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The Illustrated Man discussion > "The Other Foot" by Ray Bradbury

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This is our discussion of the short story....

" The Other Foot " by Ray Bradbury

From the anthology The Illustrated Man collection by Ray Bradbury. See The Illustrated Man anthology discussion hub for more info on the anthology and pointers to discussion of its other stories.


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An ode to racial harmony?

Bradbury asks what if the shoe was on the other foot? What if blacks (specifically, American blacks) colonized Mars and 20 years later, after a Big War on Earth, a white man came calling.

Interesting reading the story with its 1949 racial terminology. It touches on some of the degradation of the "Colored" at the time, from lynchings to "whites only" sections of busses, theaters and lunch counters.

The historical analogy isn't exactly accurate, though. I don't recall the part about a black coming to the British Colonies and pleading for ships to come pick up his fellows from Africa and bring them to the New World to serve. (Maybe Kanye is right and slavery was a choice.) Not clear this is really "the other foot".

Bradbury also seems to be suggesting that if the old lynching trees got torched in a thermonuclear war, all could be forgiven, as if lynchings were the trees' fault.

Bradbury wasn't able to sell this to a US publisher when he wrote it in 1949 (prior to its inclusion in The Illustrated Man), presumably because it was too close to the mark, so it first appeared in a French publication, New Story.


Phil J | 329 comments It kind of falls under the "nice try" category of white people writing about racism and being well-intentioned but a little off the mark.

My favorite entry in this category is the 1970s movie "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes."


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments Phil wrote: "It kind of falls under the "nice try" category of white people writing about racism and being well-intentioned but a little off the mark."

Yeah. "At least you tried," is also what I thought about this story.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) This story was remarkably progressive for 1949. It's astonishing that it was written years before the Civil Rights movement (1954-1968 per Wikipedia). I thought some of the ideas were quite before their time, especially the idea of forgiveness, not because the old trees were burned down but because there was an opportunity for a fresh start and equality among humankind for the first time ever.

Racial stories, especially those about African-Americans written by Caucasians, often smack of the "White Savior" narrative. I thought this was a clever effort to turn that trope on its ear.


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Andrea | 2818 comments It was definitely something new given when it was written, and context does matter. However reading it now it kind of takes a sledgehammer and slams the reader over the head to make a point (so did Herland). Because for what it's worth, blacks are human too with the same faults as whites and the chance that every single one of them will hear the story of Earth being wiped out and then turning the other cheek just didn't see realistic. Specific characters felt real (the wife, even the husband changing his mind) but mobs don't tend to be that forgiving.

It was too perfect a utopia but like Star Trek, it's a future we all wish we could live in.

In fact, it made me think of our other group read Children of Time and whether we can live together or will one side have to wipe the other out to survive. For what it's worth I think the spiders had the more realistic solution.


Donald | 157 comments It was interesting, but I agree - I kept the time and culture in which it was written firmly in mind. It was ahead of its time, but it's also showing its age.

FWIW I didn't feel like it was a case of "all could be forgiven if the lynching trees were gone". It came across to me more like Willie realised that there were bigger issues with humanity as a whole at that point in time, and to put the past behind him, albeit tied up in a nice bow.


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