The Illustrated Man | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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The Illustrated Man | Character Analysis

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Narrator of "Prologue: The Illustrated Man" and "Epilogue"

The narrator of the frame story appears in "Prologue: The Illustrated Man" and "Epilogue," as well as in a few snippets of connective description that help readers understand that the narrator sees new stories as the Illustrated Man changes positions. As the narrator watches the stories play out, readers read them, and the characters and settings come to life. The narrator, then, is like the readers. This enhances the sense that the collection is commenting on some essential aspect of storytelling or narrative.

The Illustrated Man

The collection features two Illustrated Men—one in the frame story, found in "Prologue: The Illustrated Man" and "Epilogue," and one in the story "The Illustrated Man." Both have pictures on their bodies that tell stories and, according to the artist who made them, show the future. In the frame story, which sets the collection's tone, the Illustrated Man hates his Illustrations. They inspire dread and terror in people, and no one can bear to be around him. Because of this, he has become transient, moving from carnival job to carnival job. He is a victim of the Illustrations. However, he also may be a perpetrator of violence. His final Illustration shows him killing the narrator. Since the narrator runs away, however, readers never find out if the Illustrated Man is indeed a killer. In the latter story, the Illustrated Man is named William Philippus Phelps. One of his Illustrations shows him killing his wife, which he later does, and which leads to his own death, also shown on his body.

George Hadley

George Hadley is one of the parents in "The Veldt." He spoils his children by giving them a fully automated home and no responsibilities. The children are used to getting their way, so when George tries to exert his parental authority, they resent his efforts. George is proud that he gave his children the best nursery money could buy and gave his wife the most modern conveniences. But this will come at a cost. George's situation demonstrates both the benefits and drawbacks of technology. Even after he realizes the nursery is dangerous, he allows his spoiled children to play there one more time. This is a big mistake.

Lydia Hadley

Lydia Hadley is one of the parents in "The Veldt." She begins to feel uncomfortable in the children's nursery when it continually shows an African veldt, or plain. Her concern drives her husband, George, to lock up the nursery, which enrages their children. But Lydia's problems don't start with her spoiled children. They start with the fully automated home her well-meaning husband has provided for the family: a home that cooks, cleans, and even rocks the family to sleep. All this convenience and ease gives Lydia a sense that life is meaningless, pointing out the dangers of technology.

Hollis

In "Kaleidoscope," Hollis and others in his crew are left drifting in space after their rocket explodes. They're wearing spacesuits but have no propulsion. At first Hollis is calm and collected, even as meteors destroy his hand and foot and his death nears. But then the shock of the situation wears off, and Hollis must confront his feelings. Hollis is struck first by the universality of death. He and his crewmates have lived different lives, but they all come to the same fate. However, after a time he begins to realize that how one lives life determines how one faces death. Those who live full lives face death without regret. Hollis feels as though he never fully lived, so he goes to his death with regrets.

Mrs. Morris

Mrs. Morris is a middle-class mother in the story "Zero Hour." She has a home full of modern conveniences and fixes meals for her family as her seven-year-old daughter, Mink, plays happily outside with neighbors. But the children are facilitating an alien invasion right under her nose. Mrs. Morris is a rational woman who doesn't believe in such things as alien invasions, so she dismisses her daughter's talk as just play. However, subconsciously she knows something is wrong. By the time she faces the truth, it's too late.

Saul Williams

In "The Visitor," Saul Williams has an infectious disease called the "blood rust," so he has been exiled on Mars with others dying of the same disease. He misses Earth desperately and tries to imagine it, but this becomes increasingly difficult. When Leonard Mark arrives on Mars, he gives Saul the experience of remembering and imagining Earth. Saul becomes possessive of this ability, and his possessiveness ultimately works against him, beginning a series of events that end in Leonard's death. Then Saul is left without memory or imagination once again.

Doug

In "The Rocket Man," Doug idolizes his father, who has a glamorous job as a rocket pilot. He wants to follow in his father's footsteps. But Doug also feels for his mother, who is anguished during her husband's long trips. Doug notices his mother's unhappiness through her body language, tone of voice, and emotional state. His emotional conflict adds to the tragedy of his father's death.

Edgar Allan Poe

In "The Exiles," authors of banned books are drawn back from death to live on Mars. These authors, all of whom wrote about magical and supernatural worlds, include the real-life author Edgar Allan Poe. When a group of Earth men arrive on Mars, Poe brings his nightmarish creations to life to combat them. Poe (1809–49) was an iconic author of horror fiction who has influenced generations of horror, speculative fiction, and fantasy writers. In this story Poe appears as an intelligent, enthusiastic defender not only of his own creations but also of the community of exiles.

Hitchcock

In "No Particular Night or Morning," Hitchcock declares that he doesn't believe in Earth because he can't see or feel it. He also says he doesn't believe his own memories because they can't be sensed, only remembered. Even when others reason with him, explaining that his position is untenable, he persists. Hitchcock takes a seemingly logical view of the world. He wants proof of what he can't see. But what he will accept as proof is limited to what he himself can sense. Ray Bradbury critiques this position by taking it to an extreme. Hitchcock eventually drives himself insane and ends his own life.

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