It’s the evening October 19, 1969—mere hours before the world is about to end. In Bradbury’s “The Last Night of the World,” a husband and wife come to terms with the rapidly approaching end of the world, which, according to a haunting dream they both had, will be like “the closing of a book.” Over coffee, the couple looks back on their lives. Through their reflections, the story suggests that family is the most important thing in life, because it has the capacity to make people feel emotionally fulfilled and connected. In addition, as they look forward to the terrifying night ahead, the couple’s words and actions show that family is also important because it can provide comfort in chaotic, scary times.
The husband and wife’s reflections suggest that family is one of the most important things in life, because a healthy family makes people feel loved, connected, and fulfilled. The man tells his wife, “Do you know, I won’t miss anything but you and the girls. I never liked cities or my work or anything except you three.” Looking back on his life, the man realizes that his family was the most satisfying, joyful part of his existence. Things that were ostensibly supposed to fulfill him, like his white-collar career or living in a bustling city, pale in comparison to the depth and emotional fulfillment of family bonds. Similarly, lying in bed on their last night, the woman turns to her husband and says, “We’ve been good for each other, anyway.” According to the dreams, the end of the world will happen sometime during the night, and it is 11:30 P.M. by the time the couple gets in bed. Thus, with the end of the world presumably happening any minute, what matters most to the wife is looking back on her relationship with her husband.
As the night continues, the story shows how family can provide a sense of comfort in frightening times. When the man puts his young daughters to bed, he asks his wife if she thinks the girls will want the door “shut all the way” or “left a little ajar so some light comes in.” The man and his wife assume their daughters do not know about the end of the world, so by leaving the door “open just a trifle,” the man attempts to comfort his daughters in the face of their likely fear of the dark. Likewise, with the end of the world fast approaching, the couple falls asleep with “their hands clasped” and “their heads together.” Their physical closeness reflects the way that they provide each other with comfort and solidarity in the face of a potentially terrifying end.
Through the couple’s reflections, Bradbury points out how much in life is arbitrary—including impressive careers and big cities—and what matters most to many people is family. In “The Last Night of the World,” a husband and wife come to this conclusion, emphasizing how family can provide a sense of emotional fulfilment, support, and comfort. In this way, Bradbury urges readers to reevaluate their priorities and nurture their own family bonds.
Family Quotes in The Last Night of the World
“Do you know, I won’t miss anything but you and the girls. I never liked cities or my work or anything except you three. I won’t miss a thing except perhaps the change in the weather, and a glass of ice water when it’s hot, and I might miss sleeping.”