The Rocket


Earth, primarily the junkyard of Fiorello Bodoni.


Fiorello Bodoni - A junkman who aspires to travel space.

Bramante - A neighbor of Bodoni's

Maria Bodoni - Fiorello's wife.

Paolo Bodoni - Child of Fiorello and Maria.

Lorenzo Bodoni - Child of Fiorello and Maria.

Antonello Bodoni - Child of Fiorello and Maria.

Miriamne Bodoni - Child of Fiorello and Maria.

Unnamed daughter - Child of Fiorello and Maria.

Mr. Mathews - Sells Bodoni the aluminum rocket prototype.


Fiorello Bodoni, who wishes for his family to travel to outer space.


The class system, which allows such travel for only the rich.


Bodoni fakes a rocket trip for himself and his children.


His family now have an experience of space travel to always remember.


The main theme is the redemptive power of the imagination. Fiorello believes that the dream of traveling space is more important than the actual voyage, that the process is more important than the goal. Thus, a simulation of these travels is just as valuable as an actual trip through space.


Junkman Fiorello Bodoni often goes out at night to watch the rockets; one night he does so and is met at the river by Bramante, who also enjoys the view. Bramante remembers when rockets first launched eighty years ago and he has yet to ride one; Bodoni claims he will ride one someday but Bodoni scoffs, saying it's the privilege of the rich. However, Bodoni had been saving so that he or one of his family will someday fly to Mars. Bramante scoffs at this, as well: if one goes, the others in his family would hate that person. The next day at breakfast, Bodoni has no appetite and tells his children one of them can go to Mars. There's disagreement on who will go and Bodoni decides the whole family will draw straws. His wife Maria wins but she claims she is pregnant and cannot go. The family draws again and Paolo wins, but he refuses, saying school is about to begin. They decide that no one should go.

Later that day, Mr. Mathews drops by Bodini's junkyard, offering to sell a full-scale aluminum model of a rocket, ideal for being melted down for profit. Bodoni agrees to buy it, using the savings for the Mars trip; when the rocket is delivered that night, he imagines riding it to the Moon, then Mars. The next day, Maria is upset at this waste of money which could have gone to equipment for the junkyard. Bodoni orders more goods and starts working on the rocket, much to Maria's chagrin. At sunset he calls for the children to go on a rocket trip but Maria had locked them in the closet for their safety --how could a two thousand dollar rocket work, after all? She hands him the key to the closet, though she refuses to join on the trip.

Bodoni tells the children that they're going for a week-long trip in the rocket, which is old and can fly only one last journey. He encourages the children to feel the experience and remember it, straps the children in their hammocks, and they leave for the moon. The children look out the port windows during their journey, marveling at the sights of space. When the children sleep, he steps outside the rocket: it had never left the ground, but was instead made to mimic the effect of space travel. He sees Maria in the kitchen, who shows her approval. He then returns to the rocket before the children wake and continues the act, taking them to Mars. On the seventh day, the rocket returns and the children are jubilant. The children thank their father at bedtime and assure him they will never forget. Late that night, Maria tells Bodoni he is the best father in the world; she asks about the journey and asks if some night the two of them can go on a trip of their own.

Cite this page:

Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on Illustrated Man".