We all go through different stages of development in our life, and some of these stages are not as easy as others. At some point every little child needs to leave his or her childhood and grow up, because no matter how much you want to, you can’t stay a child forever. The development from a child to an adult is an extremely sensitive and tough period. The things you used to know suddenly change and become something completely different. It is this kind of development we see in the short story “The Last Circus” which is published in 1980 and writhen by Ray Bradbury. The development is shown through the main character and is brought up in many various ways.
The short story is based on the main character, Douglas, who lives with his father, his mother and his brother Skip. The family is an ordinary middle class family, which is shown because they don’t have any kind of extraordinary luxury. The family fits right into the old traditions where the mother cooks, cleans and takes care of everyone. The father is more concerned about what is going on in the world and is not very involved in his two son lives. In the beginning of the story Douglas seems to be a normal young kid who loves spending time with his best friend, Red Tongue, but as the story goes on it is getting more clearly that Douglas is going through a development from being a child to becoming an adult.
The way Douglas is starting to mature shows the development, and is also the biggest difference between Red Tongue and Douglas. All the way through the circus show Red Tongue is amused and laughs, but that is not the way Douglas reacts to the show. To him the circus is no longer something he finds interesting or funny, and it is at this point that he has developed from being a young, childish and innocent kid to a more adult person who doesn’t think that circus shows are the meaning of life anymore. This makes Douglas a round character, and Red Tongue a flat. He goes through a development, witch Red Tongue doesn’t. Red Tongue’s name even symbolizes youth and that he doesn’t go through a development – (Page 81, line 1-2).
The story takes place during the Cold War in the 1950s. At that time there were atom bomb hysteria in America because of the nuclear war, which occurred at the end of World War II. The United States was at that time the only country that had nuclear weapons, but in 1949 the Soviet Union did a nuclear test on an atomic weapon, called RDS-1 and later in 1952 the USA tested the first hydrogen bomb2 on the Marshall Islands. After the testing the islands were turned in to toxic fumes and dust. This frightened the American people, because they were afraid that there would be a future nuclear war. This are reflected in the text. Douglas’s father is extremely worried and fears his own doomsday. He tells Douglas all his worries about the war, but children at his age shouldn’t worry about such serious matters. This is a part of what starts his development – propulsion of having to grow up fast.
The story is written with a single major character viewpoint and is therefore told with a first-person narrator whom is Douglas. The reader discovers everything in the story at exactly the same time as Douglas does. It allows the reader all the descriptive forces of the third person-narrator and almost as much intimacy as the first person-narrator. It can also be easier for the reader to identify with just one character, which in this story is the main character, Douglas. The narrator can be a bit untrustworthy because it is just told from one point of view, and especially since the narrator in this text is a child. It is written in the past tense, indicating that it is an experience Douglas already has had.
The structure of the text follows three main points – an exposition, a conflict and a resolution. In the first part of the story, which is the exposition, Douglas, RT, and their values are introduced – (page 81-82, line 21). The reader gets the necessary background information to understand the meaning of what happens later on in the text. The next part of the story is where the conflict flares up between Douglas and what happens around him. This happens because his father starts talking about the atom bombs, witch unknowingly starts the Douglas development – (page 82-85, line 34). This conflict is also the climax.
At the end of the story the resolution is given by the conflict being resolved. Douglas is finally starting to understand that he is going through a development, and also that things are beginning to change – (page 85-88). The story switches 7 times back and forth between him being at home and at the circus;. one: Douglas is at home – two: he is at the circus – three: back home – four: at the circus – five: at home – six: at the circus – seven: at home again. Because of the switching back and forth between the environments the story is not chronological.
The main theme of the text is the development from childhood to adulthood. In the beginning of the story Douglas is a happy, young, innocent and careless boy, but later his father unknowingly starts the development in him, by talking about the atom bombs. It is here Douglas realizes that there are other things in life than just the circus and cowboys. After this he starts maturing and loses his innocence.