Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Scythe by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury's, "The Scythe" is about a family who happens apon an old farmhouse. The family is poor and is in need of some food. When Drew enters the house, it is quiet and still. He ventures upstairs to a bedroom, where an old man is lying, dead. Inside the room, the old man leaves a note, saying that anyone who comes across him has full responsibilities to his home and duties as a farmer. A scythe is also in the room.

The family's luck seems to be changing. Never will they or their kids go hungry again. Never will they have to worry about the next meal. Everything is right there for them; food, shelter and the love of a strong family. All they have to do is keep the promise of the dead farmer's last wishes.

Drew works day and night working outside in the wheat field, but to no avail. As soon as he cuts the wheat, it grows back. Eventually he learns that with each swipe of the scythe, cutting wheat, he's taking someone's life.

One day he recognizes one of the stalks of wheat as his family. He refuses to cut it. The next day his house burns to the ground with his family inside. They're not dead, but sleeping. With his refusal to cut the grain, he's refusing their death, yet they can't live either.

Like many other works of Bradbury, there is a strong metaphor to his stories. In my opinion, "The Scythe" is about fate. It's also about God and Man. Drew holds the fate of many in his hands. The Scythe is his tool. And with the scythe constantly cutting and cutting and cutting, people meet their fate, dying, dying and dying.

To go a little deeper it could also resemble the plot of population control. In the story, if Drew stops working, the lives of others hang on longer than fate would originally allow.

This story is deep on so many levels and should be read by any Bradbury fan. Hell, it should be read, period! The story is short and is a quick, entertaining read. If you've got the chance check it out. I read it in his book of short stories, titled, "The October Country".

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