Ray Bradbury’s “Zero Hour” depicts a picture-perfect suburban neighborhood in New York teeming with children, all playing game called “Invasion.” The game revolves around helping a group of aliens invade the earth. Parents across the nation—including seven-year-old Mink’s mother, Mrs. Morris—are unable to step out of their logic-driven mindsets and consider that the game is actually terrifyingly real, and that earth is on the brink of an alien invasion. Meanwhile, the children are swept away by the novelty and excitement of their so-called game and are unable to think logically about whether or not aiding an alien invasion of earth is really a good idea. The kids are too excited imagining the future world that the aliens promise: later bedtimes, more television, and no baths. Through the parents’ and children’s inability to balance imagination with logic, Bradbury highlights how relying on exclusively one or the other can be dangerous and blinding. Instead, both imagination and logic are necessary for a healthy, balanced view of the world.
The kids’ excitement for the Invasion shows the dangers of being swept away in imagination. Mink is mesmerized by the aliens’ promise of a world in which children rule. She tells her mother, “They’re going to let us run the world. Well, not just us but the kids over in the next block, too. I might be queen.” It’s unlikely that Drill, the leader of the aliens, would allow a random seven-year-old girl to be queen of the world, especially since children all over the nation are involved in the Invasion game. Instead, it seems that Drill gains Mink’s loyalty by catering to her imaginary dream world in which she is not just a princess (a common dream for many seven-year-olds), but a queen. Mink also tells her mother that in this beautiful new world, children are free from parents’ stifling rules: “Drill says I won’t have to take baths […] He told all the kids that. No more baths. And we can stay up till ten o’clock and go to two televisor shows on Saturday ‘stead of one!” Mink is so captivated imagining such a perfect existence that she doesn’t consider if Drill’s promises are genuine or if the Invasion could have serious negative implications.
Meanwhile, the parents’ reactions highlight how a staunchly logical worldview is just as dangerous. Excitedly explaining the Invasion game to her mom, Mink declares, “Martians [are] invading Earth. Well, not exactly Martians. They’re—I don’t know. From up.” “Touching Mink’s feverish brow,” Mrs. Morris answers, “And inside.” Mrs. Morris implies that the Invasion is all inside Mink’s head. This reaction irritates Mink, who cries, “You’re laughing! You’ll kill Drill and everybody.” Mink is likely repeating the propaganda that Drill has instilled in her and the other children to turn them against their parents, but Mrs. Morris’s sensible, logical adult mind fails to grasp the significance of Mink’s words. Thus, Mrs. Morris remains ignorant of what’s going on just outside her doorstep. Mink also tells her mother, “Drill says you’re dangerous! Know why? ‘Cause you don’t believe in Martians!” Drill and the other aliens know that the adults’ logical minds will keep them from taking the Invasion game seriously, thus stepping aside to let the Invasion take its course.
Ultimstely, the story suggests that thinking both logically and imaginatively is necessary for a balanced view of the world. At 5:00 P.M., “zero hour,” a low humming noise engulfs the neighborhood. Henry, Mrs. Morris’ husband, asks what the sound is, and Mrs. Morris “[gets] up suddenly, her eyes widening. She was going to say something. She stopped it. Ridiculous. Her nerves jumped. […] ‘Tell them to put off their Invasion until tomorrow.’ She laughed, nervously.” In this moment, it seems that Mrs. Morris’ logical nature is fighting to keep her from believing in the game, even though her reaction indicates that she knows something unusual is going on. Mrs. Morris realizes that her husband will think she’s crazy for believing in the Invasion: “There was no time to argue with Henry to convince him. Let him think her insane.” Once in the attic, Mrs. Morris begins to come to terms with how her logical, adult mind blinded her to the terrifying reality at hand: “She was babbling wild stuff now. It came out of her. All the subconscious suspicion and fear that had gathered secretly all afternoon and fermented like a wine in her. All the little revelations and knowledges and sense that had bothered her all day and which she had logically and carefully and sensibly rejected and censored. Now it exploded in her and shook her to bits.” Mrs. Morris finally sees beyond her carefully constructed logical view of the word, but it’s too late.
In “Zero Hour,” Bradbury highlights the shortcomings of clinging desperately to logic or being swept away in imagination. While the children fail to think rationally about the Invasion, the adults fail to suspend their sensible, logical ways of thinking and consider the Invasion as something other than a silly game. Both perspectives have serious repercussions.
Imagination and Logic ThemeTracker
Imagination and Logic Quotes in Zero Hour
Oh, it was to be so jolly! What a game! Such excitement they hadn’t known in years. The children catapulted this way and that across the green lawns, shouting at each other, holding hands, flying in circles, climbing trees, laughing. Overhead the rockets flew, and beetle cars whispered by on the streets, but the children played on. Such fun, such tremulous joy, such tumbling and hearty screaming.
It was an interesting fact that this fury and bustle occurred only among the younger children. The older ones, those ten years and more, disdained the affair and marched scornfully off on hikes or played a more dignified version of hide-and seek on their own. […] The adult civilization passed and repassed the busy youngsters, jealous of the fierce energy of the wild tots, tolerantly amused at their flourishings, longing to join in themselves.
“I wanna play,” said Joseph.
“Can’t!” said Mink.
“You’d just make fun of us.”
“Honest, I wouldn’t.”
“No. We know you. Go away or we’ll kick you.”
Joseph showed reluctance and a certain wistfulness. “I want to play,” he said.
“You’re old,” said Mink firmly.
“Not that old,” said Joe sensibly.
“You’d only laugh and spoil the Invasion.”
Mink talked earnestly to someone near the rosebush—though there was no one there.
These odd children.
“They couldn’t find a way to attack, Mom. Drill says—he says in order to make a good fight you got to have a new way of surprising people. That way you win. And he says also you got to have help from your enemy. […] And they couldn’t find a way to surprise Earth or get help. […] Until, one day,” whispered Mink melodramatically, “they thought of children! […] And they thought of how grownups are so busy they never look under rosebushes or on lawns!”
“And there’s something about kids under nine and imagination. It’s real funny to hear Drill talk.”
Mrs. Morris was tired. “Well, it must be funny. You’re keeping Drill waiting now. It’s getting late in the day and, if you want to have your Invasion before your supper bath, you’d better jump.”
“Drill says I won’t have to take baths […] He told all the kids that. No more baths. And we can stay up till ten o’clock and go to two televisor shows on Saturday ‘stead of one!”
“We’re having trouble with guys like Pete Britz and Dale Jerrick. They’re growing up. They make fun. They’re worse than parents. They just won’t believe in Drill. They’re so snooty, ‘cause they’re growing up. You’d think they’d know better. They were little only a coupla years ago. I hate them worse. We’ll kill them first.”
“Your father and I last?”
“Drill says you’re dangerous. Know why? ‘Cause you don’t believe in Martians! They’re going to let us run the world. Well, not just us, but the kids over in the next block, too. I might be queen.”
“Mink, was that Peggy Ann crying?”
Mink was bent over in the yard, near the rosebush.
“Yeah. She’s a scarebaby. We won’t let her play, now. She’s getting too old to play. I guess she grew up all of a sudden.”
She was babbling wild stuff now. It came out of her. All the subconscious suspicion and fear that had gathered secretly all afternoon and fermented like a wine in her. All the little revelations and knowledges and sense that had bothered her all day and which she had logically and carefully and sensibly rejected and censored. Now it exploded in her and shook her to bits.