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The Illustrated Man

An analysis of the short story by Ray Bradbury. (2015)

Alexa Downing

on 5 March 2015

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Transcript of The Illustrated Man

Execution of Major Turning Points
The Illustrated Man
General Overview
Key Characters
The tattoo artist
William Phelps
Setting: A small town in rural Wisconsin, a Carnival
Theme: The impact of knowing the future on the present
Plot: Media Res, Traditional plot structure
Conflict: External, "Man v. Fate"
Antagonist: The idea of the future, The "senseless" woman.
Point of View: 3rd Person omniscient
Writing Style
In summary, Ray Bradbury's short story "The Illustrated Man" contains a large amount of literary devices, including symbolism, diction, syntax, and metaphor. The Theme of the story is ultimately the dangerous knowledge of the future.
There are four major turning points in the novel, executed flawlessly by Bradbury to provide the reader with a suspenseful and enjoyable experience. All of these elements connect to illustrate the story's main theme of fate.
By Ray Bradbury
Literary Elements & Connections
The Graph - Identifying Major turning points
A short story needs:
Intriguing plot - not too long or short
Points of intrest
Subtle clues left for the reader
Setting up the story
Phelp's encounter with the sensless woman
The Great Unveiling
Lisabeth's Death
Phelps' Legacy revealed
Phelps' Encounter with the "Senseless" woman
In the story...
Phelps hears about the "senseless" woman
He visits her and she convinces him she has been expecting him
She tells him she is going to give him "special pictures" of the future
Lisabeth calls Phelps "dumb and fat."
On the same day Phelps is fired, and re-hired to become the next tattooed man
With the use of a flashback, the reader gets some insight on the story of the previous tattooed man.
This leads to the "senseless" tattoo artist
Change of pace from fast to slow
Clue: "You will be the only
illustrated man in the universe. I will give you pictures you will never forget"
Dialogue reflects the setting of a rural town in the U.S., most likely in the south.
ex. "It ain't the money, Phil. For that matter, once the word got around, hundreds of people wanted in. But I'm runnin' a clean show."-p. 389
Word choice
Descriptive, but not too "flowery"
Themes of story shown in a more symbolic/metaphorical way than with heavy wording
ex. "The tent whirled like a monster bat wing, flapping grotesquely."-p. 388
Sentences switch between long and descriptive, and short and dramatic.
ex. "His great flowered hands were upon her throat, and her face was turning dark and he killed her and he killed her and did not ever in the next minute stop killing her. It was real."-p. 388
Sentences are also fluid, both on their own and with preceding/following sentences.
Overview of Symbolism
The Tattoo Artist
Represents time, fate, and other things that aren't controlled by people.
Represents the effect of time and fate on people.
Represents the ugly side of human nature
Overview of Symbolism (cont.)
The rose tattoos
These are mentioned throughout the whole of the short story.
Could represent how Phelps was before he started deteriorating
The first prophecy-like tattoo
Represents his fate
Self fulfilling prophecy
Could have caused his fate
The second prophecy-like tattoo
While it depicts his fate, it represents his legacy.
The only thing Phelps would be remembered for would be having many tattoos and killing his wife.
Lisabeth's Death - Climax
In the story...
First is the Great Unveiling
Phelps sees the picture for the first time and faint
Phelps considers the situation while lying in bed
“He could almost feel that little evil picture killing and killing and killing all through the night. I don’t wish to kill her, he thought, insistently, looking over at her bed. And then, five minutes later, he whispered aloud: ‘Or do I?’” (pg. 389)
Phelps tries to get the tattoo removed with no luck
Phelps is told to "take a knife to his chest" in order to get rid of the tattoo
Phelps and Lisabeth get into a fight over the tattoo
Lisabeth admits to hating Phelps
Phelps once again considers killing Lisabeth
“And he thought: Or did I know? Who made this picture, me or the witch? Who formed it? How? Do I really want her dead? No! And yet…”
Phelps kills Lisabeth
Bradbury seems to seems to portray the carnival as a sinister and surreal place as a reflection of his childhood experiences
Attended traveling circuses with brothers
ex. "Mr. William Philippus Phelps leered down from his freak platform with a thousand peacock eyes. Across the sawdust meadow he saw his wife, Lisabeth, far away, ripping tickets in half, staring at the silver belt buckles of passing men."-p. 383
Imagery possibly based on childhood memories
This is also illustrated through the "senseless" woman.
ex. "Her eyes were stitched with red resin-thread. Her nose was sealed with black wax-twine. Her ears were sewn, too, as if a darning needle dragonfly had stitched all her senses shut. She sat, not moving, in the vacant room."-p. 384
Lisabeth's Death - Climax (cont.)
Leaves many hints for the readers
Previous two quotes along with Lisabeth's hatred towards Phelps
Fewer transitions in this section
Divided up into sections
A not-so-subtle change of pace: the blank tattoo clue
Indirectly informs the reader
Phelps tries to get rid of the tattoo
Leads to fight between Phelps and Lisabeth
Bradbury ties up all loose ends during the fight except for the blank tattoo clue
Tied up at the end of the story
The Tattoos:
The one on his chest represents his fate which is why it cannot be changed once it is seen
The one on his back represents legacy which is why it cannot be seen until Phelps dies
Connections: Macbeth
Macbeth Allusion: i.e Witches, (the senseless woman), Self-fulfilling prophecy, Guilt, The Future and the Danger it holds.
The Future Paradox: Theme in both, the prophecy is created, fulfilled perhaps because of its creation.
Full transcript