Summary of “The Garbage Collector” by Ray Bradbury

The Garbage Collector Ray Bradbury Summary
“The Garbage Collector” Summary

“The Garbage Collector” is a short story by Ray Bradbury that appeared in his 1953 collection The Golden Apples of the Sun. It’s about a garbage collector who, up to now satisfied with his job, receives news of an upsetting change to his duties. He has to think about whether he’s going to be able to continue or if he’ll have to quit. Here’s a summary of “The Garbage Collector”.

“The Garbage Collector” Summary

A garbage collector’s routine is to get up at five. He shaves and eats the breakfast his wife fixes for him. At six he drives to work. He gets into the truck with the driver and they head for the starting point of their route, sometimes picking up coffee on the way.

At each house, the man jumps out and empties the garbage cans into the truck’s huge bin. He does the job well. On some days the job is wonderful, being out early in the cool air. He can also go long stretches without thinking much about it either way. His routine stays consistent for many years until one day it suddenly changes.

The man returns home in a daze and sits down. It takes a while for him to hear his wife’s inquiries. They talk about the situation. Something happened at work today, and he might have to quit.

He takes out a newspaper clipping of a Civil Defense Bulletin that says they’re buying radios for garbage trucks. Not for music, as his wife thinks, but for communication. After an atom bomb hits the city, the trucks will be sent out to collect the bodies. His wife starts justifying the change but stops and sits down the way her husband did.

Breaking out of her daze, she suggests it’s a joke. It’s not. A receiver was installed in his truck today, and he was told if there’s an alert they drop everything and clear out the bodies. The logistics of it have been worked out.

He and Tom used to have some fun with the job, seeing people’s garbage, and being out early with the sun rise is nice too. The job’s not bad, but now its been spoiled.

His wife runs through their bills and the man agrees. They could move to the farm his Dad left them and get by there. It’s true, though, that their life is in the city. He doesn’t want to adjust to something like this. He’ll think about it tonight and know in the morning.

The wife gets supper ready and the man thinks. He wonders how the bodies would be stacked and how many would fit. He thinks of how they pull the canvas back and look in at the garbage sometimes. The white things, like noodles, stand out. After ten seconds in the sun, they blend in. When they cover it again and make it dark, they know things are moving under there.

He’s still sitting and thinking when his kids burst through the front door. They stop laughing when they see him sitting there, but their mother immediately calls them to sit down and eat.

I hope this summary of “The Garbage Collector” by Ray Bradbury was helpful.