04.07.2019 in Literature

Ray Bradbury

The late Ray Bradbury was a celebrated author of fantasy stories specializing in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, mystery fiction and horror. Most of his literary works have been adapted into films, television shows and comic books. Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920, Bradbury spent his formative years here only after moving to Los Angeles, California in 1934. His grew up in extended family with care and companionship, he have been described as warm and loving, a factor which many literary experts concur that it instilled his high regard for family life and inter-personal relationship, often depicted in his stories. The serene life in Waukegan is said to have influenced his creation of Green Town that appears in some of his stories and that is depicted as being safe and homely as juxtaposed to other places in his stories that are full of menace.

By 1931, he had started writing stories for the Butcher Paper. After settling in California, Bradbury joined the Los Angeles High School where he was very active in the local drama club. In 1936, he joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society where he felt he could develop his interests in writing. He first submitted stories for publication in the magazine Weird Tales but they were rejected. Many of his other works were also rejected. The Mademoiselle magazine published his story Homecoming which went ahead to win the coveted O. Henry Prize Stories in 1947. After the break, Bradbury wrote many fiction stories for the next 50 years, becoming one of the most prolific and celebrated American authors of all time. Besides fiction, Bradbury wrote extensively on arts and culture.

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Both his fiction and non-fiction works stood out in their call against letting developments in science and technology replace human values which he held so dear. The author died on June 5, 2012; he has four daughters Susan, Bettina, Ramona and Alexandra. His wife, Marguerite McClure, had passed on in 2003. Throughout his life, Bradbury was a familyman and maintained a knit of very close friends that mirrored his stories on the value of inter-personal relationship. Bradbury wishes to draw parallels between science and fantasy. One story in which he puts across his take on technology is The Veldt.

By using the characters Peter and Wendy who allude to the Scottish novelist J. M. Barrie’s characters Peter Pan and Wendy Moira Darling who live in the magical, illusional island of Neverland, Bradbury exposes his fear that one day, the easy life brought about by technology will make the world we live, in like Neverland where men can fly, like Peter Pan, and never age. The story depicts a family whose lives do not differ much from the lives of Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. The family members, Peter, Wendy, father George and mother Lydia, who live in an automated house aptly referred to as “The Happylife Home” in which machines carry out all domestic chores, clothe and feed seemingly have the lives that any human being would dream of. The major invention in the Happylife Home, however, is the nursery, a room that connects the children with any place they imagine via telepathy. Ideally, the nursery enables Peter and Pan to travel to any place of their choice without moving anywhere. The parents are greatly bothered by the fact that the children seem to relish a scene from Africa where lions are devouring the remains of an animal.

Bothered that the children seem to enjoy such a horrid scene of death, the parents call a psychologist who suggests that the children should be moved away from the Happylife Home and taught to be self-sufficient. It is then that the children realize that they cannot do without the nursery and plead with their parents to let them into the nursery one last time. Once inside, they do not hesitate to choose the nursery over their parents and lock them in from the outside and let the lions upon them. It is only then that parents realize that the scene created by the children in the virtual reality nursery was of them being devoured by the lions and not carcasses of some animal as they had initially thought. Bradbury’s recurrent theme of science taking over human social roles is prominent in the story. In the Happylife home, tasks and chores which would have brought the family together are taken over by machines.

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If, for instance Gorge and Lydia had clothed and rocked over Peter and Wendy to sleep, a bond would have been created between them and the children. Instead, they let machines do that for them making the children bond with the machines instead. In the end, the children chose to do away with their parents rather than move from the nursery. To them the latter is of greater importance than the former. At the same time, it is important to note that when the minds of the children are idle, owing to the fact they do nothing on their own, their minds conjure up scenes of violence and death. The comforts brought about by technology are portrayed as a source of anti-social behavior. The Marionettes Inc on the other hand tells of Smith and Braling, two middle-aged men trapped in loveless marriages but fearing the uncertainties that come with change, opt to endure the situation.

Smith is therefore quite interested when he learns from Braling about “marionettes” manufactured by Marionettes, Inc., which are robotic duplicates of a person. Braling tells Smith how he has been able to escape from marital prison by leaving a marionette at home to take his place while he pursues personal interests elsewhere. Smith then decides to get a marionette to replace him. Trouble however occurs when the marionette at Braling’s home shows passion to his wife and effectively resists Blaring’s efforts to eject him (the marionette) from his home ideally deposing him. Smith also faces similar problems with his duplicate. In the story, Bradbury warns the society on over-reliance on technology to solve their social problems as the machines may end up substituting man and even eliminating their makers.

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