Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Though The Martian Chronicles consists of chronologically arranged stories and sketches having to do with the exploration and colonization of Mars at the end of the twentieth century, Ray Bradbury has provided enough unity to justify calling the work a novel. The book contains fourteen stories and twelve sketches, though one might dispute the proper classification for a long sketch, “The Musicians,” about children playing among the dried corpses of dead Martians, and for the brief story, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” about the death of a mechanized house in California which continued to function for years after an atom-bomb blast killed its human occupants. These pieces can be divided according to phases in humanity’s relationship to Mars. The first seven pieces are concerned with attempts to complete a successful expedition to Mars. The next fourteen pieces move through colonization toward exploitation of the planet. The next four cover the desertion of the colonies as people return to Earth after an atomic war begins in 2005. The last story tells how a remnant of what was best on Earth, having escaped the final conflagration, begins again on Mars. Within this structure, three stories stand out for their thematic importance in tying the whole work together: “—And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” which ends the section on expeditions, “The Off Season,” which ends the section on colonization and exploitation, and “The Million-Year...
(The entire section is 1186 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Martian Chronicles Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
“Rocket Summer” takes place in January, 1999. It is winter in Ohio, where the first rocket to Mars turns the cold into a summer-like warmth. “Ylla” takes place in February, 1999, on Mars. Through a telepathic connection, Ylla K. dreams of the captain of the first rocket, Nathaniel York, arriving on Mars. Out of jealousy, her husband Yll K. kills him. “The Summer Night” takes place in August, 1999. Their growing telepathic connection with Earth manifests when Martians sing songs in English.
In “The Earth Men,” which is set in August, 1999, Captain Jonathan Williams and his crew are perceived on Mars as insane Martians. Their appearance and rocket ship are believed to be telepathic manifestations of their madness. Diagnosed as incurable, they are shot by their Martian doctor. After they are dead, the “illusions” remain. The doctor, thinking he must have become infected with the madness, kills himself.
“Taxpayer” takes place in March, 2000. Fearing an atomic war, Pritchard, an ordinary citizen, wants to be a part of the third expedition to Mars, but he is turned away. “The Third Expedition” is set in April, 2000. The titular expedition reaches Mars. The Martians use the illusion of a small Midwestern town, populated with deceased relatives of the expedition’s crew members, to lure them into a deadly trap.
In “—and the Moon Be Still as Bright,” which takes place in June, 2001, the fourth Earth...
(The entire section is 1023 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In the 1940’s, Bradbury had established himself as a highly popular short-story writer. When a Doubleday editor encouraged him to try connecting some of his stories into a unified, novelistic collection, Bradbury quickly responded with The Martian Chronicles, a group of stories about people from Earth colonizing Mars.
The idea of the colonization of Mars had long fascinated Bradbury. When he produced The Martian Chronicles, he had published more than ten Martian stories, and he continued to produce more after the book was published. This book became the first of several Bradbury works that are called novels not because they have the traditional plot characteristics of the novel but because they are somewhat unified collections of related stories, rather like Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919). Bradbury repeated this form with varying success in The Illustrated Man (1951) and Dandelion Wine.
The Martian Chronicles is an apt title. Bradbury structured the book as a loose chronicle, beginning in 1999 with the first expedition to Mars and ending in 2026, with what is probably the last. The chronological ordering establishes a strong forward movement in the first one-third of the book, which deals with four exploratory expeditions from 1999 to 2001. Roughly the middle one-third contains stories and episodes which, though placed from 2001 to 2005, are not very sequential. They seem...
(The entire section is 1041 words.)
The Martian Chronicles is a haunting collection of short stories that chronicles humankind's colonization of Mars. Bradbury opens the volume with tales of the first three Mars expeditions, all of which meet with disaster, and goes on to relate the gradual encroachment of human—and, in particular, American— civilization on Earth's neighboring planet. In a style that is concise yet poetic, Bradbury sketches the lives and aspirations of various individuals who come to Mars in search of revenge, glory, or simply the tranquility of a long-ago era on Earth. Their reactions to the alien environment reveal much about the society they left behind, and in the end, all notions of an escape from Earth prove illusory.
(The entire section is 116 words.)