A lighthouse and a sea monster combine to make “The Fog Horn” a heart-breaking story about loneliness that only Ray Bradbury could pull off. Lighthouses and loneliness go together quite well; however, throwing in a sea monster, Bradbury pulls the pre-historic world into the present and wraps history, science and religion into a story that is all human.
Johnny, the narrator, is new to the lighthouse where his companion, McDunn, has worked for a while. Johnny seems a little naive or perhaps just young. McDunn is the wiser and perhaps older of the two. The dialogue between the two unfolds to reveal the friendship and respect between them as a sea monster makes an annual appearance . McDunn is accustomed to loneliness and solitude- something new to Johnny.
A moment occurs in the story in which McDunn makes what appears to be eye contact with the sea monster. Bradbury puts so much intimacy and power in this meeting that I could describe it only as breath-taking. Through the words and thoughts of McDunn, the reader realizes how much the monster and the lighthouse keeper have in common – loneliness, unrequited love, unfulfilled desire – McDunn as a lighthouse keeper, and the sea monster as one who’s kind has left the world millions of years ago.
I’ll finish this post with one of the many great paragraphs this story contains:
“I’ll make a voice like all of time and all of the fog that ever was; I’ll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore. I’ll make a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns. I’ll make me a sound and an apparatus and they’ll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.”