Marionettes, Inc. Study Guide from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Marionettes, Inc.

Marionettes, Inc. Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ray Bradbury's Marionettes, Inc.. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920 but grew up in Los Angeles, California. While in high school, he began writing short stories—a hobby that quickly turned into a life calling. In 1941, he sold his first short story to a magazine called Super Science Stories. After publishing in niche magazines for a few years, one of Bradbury’s stories was included in the 1946 edition of The Best American Short Stories, a popular annual publication. This, along with the 1953 publication of Fahrenheit 451, propelled Bradbury to literary fame. Bradbury penned eleven novels in total, and all of them began as short stories, which he strung together in varying degrees to create a longer, more complex narrative. For example, in The Illustrated Man, the eighteen stories (all of which had already been published in magazines) can stand alone but also build on each other when read in succession. When he died at the age of 91, Bradbury had published several hundred short stories and received multiple honors, including a National Medal of the Arts, a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, an Oscar nomination, and an Emmy Award. Bradbury married Marguerite McClure in 1947, and the pair were married until her death in 2003. The couple had four daughters together, Susan, Ramona, Bettina, and Alexandra.
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Historical Context of Marionettes, Inc.

“Marionettes, Inc.” was originally published in 1949, placing it at the tail end of a string of extraordinary technological advancements. During the 1940s, World War II catalyzed the invention of the helicopter, jet engine, radar, electronic computer, and of course, the atomic bomb. The human capacity to innovate felt boundless—an idea that’s reflected in “Marionettes, Inc.” through the creation of ultra-lifelike androids (marionettes) that look and behave exactly like real people. However, the 1940s were also rife with political conflict and instability. “Marionettes, Inc.” was originally published four years after World War II, two years into the Cold War, and mere months before the start of the Korean War. These feelings of turbulence, uncertainty, and rivalry appear in the conflict between Braling and his marionette—both want autonomy, power, and control over one another, and Braling Two proves that he is willing to commit a grave act of violence (killing Braling) to get what he wants.

Other Books Related to Marionettes, Inc.

“Marionettes, Inc.” entertains the idea of what could happen if robots outpaced their human creators. Piers Anthony’s To Be a Woman follows a similar course, as a robot named Elesa gains consciousness and fights to be a “person” in her own right—aspirations that echo Braling Two’s realization that he’s in love with Mrs. Braling and wants to live out a long, happy life with her. Much darker in tone, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration for the 1982 film Blade Runner) takes place in a futuristic world riddled with ultra-realistic, highly intelligent androids with the power to rebel against their human creators. Like in “Marionettes, Inc.,” it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between a real human and a robot, underscoring the potentially fatal costs of technology and progress. “Marionettes, Inc.” also bears thematic similarity to many of Bradbury’s own short stories, like “The Other Foot,” which details the Martians’ plan to exact revenge on the Earth people—just as Braling Two wants revenge against Braling himself.
Key Facts about Marionettes, Inc.
  • Full Title: “Marionettes, Inc.”
  • When Written: 1949
  • Where Written: Los Angeles
  • When Published: Originally published as a standalone story in 1949; later published in The Illustrated Man (a novel made up of short stories strung together) in 1951.
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Science fiction short story
  • Setting: Earth
  • Climax: When Braling Two tells Braling that it’s his turn to be locked up in the toolbox.
  • Antagonist: Braling Two
  • Point of View: Third person

Extra Credit for Marionettes, Inc.

On the Radio. Bradbury’s “Marionettes, Inc.” was adapted for two radio programs in the 1950s, Dimension X and X Minus One.