It’s still raining. The rain is “a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles,” and it makes the men’s look pruned, wrinkly and ape-like. The sheets of rain slash through the jungle, turn the soil into swamp lands, and shred the grass like razor blades.
The opening lines of the story emphasize nature’s power, which will resonate throughout the story. That the rain makes the men’s hands look ape-like has Darwinian undertones, implying that nature is so powerful that it can make humans regress to their primitive state.
One of the men asks the lieutenant how much farther they have to travel to get to a place called the Sun Dome. The lieutenant says that they only have another hour or two until they get there, but one of the men calls his bluff. The lieutenant admits that he’s lying to keep the men in good spirits and tersely tells them to shut up. The men pause to rest in the rain, sitting in groups of two—two in the front, two in the back— “slumped like clay that was melting.”
The introduction of the lieutenant suggests that there is some sort of military operation going on, and since the men don’t know how much farther they have to travel, it seems that they’re in foreign territory. Once again, the rain has the power to make the men regress—this time drawing upon the biblical story of Adam, whom God fashioned out of clay.
The lieutenant’s face, which used to be tan, is now pasty white. Even his eyes, hair, and uniform have turned white. He asks the other men if it’s ever stopped raining here on Venus. One says no—he’s lived here for ten years, and he’s never seen even a second when the rain wasn’t pummeling down on the soggy planet. The lieutenant compares living on Venus to living underwater.
The detail of the man who claims to have lived on Venus for ten years is odd, as all of the men seem like strangers on this planet. However, later in the story, Simmons recounts a time that he found one of his friends wandering in the Venusian jungle, which means he’s at least been on Venus before—perhaps he’s the one who’s lived here for a decade. Meanwhile, the rain is not only draining the men of their vitality but also of their physical coloring. The rain is so powerful that it even wipes the color from the men’s eyes and hair—a seemingly impossible feat.
The lieutenant tells the men they need to get moving if they want to find the Sun Dome. He reaffirms that they’re just an hour away—and admits that he’s still lying, but this time for his own benefit, because “this is one of those times when you’ve got to lie. I can’t take much more of this.”
The lieutenant is so determined to get to a Sun Dome—which the reader later learns is one of 126 American-made shelters on Venus—that he’s willing to openly lie to himself and his comrades just to maintain his determination and energy.
The men continue tromping through the soggy jungle, eyes glued to their compasses. Somewhere behind them lies their destroyed rocket, “in which they had ridden and fallen. A rocket in which lay two of their friends, dead and dripping rain.” The men reach a river, and the lieutenant nods at Simmons knowingly. Simmons procures a small packet, which instantly swells into a large boat. The men quickly fashion a pair of paddles out of wood, and climb aboard.
Although the rocket is a product of human innovation, this passage makes it sound feeble; Bradbury describes it as the “rocket in which they had ridden and fallen,” as if it were a poorly constructed paper airplane that soared up into the sky only to float back down again. This implies that human innovation—and, by extension, humankind—is not all that powerful or resilient.
As the men row, the lieutenant laments that he didn’t sleep at all the previous night. One of the men scoffs, reminding him that none of them have slept. He says it’s been impossible, for “thirty nights, thirty days,” to sleep with the rain pounding into their foreheads. The man says he’d do anything to have a hat just to protect his forehead from the pelting raindrops.
That the men have endured the torrential downpour for thirty nights and thirty days may be a nod to the biblical story of Noah’s ark and the great flood, which went on for forty nights and forty days. Unlike Noah, however, the men are in a flimsy inflatable boat—not a giant, substantial ark.
One of the other men says he regrets ever coming to China. The other men find this comment odd, but he explains that being on Venus is just like enduring Chinese water torture—a method of torture in which a prisoner is roped against a wall, and a single drop of water hits their forehead every thirty minutes. After a while, the prisoner goes crazy in anticipation for the next drop. The man declares that humans aren’t “made for water.” In this kind of rain, humans can’t sleep or breathe properly, and they go “crazy from just being soggy.”
This is one of many instances in which the men assert that they are out of their element, implying that humans shouldn’t even be on Venus in the first place. This comment, coupled with the men’s status as military men (and the later revelation that they’re American), reveals the story’s political underpinnings. Here and elsewhere, the men’s grumbling about the American government suggests that America is biting off more than it can chew by intervening in foreign affairs that are 162 million miles away from Earth.
