A Sound of Thunder

by

Ray Bradbury

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Sound of Thunder can help.

Thunder Symbol Analysis

Thunder Symbol Icon

Thunder in the story represents the inescapability of mortality as well as the dangers of human hubris. As a natural phenomenon, thunder underscores the fact that death is part of the natural order; it is a sometimes-frightening occurrence brought about by things beyond human control. These factors have contributed to the use of thunder in literature as a symbol or manifestation of divine power. In “A Sound of Thunder,” sounds of thunder notably herald the arrival of challenges to Eckels’s hubris—that is, to his belief in his ability to control life, death, and even time. Thunder comes up twice, once accompanying the dinosaur that Eckels intended to hunt, and again as the sound of a gunshot that presumably kills Eckels in the tale’s final moments; by first introducing thunder as the sound of the approaching deadly dinosaur, Bradbury is able to repeat the sound at the end of the story and imply that Mr. Travis shoots Eckels without stating it outright. In both cases, the sound emanates from a powerful creature or machine unaffected by humanity’s whims or desires. By invoking thunder’s divine associations in the context of mortal peril, Bradbury underscores the idea that even with technology allowing control over the flow of time, death cannot be fully conquered.

Thunder Quotes in A Sound of Thunder

The A Sound of Thunder quotes below all refer to the symbol of Thunder. 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

The jungle was wide and full of twitterings, rustlings, murmurs, and sighs.

Suddenly it all ceased, as if someone had shut a door.

Silence.

A sound of thunder.

Out of the mist, one hundred yards away, came Tyrannosaurus rex.

Related Symbols: Thunder
Page Number: 217
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:

… “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:
Get the entire A Sound of Thunder LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Sound of Thunder PDF

Thunder Symbol Timeline in A Sound of Thunder

The timeline below shows where the symbol Thunder appears in A Sound of Thunder. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Sound of Thunder
Mortality Theme Icon
Environmentalism Theme Icon
...yet. Soon the forest goes quiet, and the T. rex approaches with a sound of thunder. Eckels is transfixed when he comes face to face with the creature. Observing its massive,... (full context)
Cause and Effect Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...rifle, and release the safety on his gun. The story ends with a sound of thunder. (full context)