Summary and Analysis: The October Country Skeleton


Like "The Next in Line," "Skeleton" also focuses on an obsession which, when allowed to run its course, ultimately results in tragedy. In this case, Mr. Harris, suffering from what he describes as being painful bones, visits his doctor many times — to no avail. Finally, Harris finds a sympathetic doctor, M. Munigant, who makes him aware of his skeletal makeup. The preoccupation that Harris has with his body intensifies until he is convinced that this skeleton within him is in conflict with his dirty exterior body. The pains that his bones send through his body testify to this fact. He blames his skeleton for his loss of weight, his lack of success in business, and his problems with his marriage. After his skeleton almost "conquers" him during a business trip to Phoenix, Harris determines again to call on his doctor for help against this inner enemy. Dr. M. Munigant gives him aid, but not the kind that Harris wants. Munigant's treatment consists of surgery in which he extracts a major bone from Harris' body, one that holds all the others together. In so doing, he not only reduces Harris to a jellyfish-like state, but he provides himself with a new bone to munch on for his supper.

Bradbury is a staunch believer in the kind of story that can be emotionally experienced, and "Skeleton" is precisely this kind of story. With quiet intensity, Bradbury leads his readers into this story about a man who realizes that he carries within himself the gothic symbol of death; then, he introduces us to an odd little doctor with a hollow tongue who gains sustenance from breadsticks and human bones, and a woman who shrieks with horror at hearing her name called by a gelatin-skinned jellyfish in her living room. In fact, the horror of this story is so skillfully passed on to the reader that he may never eat breadsticks with a quiet heart again.