Literature
10:01 am
Wed April 3, 2013

Study Up For 'Think': Bradbury's 'Last Night Of The World'

Biographer Sam Weller explains legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury's journey and impact today at 1 p.m. on Think. One short story in particular illuminates the deepest heart of Bradbury's philosophy -- especially the ending.

In "The Last Night Of The World," a husband and wife quietly discuss the impending apocalypse as their two daughters play in the next room. He expresses surprise at a state of eerie calm:

"Where's that spirit of self-preservation the scientists talk about so much?"

"I don't know. You don't get too excited when you feel things are logical. This is logical. Nothing else but this could have happened from the way we've lived."

"We haven't been too bad, have we?"

"No, nor enormously good. I suppose that's the trouble. We haven't been very much of anything except us, while a big part of the world was busy being lots of quite awful things."    

The girls were laughing in the parlor as they waved their hands and tumbled down their house of blocks.

"I always imagined people would be screaming in the streets at a time like this."

"I guess not. You don't scream about the real thing."

The story, published by Esquire in 1951, gets at a fragile reality in short supply (the wife takes care to turn off the water faucet, even as the house faces certain destruction.) It's the kind of human spirit preserved in Bradbury's dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451, which became an emblem of the battle against censorship. Schools and groups across Dallas are cracking that book open this year as part of The Big Read, a National Endowment for the Arts program facilitated in our parts by D Magazine.  Find out how to get involved.  Listen to Think from noon to 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday, on KERA 90.1 or stream the show at kera.org.