Short Story #102: Hail and Farewell By Ray Bradbury

Title:  Hail and Farewell 

Author:  Ray Bradbury


Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverThe story begins with Willie leaving yet another family.  Willie is 43 years old but continues to look like an 11 year old.  He has made a life of travelling and finding couples that do not have children and providing them with a "child" for a temporary time.  However, that time has come to an end because after 3-4 years, people start to get suspicious since he doesn't grow up like the other boys.  As he leaves town, he runs into some of the boys he used to regularly play with and plays balls with them one last time before getting on a train.  He tells them he is going away for a short bit and wishes them goodbye, but they have largely moved on.  He flashes back to the conversations he's had to have with his "parents" and dreams about sometime in the future when he can revisit all the "parents" he's collected over the years.  Finally, he's gets on the train and ends up in a new tow.    


In some ways, this is a fascinating reflection of Peter Pan in that Willie can never grow up and must taking on being a child as an occupation.  Here, childhood becomes not a nostalgic place to return to but a persistent existence which is inescapable and damning.  It is also filled with repression in that Willie must not think of himself as an adult with the freedoms and choices of an adult, but forever, as a child.  This contrasts interestingly with the adult-enforced repression that takes place in the world of children as they grow up.  

Short Story #102 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/8/2014
Source:  S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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