A Sound of Thunder Essay Example



Suspense is used in all forms of storytelling and entertainment, It shapes a story and can give an element of real life and depth to a narrative. Without suspense, writing seems bland and without purpose, like a children’s book that simply lists letters or words with no point then to absorb basic information. In the short story “A Sound of Thunder”, Ray Bradbury uses many examples of suspense and effectively creates a feeling of uneasiness in the reader. He uses emphasis on words, detail and description, repetition,  point of view, and cliffhangers. 

Though an author can create suspense in many ways, each person’s writing style is unique so how does Bradbury use these strategies to create suspense effectively?

“A Tyrannosaurus rex”, “Don’t go off for any reason.”, “He is an entire future nation.”, “never step off!” and “It sees us!” are all examples of Bradbury using emphasis. He uses italic font to call attention to the words and really make them stand out. Before someone even reads the text, just looking at the way the words are written, they stand out, they are bold, and catch the reader’s eyes, in other words, emphasized. This makes a “bookmark” in people's brains, they will spend a long time thinking about the phrase or word, they may read internally in a different voice or manner, and it shows that this next line will be important, unsettling, or worth thinking about. 

Another way Bradbury creates suspense by using detail and description to describe the scene. The line “Eckles felt his eyelids blink over his stare, and the sign burned in this momentary darkness.” elongates the worry and uneasiness for what the sign says instead of just stating a line such as “He couldn't believe what the sign said!”. The description sends shivers down a reader’s spine and makes a person want to know more. Much like baiting a fish, and when they are hooked, surprising them. Like the slow build up from when they got back and the worry of what else is wrong besides the different speech that Eckles was afraid of. No matter how shocking the next move may be, it always adds more suspense and thrill when they reach the end. Food tastes better when a person is hungry even if it's the same food, it so making a reader wait makes the conclusion or what you are leading up can seem complete and exaggerated.

Though repetition can be annoying, if done correctly it can guide a reader's attention and really make someone think. Like “Stay on the path” the more the phrase or idea reoccurs the more likely it is viewed as important. Similar to reminders, the more someone tells a person to do something more than once the more urgent and noteworthy it appears. A person does not even need to repeat the same phrase, repeating an idea or many ideas is effective as well, like the repeated idea of none knows what would happen if they stepped off the path shows that something will happen later in the story. This strategy advertises moving forward in the story. Even the continuous counting up and down through the years leaves the reader feeling similar to the character and builds anxiety for what will happen when the countdown is over, each time having more of a thrill.

Much like the count down, putting people in the mindset of the main character is sure to build anticipation. Going back in time, being sure to not mess up, killing a dinosaur, are all scary ideas and a person may find it hard to imagine that but instead of putting the reader themselves into the story, Bradbury puts the reader in the mindset of his own character. He writes Eccles to ask the same questions that the person reading may ask and describes realistic scenes and emotions, giving a bond between the character and the person experiencing the story.

So when Eckeles reacts saying “nightmare.” or the line “it sees us.” instead of a neutral connection to the character themselves, the reader feels the same fear, the same worry, and anticipation of what will happen, they feel empathy. The reader might question what they would do in this situation, and read on to hear the conclusion.

Lastly, Bradbury wrote a cliffhanger at the end of his story. Just because it is the end it does not mean the reader must feel complete. Using detail and build up with no satisfying conclusion can be worth remembering if done right. A story that remains unended leaves a person to wonder how the story might end, “There was a sound of thunder.” could mean so many things, it could mean Eckles was shot: Travis had threatened to do it and a sound of thunder is the same sound as a gun, the dinosaur was outside: the repeated sound they heard around the T-rex, there was war outside because of the new president, and the reader will desperately want to know, but alas they won't.

 An unfinished story may pop into a person's mind from time to time and can feel like a permanent suspense build up. The reader will remember after the story is done, and it adds meaning to the point of writing. Bradbury does not check off these strategies one by one though, he intertwines them. The long descriptions can become more agonizing and terror filled with the use of emphasis, repetition, and point of view. The writing feels fluent and the reader can relate to the character in a way where the other sections matter. The styles blend together and the descriptions leave the reader hungry for more.

Though it can be disappointing it is much more interesting to end with suspense, it was a key point in Bradbury’s writing and ended with the same amount of worry and anticipation a reader feels throughout. It makes critical thinking come naturally and has a different tone to most other books. All the build-up and mental notes a person experienced throughout the narrative all conclude but the story is never really over. The world inside the words feels real, again leading the reader to feel connected to the storyline. One can not function without the other, Bradbury effectively makes the story interesting and fluent by mixing many strategies of suspense writing, answering the initial questions, revealing foreshadowing, but leaves the world open-ended actually making it more interesting than a simple conclusion.