Summary and Analysis: Medicine for Melancholy
The End of the Beginning
Written more closely in the vein of true science fiction, "The End of the Beginning" is generally an optimistic treatise about the future of humanity on the eve of the space age.
Bob, the hero, is a young man scheduled to make the first flight into outer space. His mother is fearful of losing him and questions her son's flight, the mission, and the consequences. Her husband, however, has finally been able to see value in the nation's space program. On the launch day of the first manned space rocket, he becomes philosophic. The song "A Wheel in a Wheel" reminds him of the space station and its hollow spokes where Bob will live. Bob's father has come to understand that as long as the world survives, people must continue to seek new horizons, new worlds, and new suns. Once we are living on these new worlds, we will then pass on the gift of life. Thus humanity will be endless and infinite, just as space is endless and infinite.
Bob's mother does not understand the purpose of this flight. To her, this trip into space marks the end of the years when gravity was the ruler of humanity. Husband and wife hold on to each other as they watch the launching of their son's space ship. Then they return to their everyday routines.
While Bob is working on the massive "wheel in a wheel" in outer space, his father, in his own way, works his wheel in a wheel here on earth; he cuts his grass with the whirling wheels of the lawn mower.
"The End of the Beginning" is one of Bradbury's social commentaries on the value of space exploration. He sees no real purpose for our correcting the ills of society and the malaise within us if we are going to die on the day that the Earth dies. If we are to survive, we must do so on other planets. Therefore, space travel is a necessity. It is as necessary for our future as the lawn mower is for our present.