Monday, May 4, 2009

The Long Rain

In college English class I was given an assignment to write a review. I wrote the following:

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like if you suddenly lost all control over your environment? So much so that you wonder if there will ever be relief?

This is what Ray Bradbury accomplishes in his short story entitled "The Long Rain". The story is about a party of men who crash land on Venus and must endure both the continuous rain on the planet, and the continuous frustration involved in finding their way to the only shelter in the 'Sun-dome'. Bradbury uses these two elements of rain and frustration simultaneously to show how the lack of control affects the characters of the story. But Bradbury also gives the reader this same feeling through his style of writing. This feeling makes the reader a victim of the same fate as the characters and adds a unique twist to the way the story is read.

Bradbury first victimizes us (the reader and the characters) with continuous rain. This is set in the first scene, abruptly and without any development like a dam breaking. After the abrupt beginning, he continues to constantly drown us in his "wet-world" throughout the story. There is always some form of reference to rain or water in every paragraph to which he never lets up to give the reader a break.

The second way Bradbury victimizes us is through the demoralizing conflicts that build up pressure throughout the story. At first the conflicts are simple fatigue and frustration from being in the rain too long; but eventually these conflicts escalate into more complex and demoralizing problems such as mutiny, insanity and even euthanasia. Once these climactic problems are reached, the reader, as well as the characters has no where else to go. And ending of relief is inevitable… or is it?

The dream-like ending Bradbury gives leaves the reader up in the air because one never knows if the party actually reached their goal, or if it is just another mirage. In my opinion, this unrealistic sense of relief further drains the reader from any remaining hope of control and leaves the reader with a need for a more solid, if not a more realistic ending.

In effect, this ending accomplishes Bradbury's initial attempt at creating a no-way-out situation, which makes this short story more of an experience in the form of literary escapism. For instead of trying to escape into the story— the reader is now trying to escape from the story. A unique twist to a unique story.

I indicated on my paper that I wasn't quite sure if I got the assignment right since it didn't seem like a review to me. When the professor sat down with me, they indicated that they were considering giving me an A, but decided to give me a C because they did not think that I wrote it. Pretty sad that when you think you got the assignment wrong you get it totally right— but wind up getting it wrong anyway because the teacher did not think you had it in you to write something well.

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