Saturday, August 3, 2013

Memorable Moments: The Illustrated Man - 'Make a wish! Make a wish!'

Adam C. Zern sounds off on an unforgettable moment in Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man:

"Ray Bradbury's collection of short stories, cleverly organized as The Illustrated Man, has one story—Kaleidoscope—and one scene in particular I will never forget.  After beginning with an accident in space, several astronauts are hurled in various directions through the cold expanse of space.  Some scream in terror, others lash out in anger, others timidly fade away.  The striking visual of helpless human beings floating through the gravity-less vacuum of space was brought back to my attention recently when I watched the trailer for the film Gravity.  

During the course of the short story, the reader follows one character in particular, Hollis.  As he is flung toward earth he reflects upon his life and wonders to himself: 'What can I do?  Is there anything I can do now to make up for a terrible and empty life?  If only I could do one good thing to make up for the meanness I collected all these years and didn't even know was in me!'

The reader understands the space traveler's inevitable destination, to be burned alive in the earth's atmosphere.  As Hollis nears the atmosphere he has a final hope and wishes 'he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about.'  The narrative shifts perspective and the reader hears a conversation between a parent and child in which the child shouts in delight: 'Look, Mom, look!  A falling star!'  The parent gives the obvious and most appropriate advice to a believing child.  'Make a wish,' said his mother, 'Make a wish.'  And perhaps the astronaut has done some good after all.

 This short story and that moment specifically is one of the most touching narrative moments I've ever read.  It has stayed with me for years, and I'll never look at a shooting start the same way again."

Other Topics of Interest:
Memorable Moments: Ender's Game - Terrible Reality
Ray Bradbury and Me
Reflections: Dandelion Wine

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