Somewhere in the distance is the Sun Dome—a massive yellow house that boasts of warmth, hot meals, and a reprieve from the rain. At the center of the Sun Dome hovers a “small floating free globe of yellow fire,” and residents can watch it while they read or smoke or sip thick hot chocolates “crowned with marshmallow dollops.” The Sun Dome’s sun is “just the size of the Earth sun” (when looking at it from Earth), and it warms every inch of the Dome, making those inside forget about the surrounding torrential downpour.
Later, the story reveals that the American government funds and maintains the Domes. It seems, then, that the plush, comfortable Domes are a way for the American government to care for its citizens (at least those who end up on Venus).
The lieutenant watches the men as they row. They’re “white as mushrooms,” just like the rest of the Venusian jungle, which is like an “immense cartoon nightmare.” Deprived of sunlight but drenched with constant rain, the jungle is lush but pasty and white. Its “cheese-colored leaves” barely stand out against “the earth carved of wet Camembert.”
This passage underscores that Venus looks bizarre and unfamiliar to humans, and consequently implies that they don’t belong there. In addition, the repeated comparison to cheese makes Venus seem all the more absurd, and perhaps is a wink to the centuries-old idea that the moon is made of cheese.
The men reach the shore and continue their trek through the waterlogged jungle. The lieutenant thinks he sees something in the distance, and Simmons runs ahead, hoping desperately that it’s the Sun Dome. The other men rush after him and finally find him in a small clearing. Looming in front of them is not the Sun Dome—it’s their abandoned rocket. The bodies of their two dead comrades are still sprawled among the rubble, their open mouths filled with moss and fungus.
Even though the men have been dutifully following their compasses for the past month, determined to find a Sun Dome, this tenacity hasn’t guaranteed that they will be successful in their quest. Instead, Bradbury paints a considerably bleaker, but more realistic, picture of coming up short even when one puts in extraordinary effort.
The men realize that they’ve accidentally circled back around to their starting point, and that there must be an electrical storm nearby that threw off their compasses. Simmons cries out that they’re no closer to the Sun Dome, but the lieutenant tells him to remain calm—they still have two days’ worth of food.
The lieutenant appears to be the most determined of the men, as he refuses to wallow in his misery and is committed to keeping his comrades’ spirits up. Although the lieutenant means to be encouraging in assuring the men that they still have two days’ worth of food, this comment also illustrates the gravity (and, perhaps, futility) of the situation: they’ve been searching for the Sun Dome unsuccessfully for thirty days but now must find it within two days, or they will starve.
Suddenly, a massive roar echoes in the distance, and a monster emerges through the rain. The monster has a thousand legs, each made of electric blue lightning bolts. Every time the monster takes a step, a tree plunges to the ground, scorched and smoking. “Great whiffs of ozone” drift through the air, and the raindrops cut through the curls of smoke. The monster, who is half a mile wife and a full mile tall, stumbles through the jungle like it’s blind. Sometimes it tumbles to the ground and lands in a heap, its legs disappearing for an instant under the rest of its body. But then, “a thousand whips would fall out of its belly, blue-white whips, to sting the jungle.”
It’s unclear if the monster is really a tangible monster—yet another manifestation of the “cartoonish nightmare” that is the planet Venus—or if it is an extended metaphor for a particularly massive electrical storm. The description of the electrical monster’s size and blindness is reminiscent of the giant cyclops in the Odyssey, who bumbles around his cave blindly and destructively after Odysseus and his men drive a stake into his eye.
The lieutenant instructs his comrades to lie flat in the mud, noticing that the monster “hits the highest points” in the jungle. Faces buried in the soggy soil, the men track the monster’s movement just by listening. Suddenly, the monster looms over them. Its lightning bolts slam against the crashed rocket, ringing like a metal gong.
The detail about the monster only hitting the “highest points” in the jungle connects with the common misconception that lighting only strikes the tallest object in a given landscape. This may be Bradbury implying that the monster is actually just an electrical storm after all—not a physical, cyclops-like monster. Regardless, the fact that the men have to lie face down in the mud speaks to their powerlessness and humility in the face of nature’s overwhelming strength.
Overcome by terror, an unnamed man in the group jumps up, screaming, “No, no!” The lieutenant yells at him to get down, but the man takes off running through the jungle, dodging crumpling trees and stinging lightning bolts. Suddenly, the lieutenant hears “the sound a fly makes when landing upon the grill wires of an exterminator,” which he remembers from his childhood on a farm. He can smell burning flesh.
