The Illustrated Man

The Illustrated Man

Infobox Book
name = The Illustrated Man
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Dust-jacket from the first edition
author = Ray Bradbury
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction short stories
publisher = Doubleday & Company
release_date = 1951
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback)
pages = 256 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Illustrated Man" is a 1951 book of eighteen science fiction short stories by Ray Bradbury that explores the nature of humankind. While none of the stories have a plot or character connection with the next, a recurring theme is the conflict of the cold mechanics of technology and the psychology of people.

The unrelated stories are tied together by the frame device of "the Illustrated Man", a vagrant with a tattooed body whom the unnamed narrator meets. The man's tattoos, allegedly created by a woman from the future, are animated and each tell a different tale. All but one of the stories have been previously published elsewhere, although Bradbury revised some of the texts for the book's publication.

The concept of the Illustrated Man would later be reused by Bradbury as an antagonistic character in "Something Wicked This Way Comes", the tattoos coming to represent the souls of sinful victims of a mysterious carnival.

The book was made into a 1969 film starring Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom. It was adapted by Howard B. Kreitsek from the stories "The Veldt", "The Long Rain", and "The Last Night of the World", and directed by Jack Smight.

A number of the stories, including "The Veldt", "The Fox and the Forest" (as "To the Future"), "Marionettes Inc.", and "Zero Hour" were dramatized for the 1955-57 radio series "X minus 1."

Plot summary

*"The Veldt" — Two parents use an artificial "nursery" to keep their children happy. The children use the high-tech simulation nursery to create the predatorial environment of an African veldt. When the parents threaten to take it away, the children lock their parents inside where they are mauled and killed by the "harmless" machine-generated lions of the nursery.

*"Kaleidoscope" — A bitter astronaut feels he has accomplished nothing worthwhile in his life as he and the rest of his crew fall irrevocably to their demise in outer space because of a malfunction in their ship. The story illustrates the collapse of the sanity and logic of the crew members as they face their death. Ultimately, the lamenting narrator is incinerated in the atmosphere of the Earth and appears as a shooting star to a child after wishing that his life would at least be worth something for someone else.

*"The Other Foot" — Mars has been colonized solely by black people. When they learn that a rocket is coming from Earth with white travelers, they institute a Jim Crow system of racial segregation in which white people are to be considered second-class citizens, in retaliation for the history of wrongs perpetrated on their race by white people. When the rocket lands, the traveler tells them that most of the Earth has been destroyed in a war and asks for their help. The people realize that discrimination is harmful in all its forms, and reverse their planned segregation.

*"The Highway" — A community of simple-minded people living by a highway in rural Mexico go on living their normal, idyllic lives as the highway fills with people fleeing a nuclear war. The story ends with some travellers they help telling them about the nuclear war, and how the world is ending. After the travelers leave, the confused resident briefly wonders what "the world" is, and then continues with his life.

*"The Man" — A group of space explorers land on a planet to find the population living in a healthy state of bliss. Upon investigation, they discover that an enigmatic visitor came to them. Further description leads the two spacemen to believe that this man is Jesus (though he is never named, leaving room for other religious personas). One decides to spend the rest of his days on the planet, living and rejoicing in the wake of the man's glory. The other continues in his spaceship, "chasing 'him' always a step behind, never fast enough to catch up to him, constantly trying to achieve the unachievable." Other members of the crew decide to stay on the planet to learn from the contented citizens, and are rewarded by the discovery that "he" is still on the planet.

*"The Long Rain" — A group of astronauts are stranded on Venus, where it rains continually and heavily. The travelers make their way across the Venusian landscape to find a "sun dome", a shelter with a large artificial light source. However, the first sun dome they find has been destroyed by the Venusians. Searching for another sun dome, the characters, one by one, are driven to madness and suicide by the unrelenting rhythm of the rain. At the end of the story, only one sane astronaut remains, and manages to find a functional sun dome.

*"The Rocket Man" — An astronaut's job keeps him away from home for long stretches of time, so he has little time with his wife and son, only visiting them for a period of three days at a time. The story is told from the perspective of the son, who holds an interest in becoming an astronaut too. However, his father explains to him that while the stars are beautiful, what he really wants is being with his family. Sensing that his wife is unhappy with him being at home so little, the father makes a promise to the son that he will be quitting his job after his next mission to spend more time with them. At the end of the story, the son and his mother learn that his ship fell into the sun, and from then on, they do not venture outside during the day in remembrance of him.

*"The Fire Balloons" — A priest travels to Mars to act as a missionary to Martians. Once there, he discovers that the natives are actually entities of pure energy. Since they lack corporeal form, they are unable to commit sin, and thus do not need redemption. Another message Bradbury conveys through this short story is that the vision of God is the same as that of his worshippers.

*"The Last Night of the World" — In this story, the entire planet awakens to the knowledge that the world is going to end that very evening. Nonetheless, they go through their normal routines of going to work, eating, brushing their teeth, and falling asleep, knowing and accepting the fact that they will not wake up. This is in strong contrast to the looting and riots typically expected in this situation.

