An excerpt from "Just this Side of Byzantium" by Ray Bradbury:

I began to learn the nature of surprises, thankfully, when I was fairly young as a writer. Before that, like every beginner, I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies.

I think Bradbury wants to convey the idea that forcing an idea into existence will backfire, but I don't understand the figurative language in "folds up its paws, fixes its eyes on eternity." What connection does this have to the main idea?

1 Answer 1


Animals who "fold up their paws" are frequently considered to be preparing for retreat / preparing to enter a defensive posture; it is not generally believed to be a sign of comfort and ease, but rather of stress and distrust.

To "fix one's eyes on eternity" is to cease attempting to deal with the physical world, but instead turn all of one's attention to the afterlife; another common way of saying this is to "give up the ghost".

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    "giving up the ghost" is the "died" part -- "fix one's eyes on eternity" is merely to prepare for it.
    – Mary
    Nov 12, 2020 at 13:42

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