Here, the lieutenant’s childhood memory both softens and intensifies the situation at hand. In likening the sound of his comrade being electrocuted to the sound of a fly “landing upon the grill wires of an exterminator,” the lieutenant illustrates humankind’s frailty and helplessness. However, perhaps thinking of his childhood on a farm serves as a momentary mental escape for the lieutenant, easing the emotional blow of hearing his comrade’s death.
The lieutenant orders the other men (later revealed as Simmons and Pickard) to stay put until the monster departs. When the coast is clear, the shaken-up comrades locate the unnamed man, believing that they might be able to save his life. Although this is hopeless, “they couldn’t believe that there wasn’t some way to help the man.” The narrator remarks that this is the “natural” response of men who haven’t come to terms with death until they’ve seen it with their own eyes and felt it with their own hands. The man looks “like a wax dummy that had been thrown into an incinerator and pulled out after the wax had sunk to the charcoal skeleton.” The men peer down at the body, watching as it disappears. Tangled masses of vegetation crawl over the body, swallowing it in one leafy gulp.
The men are forced to come to terms with human frailty and mortality, as their comrade is instantly turned into nothing more than a distorted “wax dummy.” Bradbury describes the unnamed man’s body in gruesome detail to emphasize nature’s extraordinary power and dominance over small, helpless humans. The vegetation that grows instantly over the body seems to consume it as food, depicting nature as a fearsome predator and humans as its vulnerable prey.
The lieutenant, Simmons, and Pickard continue onward, crossing milky creeks, streams, and rivers. Venus’ single continent, which floats like an island in the middle of its Single Sea, is three thousand miles long by three thousand miles wide. Soon, the men arrive at the Single Sea, which lies “upon the pallid shore with little motion.” The lieutenant beckons his men southward, remembering that there are two Sun Domes in this direction. The men talk about why there aren’t more Sun Domes, and one of the men explains that there are currently 126 of them. He explains that “they tried to push a bill through Congress back on Earth a year ago to provide for a couple dozen more, but oh no, you know how that is. They’d rather a few men went crazy with the rain.”
Bradbury’s (fictitious) dimensions of Venus provide some explanation as to how the men have been traveling for thirty days without coming across a single Sun Dome. The 126 Sun Domes are extremely spread out over several thousand square miles, so finding just one Dome would be an incredible feat. One of the men—probably Simmons, given his later comments about Congress—explains that Congress is reticent to fund more Sun Domes, even though they’re sorely needed. This moment is one of political criticism, as Bradbury makes a jab at the American government for its failure to do everything in its power to provide for its citizens.
As the lieutenant, Simmons, and Pickard carry on southward, Simmons suddenly exclaims that he sees something. Sure enough, far in the distance is a sheer yellow glow—a Sun Dome. One of the men commends the lieutenant for leading them there, but the lieutenant attributes their success to pure luck.
The lieutenant points to the story’s realistic attitude toward success—although achieving success takes determination, it also takes a good bit of luck. If pure determination were enough to guarantee success, the men would have likely found a Sun Dome a long time ago.
Simmons takes off at a run, heartened by the sight of the Sun Dome. Panting, he dreams aloud of the hot coffee and cinnamon buns waiting for them inside, and claims that whoever invented the Sun Dome “should have got a medal.” Out of breath, he says, “Guess a lot of men went crazy before they figured out the cure. Think it’d be obvious!” He recounts the time that he found one of his friends wandering through the Venusian jungle, repeating the same crazed phrase, “Don’t know enough, to come in, outta the rain.” The men laugh.
In bringing up the time that he found one of his friends wandering around Venus, Simmons implies that he’s been here before—and perhaps is the man in the group who claimed to have lived on Venus for ten years. This begs the question as to why he doesn’t have a better idea of where he’s going, and why he left the safety of a Sun Dome in the first place. In any case, the men treat Simmons’ story as a joke (including Simmons himself), which is a moment of dark foreshadowing.