*"The Exiles" — Numerous works of literature are banned and burned on Earth. The fictional characters of these books are portrayed as real-life entities who live in a refuge on Mars. However, they are vulnerable, as when all the books on a character are destroyed, the character itself vanishes permanently. When the group of characters learn that some people are coming for them, they stage a counterattack, but are foiled by the astronauts who burn the last remaining books from Earth, unknowingly annihilating the entire colony.

*"No Particular Night or Morning" — Two men are having a discussion about how empty and cold space is. The first man is a little bit insane and keeps asking questions about how there is nothing sure in space and there is no night or morning. He refuses to believe anything about reality without sufficient evidence and soon becomes skeptical of everything he cannot directly experience. The second man is wandering about the ship when he learns that someone has left the ship, and it is the first man. The first man is still talking to himself and has killed himself by letting himself fly freely through space.

*"The Fox and the Forest" — A couple from the future tires of the war in their modern lives, so they go on a vacation to the more serene past in an attempt to escape with the help of a company called "Travel in Time, Inc." They go to Mexico in 1938, but are pursued by a government agent who forces them to come back to 2155.

*"The Visitor" — This story takes place on Mars, which is used as a quarantine for people with deadly illnesses. One day, the planet is visited by a young man of eighteen who has the ability to perform thought transference and telepathy. The exiles on the planet are thrilled with his ability and a violent fight breaks out over who will get to spend the most time with their visitor. In the struggle, the young man is killed and the escape he provided is lost forever. Because of the man's abilities, it is possible that he caused the men to hallucinate his injury, or even the entire struggle, and escaped when they believed him to be dead. The facts that he encouraged the fighting and seemed calm and amused throughout the story points to this outcome. Regardless, he is dead to the people of Mars.

*"The Concrete Mixer" - A reluctant Martian soldier is forced to join the army as they prepare to invade Earth. However, when they arrive, they are welcomed by a world at peace, full of people who are curious rather than aggressive. The protagonist meets a movie director, and it becomes clear that the people of Earth have planned to exploit the Martians for financial gain. He tries to escape back to Mars, but is run over by a car and killed.

*"Marionettes, Inc."-A man attempts to escape his marriage by replacing himself with a robot to fool his wife into thinking he hasn't left and tells a friend about it. The man comes back and tells the robot to go back into the box, and the robot disobeys him saying he has fallen in love with the wife. The robot then proceeds to put the man in the box and goes to visit the wife. Later, the friend discovers that his wife has left and that he has been living with a robot version of her.

*"The City" — A rocket expedition from Earth lands on an uncharted planet to be greeted by a seemingly empty City. As the humans begin to explore, they realize that the City is not as empty as it seems. The City was waiting for the arrival of humans; the contingency plan of a long dead civilization, put in place to take revenge upon Humanity after their culture was wiped out with biological weapons by humans long before recorded history. Once the City captures and kills the human astronauts, the humans' corpses are used as automatons to finalize The City's creators' revenge; a biological attack on the Earth.

*"Zero Hour" — Children across the country are deeply involved in an exciting game they call 'Invasion'. Their parents think it's cute until it turns out that the invasion is real and aliens are using the children to help them get control of Earth.

*"The Rocket" — Fiorello Bodoni, a poor junkyard owner, has managed to save $3,000 to fulfill his lifelong dream of sending one member of his family on a trip to outer space. The family, however, finds it impossible to choose who will go because those left behind will inevitably envy the chosen one for the rest of their lives. Bodoni instead uses the money to build a replica rocket from an old mock-up, and sets up a 3D theater inside the cabin and convinces the children they are actually going through space.

Differences in editions

The British edition, first published in 1952 by Hart-Davis omits the "The Rocket Man", "The Fire Balloons", "The Exiles" and "The Concrete Mixer", and adds "Usher II" and "The Playground".

Film adaptations

1969 film

A film adaptation of "The Illustrated Man" was released in 1969. It was directed by Jack Smight and starred Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom, and others, including Don Dubbins.

Future film

Director Zack Snyder will begin shooting a film adaptation after he completes "Watchmen", which is slated for release in 2009. Screenplay writer Alex Tse will write the script, who also wrote the screenplay for "Watchmen". It is unknown which stories will be adapted.

References in popular culture

* The song "Rocket Man" by Elton John and Bernie Taupin was inspired by the short story "The Rocket Man".
* Similarly, the band Pearls Before Swine had a song by the same title of the book's "The Rocket Man".
* Australian band Holocene's song "Rocket" was inspired by "The Long Rain" story from the 1969 film version of "The Illustrated Man".


*cite book | last=Tuck | first=Donald H. | authorlink=Donald H. Tuck | title=The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy | location=Chicago | publisher=Advent | pages=62 | date=1974|id=ISBN 0-911682-20-1

External links

*imdb title|id=0064473|title=The Illustrated Man (1969)
*imdb title|id=1094667|title=The Illustrated Man (TBA)

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