Ray Bradbury: Short Stories

Ray Bradbury: Short Stories Summary and Analysis of "The Murderer"


In "The Murderer," a psychiatrist is sent in to interview a man who goes by the name "The Murderer." As he walks towards the interrogation room, there is noise coming from every room. Some of the noise is music and some of the noise is people talking into a variety of communication devices. The psychiatrist interacts with a variety of devices on his walk to the room, such as a wrist radio, buzzing lights, and phones. When he enters the interrogation room, he notices that something is different. It's quiet.

The "Murderer" anticipates the psychiatrist's question and explains that he "kicked the radio to death" (2.) The psychiatrist thinks that the man sitting in front of him is violent, but once again the man anticipates the psychiatrist's thought and replies, "No, only to machines that yak-yak-yak" (ibid.) The "Murderer" has never harmed a living person, but he has a track record of destroying the technology that surrounds him.

The psychiatrist begins to question the man, Mr. Albert Brock, about the crimes that he has committed and why he has committed them. Mr. Brock replies that before they can start, he must take care of one thing. He reaches over and takes the psychiatrist's wrist radio and bites it hard - destroying it. The "Murderer" despises the constant white noise in the background of everything he does.

The "Murderer" begins to recount his crimes and how it all began. He tells the psychiatrist that his first victim was his telephone, which he shoved into the Insinkerator (a garbage disposal like device), and then he shot the television. The psychiatrist asks him to slow down and explain his disdain for these objects, hoping that his motive will shed light on his violent actions towards technology. The psychologist cannot imagine how someone could hate technology as much as this man does.

In a very long monologue, the "Murderer" reveals how fed up he is about how technology has invaded every aspect of society. Some sort of technological update, scolding, or praise counters every conceivable action. The “Murderer” wants silence. He does not like its domineering nature, and this is now the only way he knows how to fight against it.

The psychiatrist begins to wrap up his investigation, and he asks the "Murderer" if he has felt any remorse about his actions. He has not. He says, "I would do it all over again, so help me God" (6.) The "Murderer" ends the interview by praising the initial practical purposes of these devices, but he warns the psychiatrist of the potential ills of a society dominated by technology.

The psychiatrist walks away without giving him much more thought. As he walks out of the office, he reports the diagnosis that the man is "disoriented but convivial," and that his condition will continue indefinitely (7.) As the psychiatrist finishes up the case, he is once again bombarded with a variety of communication signals, and he spends the rest of his day in a cycle of responding to his wrist radio, intercom, and telephone.


In this story, the protagonist is viewed as a villain by the society he lives in. He plunders and "murders" the technological devices around him, and he has been sent to a mental hospital for evaluation. Should he really be in the mental hospital? Is he insane, or does he simply disagree with the way that society acts? He wants to live without the disruption of technological devices, and he has never hurt anyone - so why is he being ostracized from society?

This raises the question of censorship. Instead of being censored by a ruler or powerful person, the "Murderer" has been censored by all of society. He poses a risk to their way of life and the norms that they have developed. Not only does he destroy technology, but he also questions society’s dependency on the devices. It is possible that the members of society feel insecure about technology's role in their lives, and therefore they are punishing the "Murderer" for criticizing them.

He has been ostracized by society, yet he is still heroic in Bradbury's story. He lives up to his ideals, and he tries to improve society according to his beliefs. He has a moral compass, however destructive that may be, that guides his behavior. It appears that the others in the society lack a guiding light. Instead, they are mindlessly following their devices, and they lack a critical approach to the way they live their lives. Additionally, the "Murderer" is deeply committed to his cause, which is admirable.

Bradbury has been accused of being an opponent of technological advances, and this story has historically provided evidence in support of this claim. When he wrote this story in 1953, technology was developing rapidly, but the current setting of technological development in the 21st century adds another layer of complexity and depth to Bradbury's original story. The story continues to raise questions in modern times, as American citizens are concerned with online security and government surveillance systems.

Additionally, technology has carved out an even more controlling and influential sphere of our lives. With smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, among other social websites, many people spend more time with their electronic devices than they do with people. People who choose not to engage in this behavior are seen as Luddites and outsiders. Are we also fearful that they are questioning our dependency on these devices, or are they simply resistant to change? Bradbury's story continues to stay relevant in today's world.