The Man from Mars Summary
by Margaret Atwood

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The Man from Mars Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

While walking through a park in Toronto, Christine is stopped by an Asian man asking for directions. She kindly draws him a map, expecting to be done with him; however, the man insists on exchanging names. Christine observes that if this was a person from her own culture, she would think he was trying to pick her up but that does not happen to her because she is big, or “statuesque” as her mother says. Suddenly, however, the young man grabs her arm and insists on accompanying her home. Frightened, Christine escapes by jumping on a streetcar.

When the school year comes to an end, the mysterious man calls her house, and her mother, trying to do her best for Christine, invites him to tea. Christine goes along with her mother but is pleased by her mother’s dismay when she answers the door and sees he is not the foreign potentate she had imagined. Christine serves him tea but is outraged when he sets the timer on his camera, abruptly puts his arm around her, and jams his cheek up against her as the shutter clicks.

While teaching sailing at a summer camp, she leaves several letters from him unanswered. When she returns home, he locates her on campus and begins to follow her relentlessly. When she asks him what he wants, he answers that he wants to talk to her, but given the opportunity to do so, he smiles apologetically and says nothing. She is both frightened and embarrassed. This mysterious, emaciated, chain-smoking man with badly bitten fingernails and threadbare clothing who pursues Christine everywhere makes her interesting to other men; they begin to ask her out, when they never had before. Christine begins to feel different, more like Marilyn Monroe, she thinks, than a dolphin.

She becomes truly afraid when the man begins to telephone her, sometimes just breathing into the phone; he follows her down her own street, dodging behind trees when she looks back. One night he terrifies Elvira, the housekeeper, when she finds him peering through the French doors. The police are called, and Christine is relieved that she is not the one who told, although she realizes that had he...

(The entire section is 551 words.)