Ray Bradbury: Short Stories

Ray Bradbury: Short Stories Quotes and Analysis

"Who was it said, 'Children are carpets, they should be stepped on occasionally'! We've never lifted a hand. They're insufferable - let's admit it. They come and go when they like; they treat us as if we were offspring. They're spoiled and we're spoiled."

George Hadley in "The Veldt," p. 6

George Hadley says this to his wife over dinner while they wait for their children to return from the fair. They are troubled by the fact that the nursery will no longer change to other settings - it remains on the hot African savannah and the feasting lions. George wants to shut the house off, but Lydia is worried about the children's reaction. The children have become increasingly adverse to any sort of change in the status of the house or any parenting decision made by George and Lydia. When George says this to Lydia, it represents the breakdown in inter-family communication - they think their children are insufferable, as well as their inability to interfere as parents and maintain their personal identities. They are equally dependent on the house, and this is the first time they acknowledge that in the story.

"There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,

And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,

And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,

Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn

Would scarcely know that we were gone."

"There Will Come Soft Rains," p. 6

This poem is read by the house shortly before it begins to die and is eventually destroyed. The poem seems to have predicted exactly what has happened - no one minds that mankind has perished. Outside of the house, the neighborhood is in ruins, and no one appears to be living in the house or in the vicinity of it. Despite that, life in the house continues as if there were still inhabitants. The house cooks breakfast, cleans up, sets up for bridge, and reads this poem.

"The stamp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our Earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations."

Travis in "A Sound of Thunder," p. 4

Travis delivers this line to Eckels and the rest of the men in the safari expedition as he tries to explain the necessity of staying on the designated path. The Time Safari has gone to great lengths to ensure that none of their customers disrupt the future by interrupting a natural process in the past. Travis' address highlights Bradbury's broader theme of interconnectivity in the short story. Even though time travel is not possible, Bradbury is still able to communicate the idea that our actions have repercussions for future generations. It is an idea that is often considered but rarely acted upon - for instance the rhetoric of politicians often asks us to think of future generations even if the policy is not mindful of those generations. This quote illustrates that we are not isolated; rather we live in a cosmopolitan world that connects all of us to one another and the future generations of all species.  

"They stood as if someone had driven them, like so many stakes, into the floor. They looked at each other and then looked away. They glanced out at the world that was raining now and raining and raining steadily. They could not meet each other's glances. Their faces were solemn and pale. They looked at their hands and feet, their faces down."

"All Summer in a Day," p. 6

After the children have come in from the two hours in the sun, they come to the sudden realization that Margot is still locked in the closet. It is a moment of recognition and understanding of what they have done and how they have treated her in the past. Before experiencing the sun themselves, they did not know how special the two hours of unadulterated sunlight would be. Before they had resented Margot, but now they can comprehend what she has been experiencing on the rainy Venus. Their regret in this scene exemplifies the sun's healing properties. Before they were emotionless, but now they possess empathy. The sun is life giving to both the landscape of Venus as well as the people who inhabit the planet.

"The town's empty, but we found native life in the hills, sir. Dark people. Yellow eyes. Martians. Very friendly. we talked a bit, not much. They learn English fast. I'm sure our relations will be most friendly with them, sir."

Lieutenant in "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed," p. 12

This quote is said in the concluding moments of the story. A rocket arrived five years after the initial settlement believed they would never be able to return to Earth. They had resisted the change that Mars tried to impart upon the colonizers, but slowly they began to accept the change and even embrace it. This quote shows just how extremely they have changed over the past five years. They are no longer recognizable as Earthlings. The environment and conditions of Mars have altered them so severely that they now appear to be native Martians. Even more significant, the "natives" speak an entirely different language (though they can easily transition back to English with the officers) and do not remember what happened to the original settlers, even though that was part of their own development. The quote signifies the story's larger themes of change, acceptance, resistance, and memory.

"Well," he said at last.

He kissed his wife for a long time.

"We've been good for each other, anyway."

"Do you want to cry?" he asked.

