Critical Reviews: Samples

“The Flying Machine” by Ray BradburyA Critical Review

In the year 400 A.D, what would you think if you saw someone flying? Would your thoughts change if you were the Emperor of China and your main concern was the safety of your citizens? That is the situation in Ray Bradbury’s short story,

“The Flying Machine.” In the story, a man has made a contraption that allows him to fly like a bird. The Emperor is not quite sure what it could be used for by people with evil intentions, especially since he has the safety of his empire in his mind.

The story takes place in 400 A.D China. The first thing that happens is Emperor Yuan’s servant tells him a miracle has happened; someone is flying. As the servant brings Emperor Yuan to where he last saw the man, they see him. The servant calls him down because of the Emperor’s order. Emperor Yuan asks the man what he has done. The man who invented the flying machine doesn’t understand the question. The Emperor then shows the man a machine he made himself.  He uses this to explain the inventor’s actions in a metaphorical way. The Emperor then orders the man to be executed and the flying machine to be burnt. He explains to the man that since the great wall has been protecting them and bringing peace, the Emperor doesn’t want someone to make their own flying machine, enter the territory, and attack.

“The Flying Machine” is a good story even though the man who created the flying machine is cruelly ended. The Emperor admits that he has done something terrible when he justifies his behavior and says, “What is the life of one man against those of a million?” Although Emperor Yuan did a spiteful thing, he did it because he was scared of what could have happened because of the flying machine. It is proved when he responds that the flying machine makes him “only bewildered and afraid.” I think this situation has a real life meaning because sometimes you need to sacrifice something for a better cause, whether fully realistic or not.

Ray Bradbury is a brilliant writer, but sometimes has brutal endings. In another “All Summer in a Day,” another short story by Bradbury, the tale is about a small, starting-out civilization on Venus, where the sun only shines one hour in seven years. The girl who most wants to see the sun is harshly prevented by her peers from attaining this goal. Ray Bradbury is an intense author, and his unsettling endings do leave the reader to think.

“The Flying Machine” by Ray Bradbury is an enjoyable story about something amazing. I recommend this book to anyone who needs to write a book review or just wants to read something thought-provoking and somewhat inspirational. I think the story could have ended in a happier way than it did, but Bradbury’s chosen ending added more depth and profoundness to the story.

“Flowers and Freckle Cream” by Elizabeth Ellis—A Critical Review

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” believes Elizabeth, the main character in this short story, “Flowers and Freckle Cream” by Elizabeth Ellis.  Elizabeth is very ashamed of her looks.  She hates herself for having freckles everywhere.  Well, in my opinion, freckles are a beautiful thing to have, and you should be proud of them; however, all Elizabeth wants to do with her freckles is make them vanish.

Our story starts when Elizabeth has reached adolescence and really begins to be overwhelmed by her freckles.  She often compares herself to her cousin, Janette Elizabeth, who has a perfect body and blonde, curly, waist-length hair.  She also has a perfect peaches-and-cream complexion.  One day, Elizabeth finds an ad for freckle remover in her cousin’s magazine.  Elizabeth is more than exited to buy this product.  Being excited is the positive, but as Elizabeth says, “What if it doesn’t work?  What would I do then?”  When the package arrives to her house, Elizabeth finally plucks up the courage to smear it all over her body.  Elizabeth now hopes with all her might that this cream will work.  She will soon find out when she goes to hoe tobacco out in the scorching sun.  After the day is over, Elizabeth has more freckles than ever before.  Of course, what Elizabeth failed to realize is that when you are out in the sun, you undergo the reverse effect, increasing rather than decreasing freckles.

Elizabeth is now extremely frustrated that she has more freckles.  Her grandpa tries to calm her down by saying, “But, child, there are all kinds of flowers, and they are all beautiful.”  But this just makes Elizabeth even more frustrated.  She snaps, “I’ve never seen a flower with freckles.” That night, she cries herself to sleep, and she awakens the next morning to see on her nightstand a radiant flower with freckles, a Tiger Lily.  Elizabeth now realizes that she is beautiful.

The positive aspects of this story are numerous. There is a message of self-acceptance that the reader could use in life.  The story also gives the reader a strong impression that Elizabeth evolves as a character, learning that she is beautiful; it just takes a little while to figure it out.  This can remind the reader that change takes time, but is worth the wait. The main drawback of the story is that Elizabeth Ellis didn’t focus as much on the good points of the story, seeming to emphasize the bad parts of the story.  Another thing Ms. Ellis could have done better was to have delved deeper into the ending when Elizabeth finds the Tiger Lily next to her because it was beautiful already, but maybe she could have said something like, “Now I know I’m beautiful,” although, even as written, the ending does make the story very poignant.

