a age-old question, and it sheds new light on what bravery and courage look like in the face of death. Bradbury's storytelling leaves the reader with an extraordinary impression of ordinary acts. At the end of the story, the reader is left asking him or herself many questions about how they would respond to such a situation because Bradbury's writing is so compelling.