People may not recognize it, but the greatest power that one can possess is the ability to make decisions. Some choices are made with diligent planning, while others are done in haste. And yet, no matter how careful or careless a choice is made, it nonetheless leaves an impact on the entire world. It is convinced therefore that every decision made must be reconsidered as much possible before action is commenced; as every and any act comes with foreseeable or unforeseeable consequences. With these consequences comes a definite responsibility, holding who made the choice accountable. Contained with such knowledge, the average person may come across a certain doubt of how far a decision affects one’s surroundings. In his greatest effort to understand the extent of one’s choices in life, author Ray Bradbury generates a scenario based on decision-making in the past that alters the future in his sci-fi short story, A Sound of Thunder. Eckels, the protagonist, gets more than he bargains for when he signs up for a dinosaur hunt, fueled with curiosity supplied by an awe-inspiring Time Machine. However, Eckels not only fails to hunt his prey—the Tyrannosaurus Rex—but unknowingly changes the past, when returning to the present he finds that stepping on a insignificant butterfly meant altering time, and thus a new future. Overall, Bradbury conveys the message of how decisions play a role in life, often through the understanding the extent of one’s choices, acceptance of responsibility with positive or negative repercussions, and attempt to atone for actions shown to be unfavorable, even if proven impossible.
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Every decision has its own set of positive and negative consequences. No matter how significant or trivial it may appear to be, in the end every choice made presents itself with effects made on those responsible and people/surroundings around him/her. The tricky part with decision-making, however, is that not every effect can be accounted for, such as during Time travel: “Maybe Time can’t be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways…Who knows…We don’t know…But until we do know for certain whether or not messing around in Time can make a big roar or a little rustle in history, we’re being careful” (Bradbury 4). Not knowing the possibilities that could alter the future, Travis—the hunting party leader—constantly reminds the rest of the party not to disrupt the contemporary surroundings. Although altering the future seems ungraspable, especially to Eckels, making any decision could mean potential big impacts towards the present and ultimately the future. With that in mind, it is important for the party to stay on a “path”: “The stomp of your foot…could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies throughout Time, to their foundations…So be careful Stay on the Path. Never step off “(3)! Travis repetitively repeats to stay on the Path to avoid unfavorable acts to occur, such as disrupting animal/plant species. Likewise, in every effort to protect those around and the unknown future, one must take care in making the most crucial of decisions by staying on the right “Path” of conscience. In one’s lifetime, there will come times of poor and great decisions, in which every case one must accept the repercussions.
One must accept responsibility for his/her actions, especially if one of poor choice.
Making a decision for oneself may seem minimal, but may actually affect other people or surroundings. Eckels demonstrates how a situation could go awry when one does not take responsibility for his/her decisions: “We were fools to come here. This is impossible…I miscalculated, that’s all. And now I want out” (6). Beforehand, when first encountering the Time Safari Corporation, he is asked if he is willing to hold himself in any situation; if not he would be forced to rip up his check. By not doing so, Eckels holds himself accountable for letting himself go on a trip that he himself considers “risky” and “unclear”, as well as to follow the protocol of staying on the Path and listening to the hunt party leader. Commenting on the Tyrannosaurus—his supposed “prey”—his sense of responsibility flees. However, he does not put in consideration the extent of his decision. What appears as an individual decision to save oneself inevitably turns into a high collective risk for the other hunters. Also, his ignoring of not leaving the Path puts the possibility of changing Time at risk. And yet, he feels no accountability, as he is unaware of the repercussions. If Eckels had only knew the extent of his ultimate mistake of leaving the path would Eckels readily atone for it.
No matter how one can try, mistakes cannot be taken back. Whether made in the past, present, or future, decisions and their repercussions establish lasting effects on those responsible and the people around them. When returning to the present from the Time Machine, Eckels finds that his “stomp of his foot” on a seemingly insignificant butterfly causes a perversion of the present: “It couldn’t change things. Killing a simple butterfly couldn’t be that important” (10). By killing a simple, ordinary butterfly in the past, Eckels unknowingly changes the present, most evident of the election of the dictatorial candidate Deutscher over competent candidate Keith, in which it is Keith who wins the original election As the chance that an unforeseeable consequence may arise from altering a subtle portion of the past proves true, Eckels wishes for a second chance: “Can’t we take it back, can’t we make it alive again” (10). Despite not knowing the consequences to the fullest when back in the past, Eckels should have understood that only by following the direction of staying on the Path may have prevented any radical change. By disregarding that one important rule, Eckels makes a mistake that no matter what could not be changed or altered. However, Eckels—showing his remorse—humbly asks for a way to fix his mistake. With no way to repair what has occurred, Eckels pays the ultimate price of death. Although one may want to think that the humility to fix one’s mistake would be successful alone, in the reality no amount of guilt can change any decision made, nor affect any action transpired.
During a lifetime one makes many choices. Although one always tries to do what is best—staying on the Path—one is still vulnerable to imperfect decisions. However, humility comes to those who admit and attempt to atone for their mistakes, even when they prove to be irreversible. A terrible example of responsibility, Eckels shines a powerful light on the negative repercussions of not following “the Path” of one’s life. Not only does he directly put at risk the hunting party by leaving them to fend against a Tyrannosaurus, he also adds on the preventable risk of altering the past by leaving the Path, despite the many reminders against such an action. He does these things only to save his own life! However, in another aspect, Eckels demonstrates well the quality of humility in his realization of his mistake of altering Time—primarily the presidential electing of a dictator over a political savior—and longing for atonement. He asks for penitence by wanting to go back in Time, but instead pays the ultimate price with death. It would seem sufficient of allowing him to reverse his sin because of his guilt, but in reality he is not given the opportunity to alter his choices. Although it may seem initially unfair, one would have to ponder what would become of a world where mistakes could be taken back; where any action could be atoned for or even reversed.
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