Simmons, Pickard, and the lieutenant reach the Sun Dome. Simmons flings open the doors, yelling, “Bring on the coffee and buns!” The Sun Dome is silent. The men walk inside and are shocked at what they find: there is no hot food, no luxurious warmth, no beautiful sun hovering in the ceiling. The Sun Dome is cold, dark, and sopping wet, with rain rushing down from a thousand “newly punctured” holes in the ceiling. The plush rugs and modern furniture are soaked, and the bookcase is coated with moss. Pickard laughs sarcastically, but one of the men tersely tells him to shut up.
After searching for a Sun Dome for thirty days, the men have finally found one—but it’s in shambles, and appears to have been destroyed recently, given the “newly punctured” holes in the ceiling. Earlier, the lieutenant reminded his men that they still have two days of food left. With this detail in mind, coupled with the fact that it took a whole month to find just one Sun Dome, the men’s situation appears increasingly dire.
One of the men blames the Venusians. Simmons explains that the Venusians live in the sea but periodically come out to attack a Sun Dome, because “they know if they ruin the Sun Domes they can ruin us.” One of the other men (either the lieutenant or Pickard) asks how this is possible, since all of the Sun Domes are heavily protected with guns. Simmons says this is true, but since it’s been five years since the Venusians’ last attack, the Sun Domes have relaxed their defenses. The Venusians caught the residents of this particular Dome off guard.
Simmons’ knowledge about the Venusians further suggests that he’s the one who has lived on Venus for ten years. His comment reveals that the Venusians don’t want Earth people on their planet and are willing to use violence to make this known. With this, the story suggests that the American government’s decision to meddle in this particular foreign territory is unwise and dangerous for American citizens like the lieutenant and his comrades. One of the men’s earlier comments about Congress being unwilling to fund more Sun Domes also shows that the government is too preoccupied with establishing new territories to care adequately for its own people.
One of the men asks where the bodies of the Earth people are who used to live in this Dome, but Simmons answers that the Venusians must have brought them down to the sea—“I hear they have a delightful way of drowning you. It takes about eight hours to drown the way they work it. Really delightful.” Pickard laughs bitterly and says that there’s probably no food left at this Sun Dome. Simmons and the lieutenant exchange a look. The men wander into the kitchen, which is full of furry green loaves of bread.
It’s unclear why Simmons and the lieutenant exchange a look after Pickard’s bitter comment, but it may suggest that they know Pickard is the weakest link among them—surely enough, Pickard is only hours away from going insane and dying. Simmons’ explanation of the Venusians’ drowning tactics connect back to the idea that the Venusian rain is like Chinese water torture; in both instances, water is used to torture (and even kill) humans, underscoring that the men are out of their element and do not belong on Venus in the first place.
Simmons says they should try to make it to the next Sun Dome, but the lieutenant thinks if they just stay put, a rescue mission may come find them. Simmons reminds him that the rescues mission has probably already come and gone, and it will take at least six months for Congress to release the funds for a crew to come out and repair the Sun Dome.
Simmons’ remark that it will take at least six months for Congress to release the funds for a clean-up crew to take care of the Dome implies that the American government is sluggish and slow to act, even when the stakes are high (had they cleaned up the Dome right away, the men wouldn’t be in this dire situation). Simmons’ comment about Congress also suggests that he’s the one who explained Congress’ unwillingness to fund additional Domes earlier in the story.
Clutching his skull, Pickard cries that the constant rain reminds him of how a bully in grade school used to pinch him every five minutes, all day long, every day. After enduring the pinching for several months, Pickard’s arms were black and blue. One day, he finally cracked: he grabbed the metal trisquare he used for mechanical drawing and attacked the bully with it, nearly killing the boy. Now, Pickard says, he longs to attack the rain in the same way, “but what do I do now? Who do I hit? Who do I tell to lay off, stop bothering me, this damn rain, like the pinching, always on you, that’s all you hear, that’s all you feel!”
Pickard’s traumatic childhood memory heightens the pain he feels in this moment—instead of just coping with the aggravating rain, he’s also reliving the emotional and physical pain of the bullying and pinching he received as a child. Pickard’s frantic and impassioned rhetorical questions imply that he’s slipping into insanity—a process that will be complete in a mere matter of hours.
The lieutenant tells Pickard that they’ll be at the next Sun Dome in just eight hours. Pickard asks what they’re going to do if all the Sun Domes are destroyed, and says he’s “tired of chancing it.” The lieutenant tells him to “hold on” for just eight more hours. Pickard agrees, but he laughs flatly and avoids eye contact. Simmons watches him closely.
