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Ray Bradbury Essay, Research Paper

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury was a dreamer. Bradbury had a skill at putting his dreams

onto paper, and into books. He dreams dreams of magic and transformation, good

and evil, small-town America and the canals of Mars. His dreams are not only

popular, but durable. His work consists of short stories, which are not hard to

publish, and keep in the public eye. His stories have stayed in print for nearly

three decades.

Ray Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, in a small town of Waukegan,

Illinois. His parents were Leonard Spaulding and Esther Moberg Bradbury. His

mother, Esther Moberg loved films, she gave her son the middle name Douglas

because of Douglas Fairbanks, and she passed her love of films to her son. “My

mother took me to see everything…..” Bradbury explains, “I’m a child of motion

pictures.” Prophetically, the first film he saw, at the age of three, was the

horror classic “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, staring Lon Chanley. His teenage

Aunt Neva gave the boy his appreciation of fantasy, by reading him the Oz books,

when he was six. When Bradbury was a child he was encouraged to read the classic,

Norse, Roman, and Greek Myths. When he was old enough to choose his own reading

materials, he chose books by Edger Rice Burroughs and the comic book heroes

Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and Prince Valiant. When Bradbury was in Waukegan he

developed his interest in acting and Drama. After seeing a magician, known as

Blackstone, he became fascinated with magic also.

In 1932, his family moved to Tucson Arizona. With his talents he learned

in Waukegan (amateur magician) he got a job at the local radio station. “I was

on the radio every Saturday night reading comic strips to the kiddies and being

paid in free tickets, to the local cinema, where I saw ‘The Mummy’, ‘The Murders

in the Wax Museum’, ‘Dracula’, …..and ‘King Kong’.” His family only stayed in

Tuscan for a year, but Bradbury feels: “It was one of the greatest years of my

life because I was acting and singing in operettas and writing, my first short


In 1934 his family moved to Los Angeles, where Bradbury has remained. He

attended Los Angeles High School, where he wrote and took part in many dramatic

productions. His literary tastes were broadened to include Thomas Wolfe and

Ernest Hemingway when he took a creative writing course. In 1938 Los Angeles

High School yearbook, the following prediction appeared beneath his picture:

Likes to write stories Admired as a thespian Headed for literary distinction

After graduation Bradbury sold newspapers until he saved up enough money

to buy a typewriter and rent a small office. In the early 1940’s his stories

appeared regularly in Weird Tales. “I sold a story every month there for three

or four years when I was (in my early twenties). Made the magnificent sum of

twenty dollars for each story.” Bradbury sold his first stories in 1945 to

“slick” magazines – Collier’s, Charm, and Mademoiselle.

Shortly after his marriage to Marguerite Susan McClure in 1947,

Bradbury’s first book, Dark Carnival, was published by Arkham House. About this

time, the idea for an important book about Mars, a collection of loosely

connected stories, came to Bradbury.

The subjects that engage Bradbury’s pen are many: magic, horror, and

monsters; rockets, robots, time and space travel; growing up in the Midwest town

in the 1920’s, and growing old in an abandoned Earth colony on another planet.

Despite their themes, his stories contain a sense of wonder, often a sense of

joy, and a lyrical and rhythimic touch that sets his work apart.

Using an analytical approach to such stories is to do a kind of violence to

them, but between the dream and the finished story is a considerable amount of

craftsmanship. The illustration of that craftsmanship, along with some

clarification of the writer’s themes, hopefully will enrich the reader’s

understanding and appreciation of one of the major artists in his feild.

The approach here is topical: the various collections of Bradbury’s

stories have been “taken apart”, and the stories regrouped and compared with

another in terms of elements and common themes.

Generally speaking, Bradbury’s handling of a given theme in am early

story is essentially the same. That is, his themes do not display a growth in

emotional depth or logical complexity as time goes on. Instead, Bradbury treats

his themes in what might be called a Baroque manner – changing the orientation,

emotional tone, or relative prominence of the theme from story to story. In a

way, this is like the variations on a theme in music. For example, “The Next

Line” and “The Life Work of Jaun Diaz” both center around the mummies in the

cemetery at Guanajauto in Mexico. The former is a horror story as well as a

psychological study of a marital relationship. The latter describes a very

different marital relationship and concludes on a note of whimsical irony. Both

stories may be compared in terms of the mummies or in larger context of

Bradbury’s visit to Mexico in 1945. But little understanding is added from a

critical standpoint in knowing that “The Next in Line” was published in 1947 and

“The Life Work of Jaun Diaz” in 1963. For the purpose of this study, then, the

order in which the stories were written or published has been largely ignored.

Readers wishing to pursue a chronological study of a given topic or topics will

want to consult the helpful chronolgy complied by William F. Nolan for the 1973

Doubleday & Co., Inc. education of The Martian Chronicles.

As a partical matter, consideration here is limited primarily to fiction

available to the general reader. Though this qualification includes the vast

bulk of Bradbury’s output, certain stories not included in the major collections,

as well as Bradbury’s nonfiction, are either not mentioned at all or briefly

mentioned where relevant. Bradbury’s poetry, screenplays, plays, and children’s

books are touched upon elsewhere.

I have referred above to Bradbury being one of the major artists in his

feild. It should be understood at the outset that there is a considerable amount

of confusion as to just what this feild is. The demands of the commercial

marketplace and the need to confine a popular writer and his within an easy

recognizable image have resulted in Bradbury’s being jammed uncomfortably into a

box labeled “Science Fiction”. No definition of science fiction exists that

pleases everybody, and even if it did, to apply it casually to the work of Ray

Brabdbury would be inaccurate and unfair. H.G. Wells, whom many regard as a

classical science fiction writer, had this to say about his own novels “They are

all fantasies; they do not aim to project a serious possibility; they aim indeed

only at the amount of conviction as one gets in a good gripping dream. They have

to hold the reader to the end by art and illusion and not by proof and argument,

and the moment he closes the cover the reflects he wakes up to their

impossibility.” Wells here is contrasting his stories with those of Jules Verne,

wich he calls, ‘anticipatory inventions.” Viewed this way, virtually all of

Bradbury’s stories are fantasies, with Wells’s concept of the “good gripping

dream” coming closest to describing their effect. Even today Ray Bradbury’s

place in literature is not clear.

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