Summary of “Changeling” by Ray Bradbury

Changeling Ray Bradbury Summary
“Changeling” Summary

“Changeling” is a short story by Ray Bradbury first published in 1949. Its premise will be familiar to you if you’ve read “Marionettes, Inc”, or “Punishment Without Crime”. It’s about a woman who’s become suspicious there’s something different about the man she’s seeing. When she reads a surprising news item, she becomes convinced she’s being played for a fool. Here’s a summary of “Changeling”.

“Changeling” Summary

Martha has the wine ready and her place arranged at eight. She puts a bottle of strychnine under a magazine on the end table. There’s a hammer and ice pick in the room too.

Leonard calls up from the lobby. She imagines the handsome man of fifty riding up in the elevator. She thinks he’s a faker. Leonard kisses Martha more warmly than she kisses him.

She tries to figure out if anything is different. He has changed; she’s felt it for two months now. Leonard can tell she’s distracted. She doesn’t believe he’s in the room with her, and she’s going to prove it.

Leonard gives Martha a pearl necklace and she loves it. It makes her question her suspicions. They really grew when she saw the picture in the paper of Leonard out with Alice Summers on April 17th. She was sure he had been at her place on April 17th. He said it had to be the day before or day after. He couldn’t have been in two places at once, but she wasn’t certain.

Martha kisses Leonard before they open the wine. She can detect something, some small difference in it. While Leonard retrieves something from the kitchen, Martha pours the strychnine into his glass.

Leonard gulps down his wine and complains of the taste. Martha gets a new bottle from the fridge. She’s expecting Leonard to fall over but he opens the new bottle instead. They drink and talk for an hour.

Martha planned tonight because of the news item she saw last week. There are rumors of a company, Marionettes, Incorporated, that makes mechanical duplicates of people that can be used to handle the interactions they want to avoid.

Martha says Leonard’s mouth tastes funny. That must be something that couldn’t be replicated perfectly. She takes a gun from under the couch cushion. She confronts Leonard, saying he hasn’t really been with her in two months. She’s going to call Alice now to see if he’s there. She knows about the Marionettes.

Leonard denies being with Alice. He’s looked into the Marionettes. With all his social obligations and the women in his life, he needed a break. He has at least six duplicates of himself, all of them spending time with women he’s grown tired of. The real Leonard is home in bed, asleep for an hour now, after having hot milk and reading.

He didn’t want to hurt Martha, or the others, which is why he had the replicas made to keep them happy. He asks her not to reveal it to anyone else and spoil their good time. Enraged by the situation, Martha picks up the hammer and starts beating him with it until parts of him are strewn over the floor.

Martha fills several cardboard boxes with his pieces and seals them. She calls the houseboy and tells him to deliver them to Leonard, making sure to wake him up and tell him it’s a surprise package from Martha.

She sits on the couch with the gun in her hand. The last thing she hears is the sound of the jingling packages being carried down the hall.

I hope this summary of “Changeling” by Ray Bradbury was helpful.