The Illustrated Man is a collection of short science fiction stories by Ray Bradbury that examines the nature of mankind. It was written in 1951 and is considered by some to be prophetic. The short stories are centered around a man covered in animated tattoos, given to him by a time-travelling woman, each one telling a different story about the future. He was a former member of a carnival freak-show, who chose to leave the carnival lifestyle because of the public’s reaction to his tattoos, I think this makes the Illustrated Man a good example of the carnivalesque and the grotesque body. His emphasis is placed on his body throughout the novel as an unnamed narrator examines each of the tattoos and uncovers each story.
Some stories are seen as controversial, and many have a troubling plot which seems grotesque in that they leave the reader with conflicting emotions about a disturbing scenario. For example, in “The Veldt, parents in a futuristic society worry about their children’s mental health when their new virtual reality bedroom, which can produce any environment the children imagine, continually projects an African veldt populated by lions, usually feasting on carcasses. A child psychiatrist suggests that the automated house is not healthy for the children’s development, and insists they shut down the automation and become more self-sufficient. The children are upset with this decision, but later coolly agree to it. The children trick their parents into becoming trapped the bedroom, where they then become prey to the lions. They later have lunch on the veldt with the child psychologist, who sees the lions feasting but does not recognize what has happened. A recurring theme through each of the short stories is that there is a growing conflict between the mechanics of technology and how they relate to the psychology of people. It is this theme that is considered to be the key to the novel being prophetic as technology is dominant in our society today.