Literature Study GuidesThe Illustrated Man

The Illustrated Man | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury

Year Published



Short Stories


Science Fiction

At a Glance

In a 1999 interview, American writer Ray Bradbury (1920–2012) described the purpose of fiction as "not to nail you to the ground as facts do, but to take you to the edge of the cliff and kick you off so you build your wings on the way down." The stories in The Illustrated Man reflect this philosophy. The tales range from dark fantasy to idealistic science fiction, from the macabre to the philosophical. But they all celebrate the power of stories to stir the imagination, and they defend the world of the imagination from the confining world of facts. Evaluated in scientific terms, the stories don't hold up: Mars does not have a breathable atmosphere, Venus is not a jungle-covered planet with interminable rain, and moving tattoos do not foretell future events. Instead, the stories act as modern fables and myths. They touch on such topics as the effects of technology on human families, the purpose of life, and the inevitability of death, inviting readers to ask, "What if ... ?" as Bradbury himself did when he set out to write them.

Perspective and Narrator

The frame stories ("Prologue: The Illustrated Man" and "Epilogue") are written in the first person by an unnamed narrator. Most of the stories in the collection are written in third-person point of view with varying degrees of omniscience, but they often focus on one's character's perspective. For example, one story, "The Rocket Man," is told in the first person by a young boy who has conflicted feelings about his father being away for his job in space.


The stories in The Illustrated Man are written in the past tense.

About the Title

The title The Illustrated Man is drawn from the frame stories, in which a man's body is covered in supernatural tattoo-like illustrations that foretell the future. Each story in the collection reflects one of the stories the unnamed narrator sees on the Illustrated Man's skin.


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