Ms. Ellis crafts the piece in a touching way.  Elizabeth goes through a series of problems, until she finally realizes that she is beautiful.  Ellis wrote this piece in a particular style.  She wrote it in first person.  That way she is able to express Elizabeth’s feelings with more insight.  Ms. Ellis also used a lot of descriptive words that made the piece more interesting.  I think the theme or the main message of this story is that even if you think you are really different in a bad way, or you think you are ugly; then you are wrong.  You are beautiful in your own way.  All through the story, Elizabeth just wants to be rid of her freckles, but at the end, you feel a sense of love and comfort because Elizabeth finally recognizes that she is beautiful.

“Flowers and Freckle Cream” is a beautiful story written for all ages.  I would recommend this story to anyone who doesn’t like who they are or who has ever struggled with self-acceptance.  It is also a great life lesson for anyone who feels as if he/she doesn’t belong.   Overall, this is a beautiful piece that I love, and I’m going to use this message in life and remember that I am beautiful, but in my own way; and I hope that you, the reader, will enjoy this story as much as I did.

“All Summer in a Day” Critical Review

Always raining. For every seven years of disaster, one day for one hour does the sun glimmer.  In “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury, Margot dwelled on Earth like us. But her parents moved to Venus when bright Margot was four. Now, she is locked in an underground city at the age of nine. This is an inspirational story of depression, lifeless bullies, and surprisingly, joy.

“But this is the day, the scientists predict, they say, they know the sun…”Margot sits, waiting patiently as everyone is a crowd at the immense window. As Margot said, “I think the sun is a flower that blooms for just one hour.” A boy spoke to Margot about her promise, but she did not respond. He soon blurted out, “It was all a joke, wasn’t it.” He didn’t believe that the sun would display its delightful light that day. With fury and despair, he and the other school children sealed Margot in a closet. She struck at the door, but they left like sluggish monsters, re-entering the classroom a split second before the teacher arrived. Soon after, she let them out to revel in the glorious, shining light. For one hour, they ran, played, and enjoyed the short minutes of sunlight. Then the time arrived for the students to abandon the fields before dismal, rainy torture started, again. In the midst of their revelry, they had forgotten Margot. Poor Margot missed the one hour; she would have to wait another seven years.

I was engaged by the brief story. I was dazzled by the way the author told the story. I would have enjoyed it more if the conclusion was a colorful closing. I was struck when the author, Ray Bradbury, described the scene of Margot’s devastation, how it is engaging and well-written, but also heart-breaking: “They surged about here, caught her up and bore her, protesting, and then pleading, and then crying, back into a tunnel, a room, a closet, where they slammed and locked the door. The series of phrases gives a sense of urgency, and we wonder about Margot’s fate:  Will it be seven more years of Venus’s dreary, damp days before Margot sees the sun again?

Ray Bradbury is an impressive author.  I like the way he formatted the story. The timeline could have had fewer flashbacks, but they didn’t negatively affect the story too much. The language was vivid, descriptive, and concise. This short story made me think about how life is not always the way you want it to be. There’s always “a bump in the road.” I like how Bradbury changed the setting from Earth to Venus, creating a new world in which to reveal an important theme. The weather had a powerful impact on the story, almost like the weather is a character in the story.  The dramatic devise of the drastic weather, with only one hour of sun every seven years intensified every moment of the story. Contrast our weather here on Earth with the weather on Bradbury’s Venus. On Earth there is a bit of everything:  chilly snow, soothing rain, warm days, and blazing heat. Conversely, on Venus, there is only rain, tornados, and booming thunder. I thank Ray Bradbury for an exceptional story that will continue to keep me reflecting on the message and craft of the author.

I liked this concise story because it taught me how many kids are treated in a life like this. I was touched by how patient and gentle Margot was in an environment like that. Although the story does not provide us with Margot’s future, I desire that Margot returns to Earth, a possibility Bradbury leaves open in the story:  “There was talk that her father and mother were taking her back to earth next year; it seemed vital to her that they do so, though it would mean the loss of thousands of dollars to her family.”  I strongly recommend “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury to anyone who wants a fictional story with a life lesson, but also wants to enter an entire new life.

