I don't necessarily think this is his best story if only because there's too many magnificent pieces to choose from but certainly it is the story that stuck with me the longest. It's characters, especially the father, achieve an almost mythic quality. In the end, he simply has to die, that's all there is to it.
I remember when I first read this story - it was so poignant and touching. The ending is quite powerful.
*Surely the basis for the Elton John song of the same name?
That's what I've always wondered, and have been waiting for someone to add "Major Thom" ("Kaleidoscope") and "Rocket Man" to the "special songs" thread.
Just read the story again for the first time in many years, and am even more sure it was the inspiration for the Elton John song. Something different surfaces with each new reading. Ever notice Bradbury gives remarkably little description of clothes of any kind? The Rocket Man's uniform is one of the most detailed descriptions of clothing anywhere in his work. I guess it's important to describe because, like Grandma's apron, it helps illuminate and define his character, and is a focus of Doug's fascination with his dad and his work. Note the contrast to the overalls he and Doug wore on Earth. If anyone finds overalls mentioned anywhere else in Bradbury, please post it here. And that feeling, "When you're there, you want to be here, when you're here you want to be out there." Who couldn't identify with some form of that?
here is a report i wrote on the story when i was a sophomore, if anyone is interested (may have a few typos):
The Rocket Man
I. Bibliographical Information
The Rocket Man, Broadway, New York
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1951
Think of all the pleasant things of the night. Look at them closely, and then think of an advanced electrical age where machinery is depended on for everyday things. Combine the two, and you have the world of a certain rather melancholy teenager by the name of Doug. This world of his would seem perfect. He had enough technology to go through life not doing anything he did not want to. There was always a machine doing it for him. However, Doug holds dearly to some simple truths about the nature of man to remain saddened by his world. There is conflict in his �perfect� everyday life that goes beyond something that a machine can repair. When I read this story it feels dark and somehow very real. It makes me want to meet this boy and just have a few words about nothing with him for no particular reason.
III. Plot Structure
I do not believe that the conflict in this story has very much to do with Doug. He simply watches and waits for his father and his mother to overcome each of their personal struggles. Doug�s mother wishes she did not have to lie to herself so much. She wishes that she could just say to herself, �He�s alive. He�ll always be alive.� She cannot face the real problem so she ignores it. Doug�s father has the larger problem. He cannot decide whether or not he is in love with his wife and child or his job. He fights himself with this and just wishes he knew. He has to stop being so scared of admitting to himself what he really enjoys the most. No, he must stop lying to himself and decide what loves the most.
IV. Plot Summary
A teenage boy is plagued every day with the one question: �Does my father do the right thing?� He must know. He has to find out because it is the only way he
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