Since the lieutenant is known to lie about how much longer they have to walk until the next Sun Dome, it’s possible that he’s lying here, too. Meanwhile, the detail of Simmons watching Pickard closely suggests that Simmons knows Pickard is on the brink of insanity.
Four hours later, the lieutenant, Simmons, and Pickard are halfway to the next Sun Dome. Pickard declares that he can’t go any farther—he has to sleep, and hasn’t for four weeks. It’s nighttime, and the sky is so black that it’s “dangerous to move,” so the men agree to rest. The lieutenant cautions that they’ve tried this before, and it hasn’t worked. They lie down carefully, propping their chins up enough that the water can’t pool in their mouths.
The men take care to prop their heads in certain angles so their mouths don’t fill with water, implying that it’s possible to drown from the rain. Once again, this emphasizes nature’s power and humankind’s frailty, as seemingly innocent, tiny raindrops have the power to kill humans.
The lieutenant tries to sleep, but the vines are climbing over his body, and the raindrops won’t stop pestering him. He jumps up wildly, unable to tolerate the “thousand hands [that] were touching him.” Suddenly, Pickard begins to scream and run around frantically. Pickard shoots his gun in the air six times, and the brief flashes of light illuminate fifteen billion raindrops, which look like tears, ornaments, and jewels. The droplets descend on the men like a thick cloud of insects.
The lieutenant’s inability to remain still with the creeping, crawling vines and constant pattering of raindrops provides some explanation to why men go insane in this kind of environment. Pickard’s overblown reaction suggests that he’s gone fully insane at this point, as he tries to shoot the raindrops with his gun to keep them from bothering him. This reaction echoes the time he lost control as a child and attacked his childhood bully.
Pickard suddenly goes quiet, and the lieutenant turns shines his hand lamp on Pickard’s face. To his horror, he sees that Pickard’s pupils are dilated, his mouth is agape, and his chin is turned upwards so that his mouth is filling with water. Pickard is unresponsive, standing there with “manacles of rain and jewels dripping from his wrists and his neck.” Simmons tells the lieutenant that Pickard is already gone. They can’t carry him along with them, and if they leave him, he’ll drown.
Bradbury depicts the raindrops as being “manacles” on Pickard’s wrists and neck. In this way, the tiny drops of water are like shackles that oppress, torture, and subdue Pickard, stressing nature’s authority and humankind’s helplessness. The raindrops are also like “jewels,” highlighting that nature is beautiful even while it’s terrifying. This is a moment in which Bradbury urges his readers to look upon nature with awe, reverence, respect, and healthy dose of fear.
Startled, the lieutenant asks Simmons what he means by drown. Simmons can’t believe that the lieutenant doesn’t know the story of how General Mendt died. They found him “sitting on a rock with his head back, breathing the rain. His lungs were full of water.” The lieutenant turns his attention back to Pickard, and slaps him across the face. Simmons warns that Pickard can no longer feel his body. The lieutenant realizes his own limbs are starting to go numb, too.
The lieutenant’s realization that his own limbs are going numb heightens his sense of urgency to find a Sun Dome, as he could be just hours away from experiencing Pickard’s same fate. Meanwhile, it’s surprising that the lieutenant didn’t know about the tragic death of one of his superiors (a general is a higher rank than a lieutenant). This moment also has political undertones, suggesting that the government is failing to properly care for its citizens who go to Venus—even high-ranking officials who are dedicated to serving the country.
The lieutenant says they can’t just leave Pickard here to drown, so Simmons turns around and swiftly shoots Pickard, who crumples to the ground. Simmons tells the lieutenant that if he makes a fuss, Simmons will shoot him too. He reminds the lieutenant that Pickard had gone insane and would have been a burden. The lieutenant is quiet, but finally agrees, and the pair continue to make their way to the Sun Dome.
This moment shows Simmons’ incredible decisiveness. Since Simmons doesn’t have a special title and often takes orders from the lieutenant throughout the story, it seems that the lieutenant is his authority figure. Thus, it’s shocking that he threatens to shoot the lieutenant if he doesn’t go along with Simmons’ plan. Perhaps Simmons’ more substantial knowledge of Venus and the psychological effects of the rain means that he knows the men must keep moving no matter what.
