The Visitor

The Visitor Study Guide

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

Brief Biography of Ray Bradbury

Acclaimed science fiction author Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920 but grew up in Los Angeles, California. He began writing short stories while still in high school, selling his first in 1941, and found widespread literary fame following the 1953 publication of his novel Fahrenheit 451. All of Bradbury’s eleven novels began as short stories. The Illustrated Man, for example, consists of eighteen previously published standalone stories strung together in a loosely building narrative. Bradbury had four daughters with his wife, Marguerite McClure, and died in 2012 at the age of 91. At the time of his death, Bradbury had published hundreds stories and received multiple honors, including a National Medal of the Arts, a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, an Oscar nomination, and an Emmy Award.
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Historical Context of The Visitor

Bradbury wrote “The Visitor” following the end of World War II, a time of both great technological achievement and anxiety. The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the war created a global fear of nuclear proliferation that appears in much of Bradbury’s work, and indeed is vaguely referenced in “The Visitor” itself. With one war over and another, the Cold War, only beginning, Bradbury was writing at a time of broad uncertainty and instability—factors undoubtedly leading to his stories’ frequent nostalgia for the simplicity of a more peaceful American past.

Other Books Related to The Visitor

The admonishment of the corrosive nature of selfishness and greed of Bradbury’s story echoes Leo Tolstoy’s parable-like “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”, in which a peasant farmer’s insatiable desire for more land leads to his untimely death. Meanwhile, the “blood rust” in Bradbury’s story—a horrific terminal disease that must be quarantined to protect the rest of the population—is reminiscent of other fictional of pandemics, including those in Albert Camus’s The Plague (1947), Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain (1969), and Stephen King’s The Stand. John M. Barry’s nonfiction account of the Spanish flu, The Great Influenza, discusses the disease that devastated the population in the early twentieth century, not long before Bradbury’s writing career began. Bradbury’s stories often express a distinct skepticism of technology as well as a desire for a simpler past, reflected in “The Visitor” by the exiled men’s intense longing for a return to life as it once was on Earth. Such anxiety about the changing nature of society is evident in dystopian novels like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1931) and George Orwell’s 1984 (1949).
Key Facts about The Visitor
  • Full Title: “The Visitor”
  • When Written: 1940s
  • Where Written: United States
  • When Published: 1948
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Science fiction short story
  • Setting: Mars
  • Climax: While struggling for possession of Johnson’s gun, Saul Williams accidentally shoots and kills Leonard Mark.
  • Antagonist: Saul Williams, Johnson
  • Point of View: Third person