Do you believe in fate? Check out our Ray Bradbury video about the grim reaper scythe, including Munch and Van Gogh animation. Your turn to change destiny!
The Scythe short story from Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury said about his short story “The Scythe” that “It’s a double metaphor. It’s the automatic metaphor of knowing farmers and seeing them using the scythe on occasion, and then the obvious metaphor you saw in cartoons or war and death. Reaping harvests. I must have seen a cartoon and carried it to the next step.” Well, it must only be fate that brought the plot full circle into an animated video of the Grim Reaper.
Fate is indisputably the central character of the plot, more than the Grim Reaper himself.
Do you believe in Fate?
It is fate that drove the family to food and shelter, as if the family man had been the chosen one, led to the farm just in time, to succeed in the role of his passing predecessor. Hence, was everything written in the first place with nothing left to chance or free will?
When the family man realizes that he is killing people every time he uses the scythe, he has to come up with a justification. He is doing what he’s doing for the greater good of his family. The key question is whether it would have been possible then to walk away from the predicament. “Let him take them freely” says the giver’s letter about the farm, the wheat, the scythe and the task. This suggests it could have been possible to disclaim the property. But it does take courage to say no, as there is always a price to pay. Leaving the farm would have costs the family the certainty of food and shelter without any guarantee of survival.
Are we choosing the easy way and calling it Fate?
Instead, by accepting his fate against the promise of food and shelter, does the family man seal the deal that will lead to his family destruction? He knows still per the giver’s letter, that the Grim Reaper is “alone in the world as it has been decreed.” This story was written in 1943 during World War II and echoes choices made by the Nazis in obeying orders, refusing to stand for what is right and later denying any responsibility.
Fate, however, continues to tighten its grip. As Henry David Thoreau once said: “It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.” It becomes more and more difficult for the family man to let go of his new professional duties: “Can’t let nobody else mess with that wheat; they wouldn’t know where to cut and not to cut. They might cut the wrong parts.” The greater good has shifted from his family man’s duties to the humanity’s fate. So, is there a turning point when one does lose control of his own fate?
Or are we prisoners of Fate like the Grim Reaper?
As the story unfold, the question of free will against fate comes again. When the family man sees the stalks that represent the lives of his family, he refuses to cut them in a desperate move to counter the writing in the wheat. We see again that this decision is not without consequences as his wife and kids can neither die nor live. Worse, the outcomes are now between two evils.
Does it mean that fate always wins in the end, and that our lives are pre-ordained? Well, we hope there might be a window, a fork in the road, where it is still possible to exercise free will to choose a destiny, like leaving the farm early on for better or for worse. In this story, there was clearly a time to act honorably and a time to regret desperately.
Ray Bradbury may have had a darker view of life as his short story starts with: “Quite suddenly there was no more road.”
You can read The Scythe short story here. A very grim Grim Reaper story indeed!