Friday, February 3, 2012

Bradbury Friday: The Happiness Machine

Ray Bradbury writes his stories by selecting a word or a memory and creating a story around it. Dandelion Wine is a what Bradbury called "my book-of-stories-pretending-to-be-a-novel." It is a collection of these writings that all come from the same town, from much of his memories of childhood and growing up. Of the book, Bradbury says, "Here is my celebration, then, of death as well as life, dark as well as light, old as well as young, smart and dumb combined, sheer joy as well as complete terror written by a boy who once hung upside down in trees, dressed in his bat costume with candy fangs in his mouth, who finally fell out of the trees when he was twelve and went and found toy-dial typewriter and wrote his first 'novel'" (from the introduction to DW). I recommend reading the whole of it. But, if you haven't the time, and are merely looking for a couple great stories, then there are two in this book that are part of Bradbury 13. The first, found on pages 57-69, is called The Happiness Machine. (We will discuss the second next week.) It is also available in a book of 100 of his stories, aptly named The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

Leo Auffmann is a builder of machines. In Dandelion Wine, the town knows him as such. A young boy suggests that maybe he should build a Happiness Machine. Leo, walking away, says, "Maybe I will..." And build it, he does. Leo goes to his garage waiting for something to just jump out and tell him where to start. Starting with orange paint, he works continually for ten nights and days, exhausting himself, and neglecting his family. And then, he presented to his family, The Happiness Machine. Here you can see Paris! The Pyramids! Go to Rome! Sights, sounds, smells... How about dancing? It has that too! Is this Happiness?
Leo Auffmann was searching for the perfect happiness. He wanted to harness what makes a person content. Can it be put in a machine? In a jar to keep forever? Or is there more to happiness than that? Leo finds out that perhaps his true happiness is there, sitting in the front window, over in the kitchen...

What is it that makes you happy? Do you blame others or circumstances for your lack of happiness? Or do you embrace the things that you have and let them make you happy? Leo was so busy looking for that escape, he forgot to look for what was right in front of him all along. I'm glad to say that he found it at last. But many people forget to be happy. The Happiness Machine is a good reminder to slow down for just a moment and relish in the Happiness that is there, if you just look.

And don't forget to check out the audio at! They really aren't paying me to promote it. That's just how I heard these stories first. It's been really gratifying to find that the original print stories are the same as the radio stories I heard as a kid. Fantastic radio drama.


Anonymous said...

The happiness Machine. This was not my favorite of the Bradbury 13 series. It did not have the Action packed story ingedients as some of the others. But I read the story later ( many years later) and found I heard some thing very different in the story, when it was in Print. Now when I listen to the Radio version, I recognize what I missed. I have moved it up on my Favorite Bradbury list of storys to near the top now.

As Always, for Ray Bradbury there is a twist in direction at the End you didn't expect.

Elizabeth said...

I love the imagery that putting happiness in a jar to keep forever conjures up.

This is a really great story. Bradbury always makes you think.

xo -E