"I don't think so."

Husband and Wife in "The Last Night of the World," p. 4

As the world is about to end, the husband and wife in the story have gone about their business as usual. While they always imagined a chaotic and tearful end - especially considering they knew it was about to happen. Instead, they are calm and collected. They do not wish to go out and do something wild and crazy, rather they want to spend time at home with their children. They do the dishes, put the children to bed, and sit by the fire with one another. When they speak the words above to one another, it is a poignant moment. While many people imagine a dramatic end to their lives as the answer to, "What would you do if this was your last day on Earth?" But with this quote, Bradbury shows that it can be notable to be ordinary.

"We waited a moment. And then I began to hear it. First a great vacuumed sucking of air, and then the lament, the bewilderment, the loneliness of the great monster, folded over and upon us, above us, so that the sickening reek of its body filled the air, a stone's thickness away from our cellar. The monster gasped and cried. The tower was gone. The light was gone. The thing that had called to it across a million years was gone."

"The Fog Horn," p. 6

Loneliness and companionship are two key themes in "The Fog Horn." The monster had continuously returned to the lighthouse because it believed that one of its companions might be calling out to it across the sea. The likeness of the Fog Horn's noise provides hope that companionship may still exist, despite the all-encompassing nature of its loneliness. When the monster destroys the lighthouse in anger, it ends the relationship that has sustained it during its slumber in the deep sea. The noise no longer comes from the lighthouse, and the monster is devastated. Its loneliness has now taken on an even greater sense of permanence.  

"But there are times," said the Emperor, more sadly still, "when one must lose a little beauty if one is to keep what little beauty one already has."

Emperor Yuan, "The Flying Machine," p. 2

This is Emperor Yuan's explanation to the Inventor for why he is going to execute him and destroy the flying machine. He agrees that the machine is beautiful, but he fears that the beauty of the invention will be eliminated when the machine is used for unjust means, such as throwing rocks at the Great Wall of China. This quote raises the moral dilemma of technological development and its censorship. Is censorship just? What are the limitations of censorship? Does eliminating the beauty of the flying machine actually preserve the beauty of the empire, or does the act of censorship actually diminish the beauty of the empire and the Emperor himself? These questions were applicable when Bradbury wrote the story in 1953 in the midst of the Cold War, and they continue to apply as geopolitical situations become increasingly intense and regional powers look towards chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

I'm burning a way of life, just like that way of life is being burned clean of Earth right now. Forgive me if I talk like a politician. I am, after all, a former state governor, and I was honest and they hated me for it. Life on Earth never settled down to doing anything very good. Science ran too far ahead of us too quickly, and the people got lost in a mechanical wilderness, like children making over pretty things, gadgets, helicopters, rockets; emphasizing the wrong items, emphasizing machines instead of how to run the machines. Wars got bigger and bigger and finally killed Earth. That's what the silent radio means. That's what we ran away from.

Dad in "The Million Year Picnic," p. 6

Once again, Bradbury's distrust of technological advancement stars in his short stories. While in other stories technology has disrupted the characters' lives or made things slightly unpleasant, in "The Million Year Picnic," Earth is en route to total and complete destruction. Not only is it the advance of technology that Bradbury warns of in the story, but it's also the potentially destructive human behavior that can become of it. For instance, people can become overly obsessed with their gadgets and fail to see the people around them and how their actions affect others. Because of his frustrations with the way in which people on Earth were living, the father in "The Million Year Picnic" has set out for Mars to create a more idealistic society that lives according to his principles.  

But I thought that's why we bought this house, so we wouldn't have to do anything?

George Hadley, "The Veldt," p. 4

When George Hadley says this to his wife, they are questioning the value of their lives and their parenting skills. They believed that the purchase of the Happy Home would improve their quality of life and make everything easier - no more cooking, cleaning, or maintaining the house, but instead they have seen their quality of life decline. This phenomenon with the Hadley's highlights Bradbury's concern that the advance of technology could be limiting our potential rather than expanding it, a theme that permeates many of his short stories.