After a half an hour, Simmons declares that they’ve “miscalculated” the location of the next Dome. The lieutenant affirms that they only have one more hour to go. Simmons asks him to speak up but then smiles suddenly, yelling that his ears have gone out because of the numbing rain. He yells to the lieutenant to go on without him. The lieutenant objects (which Simmons can’t hear), but Simmons yells that he’s tired and doesn’t think the Sun Dome is in this direction. Even if it is nearby, it’s probably destroyed just like the last one.
When Simmons realizes his ears have gone out, he smiles, suggesting that he’s relieved this arduous journey is about to come to an end. However, his decision to stay behind reveals that he is considerably less determined to find a Sun Dome than the lieutenant.
Simmons says he knows he’s on the brink of insanity but doesn’t want to die that way. He has a gun, and as soon as the lieutenant is out of sight, Simmons will kill himself. Reading the lieutenant’s lips, Simmons knows he’s protesting. Simmons explains that he’ll either die now or in a few hours. He asks the lieutenant to imagine the feeling of getting to the next Dome and finding it in shambles—“Won’t that be nice?” Unable to sway Simmons, the lieutenant leaves uneasily.
Simmons recognizes his helplessness in the face of nature, as he knows he’s about to die. Instead of dying strictly on nature’s terms, though, he decides to die on his own by shooting himself. In support of his plan, he draws upon the recent memory of the men’s crushing disappointment after reaching the destroyed Sun Dome. In this case, the power of memory is negative, as it makes Simmons less resolved to carry on and pushes him to commit suicide.
Miserable and alone, the lieutenant tells himself to tough it out for just five more minutes—“Another five minutes and then I’ll walk into the sea and keep walking.” He thinks about how Earth people weren’t made for the harsh Venusian environment.
Having lost five of his companions in the last month (two from the rocket crash, one from the electrical monster, one from insanity, and one from suicide), it’s understandable why the lieutenant would rather give up. However, his decision to continue on—at least for five more minutes—demonstrates his extraordinary determination. His reflection on humans being ill-suited for Venus once again suggests that the American government’s decision to put down roots there was misguided.
Trudging through the leafy slush, the lieutenant comes to a small hill. There, in the distance, is the faint, sheer yellow glow of the next Sun Dome. Swaying unsteadily with exhaustion and hunger, the lieutenant just stands there staring at it. Then, he takes off at a run, crashing through the jungle. When he slips and falls, his inner voice tries to persuade him to stay put: “Lie here, he thought; it’s the wrong [Sun Dome]. Lie here. It’s no use. Drink all you want.” With great exertion, the lieutenant struggles to his feet and begins to run again, “his feet crashing into mirrors and glass, his arms flailing at diamonds and precious stones.”
Bradbury again conflates the deathly raindrops with jewels, simultaneously pointing to nature’s beauty and power. Meanwhile, the lieutenant’s persuasive inner voice reveals that he’s only moments away from descending into insanity. This moment also provides a glimpse into what was perhaps going on in Pickard and General Mendt’s minds when they went insane. Once again, the lieutenant shows extraordinary determination when he resolves to keep running despite his crippling exhaustion.
The lieutenant reaches the door of the Sun Dome and stumbles inside. He immediately feels paralyzed. On the table is a steaming pot of hot chocolate and several platters of chicken sandwiches. There are stacks of plush Turkish towels, a dry uniform, copper urns filled with coffee, and leather-bound books. The lieutenant covers his eyes with his hands and, after a moment, looks around the room again. He sees other men approaching him, but he ignores them.
The Sun Dome is lavish and warm, forming a stark contrast to the cold, bleak, deadly Venusian environment outside. The description of the Dome is so perfect, however, that it almost seems like the lieutenant is dreaming or that he’s hallucinating as he’s dying. Bradbury leaves this moment up to interpretation.
The lieutenant stares at the warm, yellow sun hovering in the “blue sky of the room.” Everything is silent, the door to the outside world is shut, and the rain is “only a memory to [the lieutenant’s] tingling body.” Pulling off his soggy uniform, the lieutenant walks toward the sun.
The rain, which pestered and prodded the lieutenant for the past month, is now “only a memory,” gesturing to the way that memories helped and hurt him and his comrades throughout their journey. The lieutenant’s walk toward the sun may reflect his overwhelming desire to finally get dry and warm, but it’s also possible that this is all a hallucination, and he is walking toward the light in a figurative sense—that is, approaching death.