“The Other Foot”

The Other Foot is by Ray Bradbury, the third story in his collection “The Illustrated Man.  I thought of this piece after a conversation we had in our last MUG meeting about race relations and turning ideas on their head. 

Bradbury is, as I’m sure you know, one of the preeminent science fiction writers of all time. He published his first story in 1938, and wrote every day until his death in 2012. His best known works include “The Illustrated Man” and “The Martian Chronicles”, both collections of short stories, and “Fahrenheit 451”, a novel about a dystopian future society. The list of awards and honors he’s received is too long to list here.

The Other Foot was written during the height of the racial tension in the U.S., in the late 1940s. It ties in to his earlier work “The Martian Chronicles” (published one year earlier) by setting an all-black community on Mars.  The arrival of a rocket from Earth, sure to contain white people, sends the population into a frenzy of retaliatory racism.

Questions to think about when reading this story:

  1. Bradbury alternates between long strings of pure dialog and short pieces of exposition, until a single long paragraph of exposition brings the story to its climax. How does the structure of the writing inform the pace and mood of the piece? Do you think this was intentional?
  2. With so little exposition, nearly everything in the story is communicated through the characters’ dialog. This is similar to Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants”; Bradbury was more of a fan of literary than genre fiction. Does it work for this story?
  3. Race relations have changed significantly over the 6 decades since this was published. Do you think the story is dated beyond its ability to connect with a modern audience? Or is it still relevant, still relatable? Why or why not? If so, how does Bradbury accomplish this – and if not, how would you?

Feel free to comment here, and I’ll see you at our next meeting.

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