“The Flying Machine” by Ray Bradbury—A Critical Review

“Excellency, a man is flying!” opens The Flying Machine by Ray Bradbury, a story in which an inventor has created a one-of-a-kind machine that has enabled him to fly. The servant notifies the emperor, but he will later regret that decision. Unlike the like the servant or the inventor himself, the Emperor is not overjoyed. He is worried. The author does a good job writing a story that makes you think, as every good story should.

Emperor Yuan was relaxing with a nice cup of tea when one of his servants ran up to him. “Oh, Emperor, Emperor, a miracle!” The servant told him about the man flying through the air. The Emperor went to see for himself. Sure enough, there was the man, up in the sky, with his artificial wings stretched wide. The Emperor did not wear the face of happiness, though, when he called the man down. “What have you done?” the Emperor asked. With a grim expression on his face, he led the inventor back to his palace. The consequences for making his flying machine were fatal. The Emperor was not afraid of the inventor, but rather, the man who would see his invention and turn it to evil.

The Flying Machine was a good story, but I believe some revisions should be made. One of my biggest problems with this story is that it doesn’t really describe the setting. Also, it lingers too much on dialogue in a few spots, but in most of the story the dialogue is used cleverly. The dialogue helps see from other perspectives. The characters were well-formed, and there was just enough information about them to make the story feel a bit more real. Mostly, it was a good story with just a few kinks to be worked out for a greater overall effect.

This Bradbury’s story really makes the reader think about how things that may seem small can have a big impact. The Emperor knew that, and he made his decision about the fate of the inventor based on that knowledge. Perhaps Bradbury’s purpose was to make people think of the greater good. “I do not fear you, yourself, but I fear another man.” Bradbury utilized the strategy of using dialogue to tell the story from the characters’ views, but he also created a setting outside of the dialogue. “He saw the town, nestled to itself by a river and a road and a hill, beginning to waken.” He uses this strategy well and makes one possible moral of the story clear.

This was a strong story and with just a little bit of revision, it could be great. I would recommend “The Flying Machine” to everyone because it is insightful. It helps readers see from different points of view in the story and that can be useful in real life when you need to think of other people’s feelings and opinions. This was a good story, and if Bradbury had just added a little bit more detail to describe the setting, the story could have been great. Still, it is well worth reading.

Flowers and Freckle Cream by Elizabeth EllisA Critical Review

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” or so the saying goes in this tale of a petty, insecure twelve-year-old girl named Elizabeth, who is underwhelmed by her appearance. She is extremely jealous of her cousin Janette Elizabeth, who has flawless skin, unlike Elizabeth. She says, quote, “I couldn’t help comparing myself with her.” I believe this story will surely not astound you.

This story begins in 1955, with an everyday run-of-the-mill twelve-year-old girl, living on a quaint, little farm. She, like most other teenagers, is disappointed by her seemingly-average, freckly looks. She is outrageously envious of her cousin, Janette Elizabeth, who has a blemish-free complexion, waist-long blond hair, and even her own teen beauty magazine. One day, while reading her cousin’s magazine, Elizabeth stumbles upon an advertisement for a “freckle-remover cream.” Being the gullible teen she is, she immediately orders the cream. Three weeks later, it arrives, and she slathers, smears, and smudges it all over her skin. Next, since she lives on a farm, she heads out to work in the boiling-hot sun. When she goes back into her house, she looks into the mirror and is utterly shocked at what she sees. Her freckles are deeper and darker than ever. Bursting into tears, Elizabeth runs to her room. Her grandfather tries to cheer her up by saying some of the most beautiful things in life have freckles, but Elizabeth will not listen. The next morning she awakens to the sight of a gorgeous tiger lily.

From the author’s point of view, because this is a true story, it must not have seemed very cliché, but I beg to differ. This small tale is your typical wanna-be teen story. It is a poorly crafted narrative in which you can predict exactly what will happen next. On a brighter note, the ending of the story is well-created. It is also a gratifying little surprise to visualize such a lovely comparison of a tiger lily.

The way the author crafts this story is atrocious because the story gives away too many details too soon, leaving no air of mystery or suspense. On the other hand, the author uses remarkable metaphors such as “dissolved into tears.” As for the messages from “Flowers and Freckle Cream,” there are several. One is an over-used platitude: don’t judge a book by its cover. Another moral is not to buy “miracle cream” from the back of a magazine, comic book, etc.

In conclusion, I would not recommend this short story to anyone who enjoys reading. What the author could have done better, in my opinion, is not to have written this story at all. Rather than composing this narrative, she could have read a book or knitted something. Overall, I think the author should retire.