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Ray Bradbury Essay, Research Paper
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
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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