The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Bradbury does not create fully developed, complex characters in The Martian Chronicles. Though there are memorable characters, most tend to be representative. Ylla, the unhappy Martian wife, is a typical unhappy wife. Sam Parkhill is a typical, small-minded businessman, unable to see beyond his desire for wealth. William Thomas in “The Million-Year Picnic” is a good-hearted Everyman who tries until the last minute to save humanity and then tries to continue what is best in humanity on Mars. Perhaps the most memorable character is William Stendahl, the creator of the new House of Usher in “Usher II.” This story is related thematically to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953). Stendahl is a millionaire eccentric who has dedicated his life to preserving the imaginative literature (especially the stories of Edgar Allan Poe) which has been outlawed and burned by controllers of the “moral climate” on Earth. He devises the new House of Usher as an exact external replica of the original in order to trap most of the moral-climate officials and kill them there. The story tells of his success with this plot. Though Stendahl is memorable, especially for forcing his victims to die like characters in Poe’s tales and in twitting them for their ignorance of Poe, which is also ignorance of their fates, he still is essentially one-dimensional. Even the most important character, Spender, is essentially a mouthpiece for the main positive values of the book....
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
John Spender, an astronaut, a member of the fourth expedition to Mars. In “June 2001: And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” he is overwhelmed by the deaths of the Martians, accidentally caused when the third expedition infected them with chicken pox. He realizes that Earth people will exploit and destroy Mars, making it into another intolerable Earth. He tries to prevent colonization by stopping his own crewmates and kills several of them in the process. He explains his thoughts to Captain Wilder, but then rather than running away, he allows himself to be found and killed because he realizes that his cause is doomed. The crew buries him as they think a Martian would be buried.
Captain Wilder, an astronaut, the leader of the fourth expedition to Mars. He and his crew find the Martians dead of chicken pox and the planet little more than a museum. He understands that Spender is trying to save Mars from the destruction that humans will bring, and he knows that instead of creating a new life on Mars, the people of Earth will only bring with them the evil that they are trying to escape. Not satisfied with staying on the new planet and watching what will happen, he leaves to take command of a ship going to the outer planets. In “April 2026: The Long Years,” he stops at Mars on his return to Earth many years after war has destroyed most life on Earth and finds Hathaway living alone with a...
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Themes and Characters
Underlying Bradbury's futuristic writing is an enormous nostalgia for the simplicity of wholesome, early twentieth-century, small-town life. This nostalgia infuses both The Martian Chronicles and many of the author's other works. His immigrants to Mars are usually looking for a place to call their own—a cozy home and a bit of land. When they reach Mars they immediately set about turning it into another, better version of their place of origin. In "The Off Season," Sam Parkhill thinks that he has achieved his lifelong dream by opening up a roadside hot dog stand. Other new immigrants set up luggage stores, or plant maple and elm trees.
Bradbury suggests that nostalgia can, at times, be dangerous. In "The Third Expedition," a party of astronauts lands on Mars and discovers aninnocent-lookingg town apparently inhabited by deceased family members—mothers, brothers, grandparents, all of them long since dead back on Earth. These people turn out to be Martians, who have used nostalgia as a lure to entrap and eventually kill the unsuspecting astronauts.
The nostalgia theme in Bradbury's stories differentiates his work from that of many other science fiction writers of his generation. There is almost nothing of the fascination with technology that characterizes much work in the genre. Even the exotic settings of Bradbury's tales are largely superfluous, serving primarily to introduce a narrative tension between the familiar and the...
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Themes / Characters
Underlying Bradbury's populism is an enormous nostalgia for the simplicity of wholesome small-town life, circa 1930, and this theme infuses The Martian Chronicles as well as many of the author's other works. His immigrants to Mars are usually looking for a place to call their own, a cozy home and bit of land. When they reach Mars they immediately set about turning it into another, better version of where they came from. In "The Off Season" Sam Parkhill thinks that he has achieved his dream by opening up his own roadside hot dog stand. Other new immigrants set up luggage stores, plant maple and elm trees, or start giving the Martian landscape names such as Hinkston Creek and Driscoll Forest. In fact, the native Martians occasionally use this desire for sameness to fight back against the invading Earthmen, as in "The Third Expedition," where astronauts land on Mars only to discover an innocent looking, but deadly small town apparently inhabited by their deceased loved ones from Earth. The importance of nostalgia in Bradbury's stories is evidence of the difference between his work and that of most other science fiction writers of his generation.
Several of Bradbury's stories also deal with the dividing line between reality and illusion. In the touching "Night Meeting," man and Martian meet on a deserted road only to discover that each is an impalpable ghost to the other and that each sees a Mars which is totally different from that which the other...
(The entire section is 693 words.)