The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Martian Chronicles Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

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.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

John Spender

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

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 family he has created. Hathaway, now an old man, dies during the reunion, and the captain and his crew leave Mars to go back to Earth to see if any life remains.

Sam Parkhill

Sam Parkhill, an astronaut, a member of the fourth expedition. He sees Mars as a planet ripe for the picking, and he takes considerable joy in destroying Martian monuments. When Spender starts killing crew members, he is the first to want to hunt Spender down, and he is determined to shoot him in the head. Captain Wilder prevents this killing and eventually knocks Sam’s teeth out after Spender’s death when Sam uses the crystal towers of the deserted city for target practice. In “November 2005: The Off Season,” Sam brings his wife to Mars and sets up a hot dog stand on one of the highways, hoping to cash in on the boom of business he thinks will come when the fleet of colonization rockets arrives. The last of the Martians, knowing telepathically what is happening on Earth, arrive to give him the deed to the planet, but he kills many of them and flees in panic. Finally, they convince him that their...

(The entire section is 2,471 words.)