Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” Summary, Analysis, Lesson Plans

A Sound of Blunder

A warm phlegm gathered in Mr. Eckels’s throat: he swallowed and pushed it down. Mr. Eckles had just taught Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” short story during a principal’s observation and his “Sound of Thunder” lesson plans didn’t go very well. His students’ eyelids had blinked over their stares, and the boredom of their teacher’s lesson burned a hole in their soul.

After class, the assistant principal, Mr. Unrealistic, put his hand slowly out in the open air, and in that hand waved “A Sound of Thunder” Lesson Plans to Eckles, who was now slumped behind his desk.

I have gained access to these lesson plans and decided to throw in “A Sound of Thunder” summary and analysis as well.


“A Sound of Thunder” Summary

Image of a dinosaur for Sound of Thunder Lesson Plans

Hunting dinosaurs is dangerous! So is starting class with out a great lesson plan. Check out the Sound of Thunder Teaching Guide.

Time Safari Inc. offers safaris to any year in the past: “You name the animal. We take you there. You shoot it.” A man named Eckles shows up with a $10,000 check so he can go back in time and hunt dinosaurs. Eckels meets his tour guides Mr. Travis and Mr. Lesperance. A discussion with the man behind the desk ensues regarding the election held the previous day. They are grateful Deutscher didn’t win.

Eckels and the guides travel back in time. Travis tells Eckels not to go off the path. Doing so could cause immense changes. The hunters exit the time machine. The Tyrannosaurus Rex arrives. Eckles metaphorically takes a dump in his pants. Eckels literally steps off the path. He discovers a smashed butterfly under his boot. Travis is ticked and threatens to leave Eckels behind.

They return to the present. It’s a little awkward in the time machine. They return to the present and step outside the time machine. Everything’s the same but different. Oh, and Deutscher won the election. Eckels walks into a back room and Mr. Travis blasts him in the back of the head with a bullet.

“A Sound of Thunder” Literary Analysis and Discussion Points

For those of you who want to get all literary up in this mug, here’s some stuff to discuss.

  •  Cause and Effect. Historians love studying cause and effect. So do English teachers. Eckles? Not so much. He caused a whole lot of crap to happen.
  • A Sound of Thunder. Another thing English teachers love are puns. The story’s title can refer to the sound the time machine makes as it bursts through time, the sound of the dinosaur, the sound of a rifle, the symbolic sound of change…
  • Setting. The setting begins in the Time Safari office. It then goes back 60-million year or something like that. It then returns to the Tyme Sefari office. Pay attention to details before and after the journey back in time.
  • Imagery. The description of the T-rex is Bradbury at his absolute best. The brochure at the Time Safari office is pretty impressive as well.
  • The Dangers of Technology. This is an oft dealt with theme throughout Bradbury’s works. We see in “A Sound of Thunder” the foolish use of technology and its potential for catastrophe.
  • Elements of Science Fiction – Bradbury is a master of science fiction. “A Sound of Thunder” has been imitated so frequently that its concepts have become a cliche.
  • The Butterfly Effect -Lesperance explains what the effects of killing something as small as a mouse would have thousands of years in the future. Eckles’ killing of the butterfly shows this effect.
  • Authoritarian Regimes – Eckles unwittingly brings a fascist to power. Travis, by the way, seems quite pleased with the changed election results.

“A Sound of Thunder” Lesson Plans and Lesson Ideas

  1. Teach Cause and Effect with this essay lesson plan. Use a flow chart to chronicle the chain of events that causes words to be spelled differently, the air to be different, and for the election to change. Be creative.
  2. Use this Suspense in the”Most Dangerous Game” chart and modify it.
  3. Bradbury gives a detailed description of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Read the description and assign students to draw the dinosaur. Bring in a photo of another animal–a mouse, for example–and instruct students to write their own description.
  4. Discuss the chain of events–beginning with the death of the butterfly–that could have led to the changes the hunters observe on their return. Make a cause and effect chain/chart and instruct students to use their imagination and fill it in.
  5. There’s a cheesy but really good movie version of the story. You can find the video and a common core aligned lesson plan by following the previous link.


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