A Sound of Thunder

by

Ray Bradbury

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Mr. Eckels Character Analysis

The protagonist of “A Sound of Thunder,” Eckels is a hunter who enjoys exotic safaris and decides that traveling back in time to shoot a dinosaur is the logical next adventure for him. At the Time Safari, Inc. office, Eckels discusses the recent election with the company official and expresses his approval for Keith’s win over Deutscher. He also jokes that he’d be running away to the past if the election had gone differently, ironically foreshadowing the ways in which his trip will change history. Eckels is nervous as he departs on his safari with Mr. Travis, Lesperance, and two other hunters. Eckels, who has seemed marked for death throughout the story, repeatedly asks for assurance of his safety and seems to want to master life and death on this dangerous hunt without facing any real risks. When faced with the T. rex and its sound of thunder, however, he finds that he is not prepared to face his own mortality. Instead, he wanders off the path and accidentally crushes a butterfly—a mistake that irrevocably changes history and ostensibly leads Travis to shoot Eckels in the story’s final moments (accompanied by another “sound of thunder”). Eckels exemplifies a person meddling with forces that they do not fully understand, and he overestimates his ability to keep his cool under pressure. His fate demonstrates the danger of allowing people to play with new technology: even with safety precautions, human error is always a possibility.

Mr. Eckels Quotes in A Sound of Thunder

The A Sound of Thunder quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Eckels or refer to Mr. Eckels. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Cause and Effect Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the William Morrow edition of A Sound of Thunder published in 2005.
A Sound of Thunder Quotes

Out of chars and ashes, out of dust and coals, like golden salamanders, the old years, the green years, might leap; roses sweeten the air, white hair turn Irish-black, wrinkles vanish all, everything fly back to seed, flee death, rush down to their beginnings, suns rise in western skies and set in glorious easts, moons eat themselves opposite to the custom, all and everything cupping one in another like Chinese boxes, rabbits into hats, all and everything returning to the fresh death, the seed death, the green death, to the time before the beginning.

Related Characters: Mr. Eckels
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

“Makes you think. If the election had gone badly yesterday, I might be here now running away from the results. Thank God Keith won. He’ll make a fine President of the United States.”

“Yes,” said the man behind the desk. “We’re lucky. If Deutscher had gotten in, we’d have the worst kind of dictatorship. There’s an anti-everything man for you, a militarist, anti-Christ, anti-human, anti-intellectual…”

Related Characters: Mr. Eckels (speaker), Company agent (speaker)
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

Not knowing it, we might kill an important animal, a small bird, a roach, a flower even, thus destroying an important link in a growing species. […] The stomp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through time, to their very foundations.

Related Characters: Mr. Travis (speaker), Mr. Eckels, Lesperance
Related Symbols: Butterfly
Page Number: 214-215
Explanation and Analysis:

“It can’t be killed.” Eckels pronounced this verdict quietly, as if there could be no argument. He had weighed the evidence and this was his considered opinion. The rifle in his hands seemed a cap gun. “We were fools to come. This is impossible.” […] Eckels, not looking back, walked blindly to the edge of the Path, his gun limp in his arms, stepped off the Path, and walked, not knowing it, in the jungle.

Related Characters: Mr. Eckels (speaker), Mr. Travis, Lesperance
Related Symbols: Thunder
Page Number: 218-219
Explanation and Analysis:

This ruins us! We’ll forfeit! Thousands of dollars of insurance! We guarantee no one leaves the Path. He left it. Oh, the fool! I’ll have to report to the government. They might revoke our licence to travel. Who knows what he’s done to Time, to History!

Related Characters: Mr. Travis (speaker), Mr. Eckels, Lesperance
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

Eckels felt himself fall into a chair. He fumbled crazily at the thick slime on his boots. He held up a clod of dirt, trembling. “No, it can’t be. Not a little thing like that. No!”

Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.

“Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!” cried Eckels.

Related Characters: Mr. Eckels (speaker)
Related Symbols: Butterfly
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

“Who won the presidential election yesterday?”

The man behind the desk laughed. “You joking? You know very well. Deutscher, of course! Who else? Not that fool weakling Keith. We got an iron man now, a man with guts!”

Related Characters: Mr. Eckels (speaker), Company agent (speaker)
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

… “can’t we take it back, can’t we make it alive again? Can’t we start over? Can’t we—”

He did not move. Eyes shut, he waited, shivering. He heard Travis breathe loud in the room; he heard Travis shift his rifle, click the safety catch, and raise the weapon.

There was a sound of thunder.

Related Characters: Mr. Eckels (speaker), Mr. Travis
Related Symbols: Thunder, Butterfly
Page Number: 223-224
Explanation and Analysis:
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A Sound of Thunder PDF

Mr. Eckels Character Timeline in A Sound of Thunder

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Eckels appears in A Sound of Thunder. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Sound of Thunder
Cause and Effect Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
In the year 2055, Mr. Eckels enters the office of Time Safari, Inc., a company that offers trips to the past... (full context)
Cause and Effect Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Environmentalism Theme Icon
Eckels takes a moment to admire the Time Machine and remember the company’s advertisements—which, he recalls,... (full context)
Mortality Theme Icon
Eckels makes small talk with the company agent while waiting, discussing the recent presidential election in... (full context)
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Mortality Theme Icon
The company agent asks Eckels to sign a release, reminding him that the dinosaurs he’s going to hunt are highly... (full context)
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Mortality Theme Icon
The company agent hands Eckels over to the safari guide Mr. Travis, although it is unclear whether Eckels has actually... (full context)
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Mortality Theme Icon
Eckels nervously contemplates the rifles they all hold, tightly gripping his own gun. He asks Travis... (full context)
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Mortality Theme Icon
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Eckels expresses his confusion at the rules, prompting Travis to launch into a long explanation. The... (full context)
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Seemingly grasping the rules at last, Eckels asks which animals are okay to shoot. Lesperance explains that the party can safely shoot... (full context)
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Eckels messes about with his gun a bit while waiting and Travis scolds him not to... (full context)
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Mortality Theme Icon
Environmentalism Theme Icon
Travis tries to silence Eckels, then directs him to wait in the Time Machine and promises to refund half his... (full context)
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Environmentalism Theme Icon
...the creature’s bloody end, some cursing and others vomiting in disgust. Travis returns to find Eckels shivering on the floor of the Time Machine. He retrieves supplies for the other hunters... (full context)
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Eckels finally says, “I’m sorry.” Travis, realizing that Eckels wandered off the path, yells and him... (full context)
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When Eckels returns, covered in blood, they leave for the future. Lesperance suggests the punishment was unnecessary,... (full context)
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...the office with suspicion. Assured by the company agent that everything is alright, he orders Eckels to leave and never come back. Eckels, however, lingers for a moment, noticing that the... (full context)
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Authoritarianism, Fascism, and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Environmentalism Theme Icon
Eckels slumps down into a chair and, examining his boots, finds that he has crushed a... (full context)
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Mortality Theme Icon
After a few moments of pleading to go back and fix things, Eckels waits in silence, eyes closed. He hears Travis take a breath, raise his rifle, and... (full context)