The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although the Barsoom series was written over a long period of time and spans a long time in its internal chronology, Edgar Rice Burroughs sustained his narrative by creating a plot line that chronicled the adventures of a family, not one individual. Through eleven novels, originally serialized in popular science-fiction magazines, the history of Mars is traced from ancient times to the present.

Seeking to recoup his fortunes after the defeat of the Confederacy, John Carter leaves Virginia to prospect for gold in Arizona. While trying to rescue his partner, who has been ambushed by Apaches, Carter is trapped in a cave by the same warriors, undergoes an out-of-body experience, and awakes on Mars.

A Princess of Mars initiates a series of amazing adventures. After being captured by a band of Tharks, the four-armed green men of Barsoom, the native name of Mars, Carter wins their admiration by strength of arms. Accepted into this warrior culture, he masters their language and encounters another captive, Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, a beautiful woman of the red Martian race. Carter falls in love with the princess, whom he rescues. They marry, and for nine years their happiness is complete. Then, while trying to save the system that stabilizes the atmosphere of Mars, Carter collapses. When he awakes, he is again in the cave.

After willing himself to return to Barsoom, Carter begins his adventures anew in The Gods of Mars. As he reveals the hypocrisy in the Martian religion, Carter encounters carnivorous plant men, vicious white apes, the white race, and finally the black race of Mars. After an absence of a decade, Carter is surprised and delighted to find his son, Carthoris, who is almost grown. They escape death only to discover Dejah Thoris trapped in an impregnable prison.

Having delivered the Martians from the religion that had duped uncounted generations,...

(The entire section is 785 words.)