In "The Naming of Names," how do the minor characters affect the story?
In the short story "The Naming of Names" by Ray Bradbury, the minor characters of the townspeople and other colonists increase Harry Bittering's sense of unease and fear as the plants, animals, and people around him all begin to change. Bittering becomes convinced that Mars is haunted and wants to escape, but the sinister voices of the minor characters urge him to yield to and accept the changes.
There are two different stories by Ray Bradbury called "The Naming of Names." The one that appears in The Martian Chronicles is a continuity chapter with no characters at all. It describes how people from Earth come to Mars, displace the old Martian names for places, and assign new names based on the first explorers, historical events, metals, and mechanical things. Once everything is set up, tourists arrive from Earth and bring their red tape, laws, and sociological standards.
The longer story titled "The Naming of Names" also takes place on Mars. It first appeared in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories under the title "The Naming of Names" and was later reprinted in some of Bradbury's collections with the title "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed."
This short story tells of a family of Mr. and Mrs. Bittering and their three children who arrive on Mars with a group of colonists. These, of course, are the story's main characters. They immediately feel uneasy, as if the land is haunted, although there seem to be no Martians left alive. Mr. and Mrs. Bittering discuss taking the next rocket back to Earth, but then nuclear war erupts and they are trapped on Mars. After the war starts, Mr. Bittering wonders about Earth people taking over Martian land, including making new names for places.
The plants they have brought from Earth, the animals, the buildings, and finally the people begin to physically change. Bradbury uses the minor characters, such as the townspeople that Bittering talks to, to increase Bittering's sense of strangeness, dislocation, and paranoia. The changes disturb him deeply, but the townspeople don't seem to worry about them at all. In fact, most of them don't even notice that they are slowly turning into Martians. Later he calls the expedition archeologist, and the archeologist is not surprised when Bittering knows a Martian word, though he has never learned Martian.
Later, as the rest of the townspeople want to move to a Martian villa and Bittering alone intends to stay and work on his rocket, the townspeople act as a group of sinister voices, persuading him to give up thought of returning to Earth and yield to the changes that are happening to him and everyone else. Eventually he follows them to the Martian village, and all the Earth people turn into Martians.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial