A Sound of Thunder
The sign on the wall seemed to quaver under a film of sliding warm water. Eckels felt his
eyelids blink over his stare, and the sign burned in this momentary darkness:
TIME SAFARI, INC.
SAFARIS TO ANY YEAR IN THE PAST.
YOU NAME THE ANIMAL.
WE TAKE YOU THERE.
YOU SHOOT IT.
Warm phlegm gathered in Eckels’ throat; he swallowed and pushed it down. The muscles
around his mouth formed a smile as he put his hand slowly out upon the air, and in that hand
waved a check for ten thousand dollars to the man behind the desk.
“Does this safari guarantee I come back alive?”
“We guarantee nothing,” said the official, “except the dinosaurs.” He turned. “This is Mr.
Travis, your Safari Guide in the Past. He’ll tell you what and where to shoot. If he says no
shooting, no shooting. If you disobey instructions, there’s a stiff penalty of another ten
thousand dollars, plus possible government action, on your return.”
Eckels glanced across the vast office at a mass and tangle, a snaking and humming of wires
and steel boxes, at an aurora that flickered now orange, now silver, now blue. There was a
sound like a gigantic bonfire burning all of Time, all the years and all the parchment
calendars, all the hours piled high and set aflame.
A touch of the hand and this burning would, on the instant, beautifully reverse itself. Eckels
remembered the wording in the advertisements to the letter. Out of chars and ashes, out of
dust and coals, like golden salamanders, the old years, the green years, might leap; roses
sweeten the air, white hair turn Irish-black, wrinkles vanish; all, everything fly back to seed,
flee death, rush down to their beginnings, suns rise in western skies and set in glorious easts,
moons eat themselves opposite to the custom, all and everything cupping one in another like
Chinese boxes, rabbits into hats, all and everything returning to the fresh death, the seed
death, the green death, to the time before the beginning. A touch of a hand might do it, the
merest touch of a hand.
“Unbelievable.” Eckels breathed, the light of the Machine on his thin face. “A real Time
Machine.” He shook his head. “Makes you think, If the election had gone badly yesterday, I
might be here now running away from the results. Thank God Keith won. He’ll make a fine
President of the United States.”
“Yes,” said the man behind the desk. “We’re lucky. If Deutscher had gotten in, we’d have the
worst kind of dictatorship. There’s an anti everything man for you, a militarist, anti-Christ,
anti-human, anti-intellectual. People called us up, you know, joking but
The Physics of Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder”
In Ray Bradbury’s vision, reality was a fabric so delicate that the crushing of a butterfly could ripple up through 65 million years to change the results of an election.
Bradbury painted that scenario in his 1952 story, “A Sound of Thunder.” The butterfly was victim of a misstep by a big game hunter who travelled back in time to pursue the thundering prize known as tyrannosaurus Rex.
The dinosaur had been fated to die, but the insect’s untimely demise had haunting consequences that confronted the hunter upon his return to his departure date of 2055. Not only did he learn that a more dictatorial candidate had won a recent election, but nothing was quite the same, including written English. A sign read: SEFARIS TU ANY YEER EN THE PAST. YU NAIM THE ANIMALL. WEE TAEK YU THAIR.YU SHOOT ITT.
When Bradbury died this month at the age of 91, more than half the time had elapsed between the writing of the story and the futuristic date in which it was set. In the intervening 60 years, physicists have reconsidered our understanding of time and the plausibility of Bradbury’s classic tale.
“The story is interesting because of the whole concept of changing history, and that tiny change in the past could have enormous repercussions in the future,” said physicist
Paul Halpern, who discusses the story in a Nature of Time class he teaches at the University of the Sciences.
“This idea that reality is so fragile and just a very slight tweak will lead to big differences—that’s connected to chaos theory,” said Halpern, whose newest book “The Edge of the Universe” is coming out this fall.
The term, “The Butterfly Effect” is often connected to Bradbury’s story, Halpern said, but the phrase originated with meteorologist Edward Lorenz, who proposed in the 1960s that the beat of a butterfly’s wings on one side of the world would eventually cause a storm on the other. This was meant to illustrate chaos theory and the impossibility of predicting the weather more than a few days or weeks in advance.
Chaos theory is well accepted in scientific circles, at least when time goes the expected direction, but in the Bradbury story, time travel led to two contradictory versions of reality following the butterfly’s death.
Physicists disagree on whether someone travelling into the past could have any impact on the unfolding of events, said Halpern. “A lot of physicists say there has to be some self-consistency.” Like other time travel tales, Thunder raises some se
Miami Dade College, West
ENC1102 English Composition 2
Questions on Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder”
1. Who are the main characters in the story?
2. What is the setting? (
Time and place)
3. What type of narrative is used in the story?
4. What was
Time Safari, Inc.?
5. What would happen to Eckels if he disobeyed instructions?
6. Is the reference to the result of the presidential election (p 1, paragraph 8, 9) an instance of foreshadowing? Explain.
7. Why was
Time Safari Inc. so concerned with not disturbing the Past?
8. What is the theme/purpose of the story?
9. Is this a science fiction story? Explain.
10. Is it also a horror story? Explain.