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World War II debris in 1950s American science fiction literature: Postwar representations of totalitarianism in Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder

World War II debris in 1950s American science fiction literature: Postwar representations of totalitarianism in Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder

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Published by Leila Evaristo
Desenvolvido durante a graduação em Letras – Inglês na UFSC entre 2007 e 2011.
Obs: Alguns dos meus arquivos podem não ter sido devidamente revisados, podendo conter um ou outro erro gramatical ou ortográfico.
Desenvolvido durante a graduação em Letras – Inglês na UFSC entre 2007 e 2011.
Obs: Alguns dos meus arquivos podem não ter sido devidamente revisados, podendo conter um ou outro erro gramatical ou ortográfico.

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Published by: Leila Evaristo on Oct 03, 2012
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Leila Cristina EvaristoProfessor Anelise Reich CorseuilLLE 7422 Literatura Norte Americana II18 November 2009World War II debris in 1950s American science fiction literature: Postwar representations of totalitarianism in Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder In spite of it was over, the ghosts of World War II were still haunting 1950s Americanwriters.
 A Sound of Thunder 
brings the horror of the war to the surface, seven years after its end, by presenting a way of accidentally destroying a democracy by crushing a butterfly. A journey of four men who travel back in a time when “… The Pyramids are still in the earth, waiting to be cutout and put up. … Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler – none of them exists. …” (Bradbury 4,5)will change the history of civilization, and the United States will be no longer a country of freedomand democracy.
 A Sound of Thunder 
is a short story written by the American science fiction writer RayBradbury and first published in 1952 in Collier’s magazine (Clareson, 113). The story is set in2055 – a time when journeys back in time have become profitable business for companies likeTime Safari, Inc. which offers trips sixty million years back in history so their clients can shootreal dinosaurs. Eckels is one of their clients, and he pays the amount of ten thousand dollars inadvance to come aboard of a time machine and hunt the most unique prey of his life: aTyrannosaurus Rex. Apart from his interest in hunting dinosaurs, Eckels is also concerned about politics. On the previous day, the presidential election results in the United States were announced,
 
Orenstein 2and Eckels was relieved that the country was free from the menace of a dictatorship era that would be headed by the new president’s opponent.After World War II, countries like Germany, England, and Japan were deeply damaged dueto the brutalities of war. On the other hand, The United States was economically benefited since itsindustry had achieved a huge growth during World War II. Besides, American troops were spreadall over, and European countries and Japan owed the United States great sums of money. Alongwith the United States, the USSR was the nation which held more economic power once the WorldWar II was over. Despite the USSR had been invaded by the German army during war, it was ableto retaliate the Nazi and take some German territories over. This outcome contributed to putEastern Europe under the influence of the USSR. The tension between the two remaining world power nations in the postwar period yielded another conflict known as Cold War (Blair et al. 244-246). Among economic and technological influences, this period also had and impact uponAmerican art and literature.According to Bercovitch and Patell
,
“As America entered an era of prosperity andinternational dominance, American artists and writers grew pessimistic and introspective, liketroubled prophets brooding darkly at the banquet of national celebration” (135). In
 A Sound of Thunder 
, this feature is evident. At the beginning, people are glad that democracy was assured withthe election of the new president. His defeat would represent years of “the worst kind of dictatorship” (Bradbury 32). But following a pessimistic view, Bradbury presents a situation that isvery likely to disturb the apparent equilibrium. As soon as they get sixty million two thousand andfifty-five years back in time, Eckels is warned not to touch anything neither to go off a path whichwas especially designed to avoid interference with that world. As Knuuttila suggests, the time-travel rule in Bradbury’s shot story “somewhat resembles the promises and prohibitions of myths
 
Orenstein 3and fairy tales: everything is permitted but […] do not interfere in the course of events regardlessof what you see or what might happen” (267). Knuuttila also points out that this kind of text onlyexists because someone has attained to break these rules. And that is exactly what happens. Eckelssteps out of the Path.The consequences of accidentally killing even a small animal could be cataclysmic. Thesafari guide – Travis – presents a reasoned discourse about how a slight event could trigger other events that could culminate in a world disaster, as follows:… “say we accidentally kill one mouse here. That means all the future families of this one particular mouse are destroyed, right? … And all the families of thefamilies of the families of that one mouse! With a stamp of your foot, youannihilate first one, then a dozen, then a thousand, a million, a billion possiblemice! … what about the foxes that’ll need those mice to survive? For want of tenmice, a fox dies. For want of ten foxes a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos anddestruction. … fifty-nine million years later, a caveman, one of a dozen on theentire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend,have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. Sothe caveman starves. And the caveman, please note, is not just any expendable man,no! He is an entire future nation. … With the death of that one caveman, a billionothers yet unborn are throttled in the womb. … So be careful. Stay on the Path. Never step off!” (Bradbury 34,35)And what could be a greater disaster than changing the results of the present-time presidentialelection? In a time when Americans were living the American dream of freedom and democracy,

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