Summary and Analysis: The October Country
The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone
Dudley Stone is an author who eventually could have surpassed Faulkner, Hemingway, and Steinbeck had he continued writing novels; instead, he has written no new books in the past twenty-five years. Mr. Douglas, an avid reader of Stone's works, makes a visit to his home in search of the truth behind the author's disappearance from the literary world. Stone startles Douglas by admitting that he is no longer writing novels because he was murdered twenty-five years ago by John Oatis Kendall. Stone explains that he and Kendall were once equally successful authors until fate smiled upon him, allowing him to outprosper Kendall. Stone boasts that his literary fame continued to grow at the same rate that Kendall's began to wane. Stone suggests that Kendall became disgusted at being constantly overshadowed by Stone's literary merits. This led ultimately to his "murder." Stone confesses that he bargained with Kendall for his life, saying that if he wanted him dead, he would be dead by never writing another book. He says that he gave Kendall the two unpublished manuscripts of the new novels that he had been working on and breathed a sigh of relief when Kendall accepted his proposal. Since then, Stone has been living life, not just writing about it. With wry humor, he admits that he is glad he "died" while he was still famous, for he is convinced that his latest book was so poor that had it ever been published, it would have destroyed him just as efficiently as if he had died at Kendall's own hands.
This story is neither a tale of horror nor of the macabre. Perhaps the only element it has in common with the other stories contained in The October Country is the paradoxical treatment that Bradbury gives Dudley Stone's so-called "death."
Throughout the story, Dudley Stone is described in images of light to parallel his greatness in the literary arena. When Mr. Douglas first meets Stone, the writer looks like "Michelangelo's God creating Adam." His face is "ablaze with life," and a great golden watch hangs from his vest on a bright chain. His wife is like "the sun in the East," so bright that her face lights up their table at dinner. Stone's name on the spines of numerous books in his library blazes "like a panther's eye in the Moroccan blackness." Diametrically opposite to Stone is Kendall, whose literary success is compared to a train's caboose that "went out on a dark siding behind a tin bailing-shed at midnight."
Paradoxically, Stone's "death" is indeed wonderful. His successful career in writing may have been terminated, but he is more successful than many men; he has discovered real joy in simply being alive. Consequently, images of brightness continue to describe him: He roars off to a "suddenly brilliant town called Obscurity by a dazzling shore called The Past."