The 14th-18th November marked Anti-Bullying Week, organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance. While bullying and its impact on mental health are a widely discussed issue, media coverage and statistics routinely reveal how common and complex a problem it is, affecting far too many children and adults from a huge variety of backgrounds.
In the Reading Rooms, one of the stories we will use during this week is Ray Bradbury’s ‘All Summer in a Day’. First published in 1954 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the story presents a powerful study of the roots of bullying and its dynamics. Set on planet Venus, the story imagines a world in which the sun shines only once every seven years. A group of children are awaiting the important event. Apart from Margot, a recent immigrant from planet Earth who grew up with the sun, none of the other children have seen it.
This is the premise to a captivating story that, in simple and straightforward language, and within the short space of four pages, highlights the roles that deprivation and preconceived ideas about ‘Otherness’ play when it comes to bullying. In the face of current world events and developments, it seems that the story has lost none of its relevance. Another of Bradbury’s stories, the dystopian classic ‘The Veldt’, exploring virtual reality and its impact on parent-child relationships has become another Reading Rooms favourite, providing plenty of food for thought and conversation.
Author Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was perhaps most widely known for his novel Fahrenheit 451 (1966). Set in a futuristic totalitarian society where the reading of literature is banned, the fire brigade, rather than extinguish fires, specializes in burning books. The story follows Montag, a fireman, who becomes fascinated by the power of literature and soon stands up against the regime, joining an underground movement of book lovers. Widely read to this day, with many of his works adapted for the screen (including François Truffaut’s famed version), Bradbury’s signature blend of science fiction, fantasy and literary fiction, remains a major influence on writers around the world.
‘All Summer in a Day’ can be read here (pdf download).