The Highway

Setting

A highway somewhere in Central America.


Characters

Hernando - A poor farmer in a nation south of the United States.

Unnamed wife - Hernando's wife.

Young man - His car suffers from overheating and he asks Hernando for water.

Five young woman - Passengers in the car.

Protagonist

Hernando, who is puzzled by what's happening on the highway near his home and farm.

Antagonist

White tourists in an overheated car.

Climax

The white tourists reveal that atomic war has started and it's the end of the world.

Outcome

Hernando looks around and doesn't understand what world is meant to be ending.

Themes

The main theme is how perspective influences one's understanding of the world. To the United States citizens fleeing north back to home, the end of the world is at hand due to atomic war. To Hernando, whose scope of the world is defined by his immediate settings - a setting unthreatened by atomic war, due to an assumed lack of geopolitical involvement - the world is still very much as he knows it. The humane advantages of a "simple life" is something Bradbury has expressed in other works, a belief that people are essentially good and the complexities of the world - with its rampant technological advances, political struggles, and social caste systems - are what corrupts people. The dependence on such corrupting influences is emphasized by the overheated car of the stragglers in the flight back to the States.

Summary

Hernando waits for the rain to stop so he can resume plowing the fields. As he waits, he realizes no car has stopped in the past hour, which is unusual as he’s always asked to have his picture taken by tourists driving down the road. His wife asks if something is wrong and he responds that something big has happened, emptying the road. As he went to the highway to investigate, thousands of cars rush by, heading north towards the United States.

The road empties again, until a last car, a convertible, comes by, giving off great clouds of steam. A young man os driving, with five young women packed in tight; the man asks for water and Hernando obliges, pouring it into the car radiator. The visibly upset travelers are grateful, but when Hernando mentions the traffic all going North, they became further upset. The young man tells Hernando that an atomic war has started, meaning the end of the world. The travelers thank Hernando, who refuses the peso offered to him. He watches them drive off and finally the rain stops. He looks around at the jungle and river and prepares to resume plowing his field. His wife asks what happened, he tells her nothing. As he begins to till the land, he wonders what the people meant by the end of the world.

Cite this page:

Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on Illustrated Man". TheBestNotes.com. . 09 May 2017
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