The Illustrated Man: Chapter Seven – The Rocket Man

The Illustrated Man
Dust-jacket from the first edition

Astronauts of this story are few in number, so work as they desire for high pay. One such astronaut goes off into space for three months at a time, only returning to earth for three consecutive days to spend time with his wife and son. The story is told from the perspective of the son, who holds an interest in one day also becoming an astronaut. Talking with his father, the son learns of the constant battle he faces with yearning for the stars at home while yearning for home while in space. Despite this he has several times attempted to quit, staying at home with his family as he realizes his constant absence has nearly destroyed his wife. At the end of the story the father takes off into space one last time, only to meet his end by the sun, and thus causing his wife and son to live their lives at night to avoid that reminder.

Sidebar: The story was the inspiration for the Elton John song, Rocket Man. The lyrics in the song were written by John’s longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. They describe a Mars-bound astronaut’s mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. Musically, the song is a highly arranged pop ballad anchored by piano, with atmospheric texture added by synthesizer and processed slide guitar.

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