The Martian Chronicles

by Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles

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In the late 20th century, Earth rockets begin arriving on Mars. The Martians try to defend themselves with their telepathic powers, at one point projecting the illusion of a town inhabited by the departed relatives of one rocket’s crew, but they are eventually killed off by exposure to chicken pox, against which their bodies have no immunity.

Earthmen begin arriving on Mars and setting up communities. Their reasons for coming are different, but all see Mars as something that exists for their purposes. There are random encounters with the surviving Martians, but mutual misunderstandings render such contacts fruitless, as when a human and a Martian meet and each thinks that the other is a ghost.

Earth, however, is nearing atomic war. With the collapse of civilization imminent, the colonists must learn to adapt to the planet rather than adapt it to themselves. They must take on the Martian values in order to survive.

On one level these stories are a retelling of history in a futuristic setting. Mars is America, the Earthmen are European settlers, and the Martians Indians. The parallels between the colonization of Mars and the development of America allow Bradbury to show the ignorance, delusion, and brutality that was a part of our history. In addition, the Martians become supernatural figures, just as many displaced peoples became fairies and goblins.

On a deeper level, the Martians represent the imaginative, intuitive side of humanity. Martian culture unites science, art, and religion, whereas modern Earth culture emphasizes science over everything else. This imbalance makes the Earthmen vulnerable to Martian illusions and eventually leads to warfare on Earth. Only by accepting the Martian ideas of balance and wholeness can the human colonists live on after the atomic war.


Hoskinson, Kevin. “The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury’s Cold War Novels.” Extrapolation 36 (Winter, 1995): 345-359. In this examination of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, Hoskinson explores the themes of conflict between individual conscience and the majority of society, individual conscience and loyalty to country, and the threat of nuclear warfare. Although written during the height of the Cold War, these novels reflect Bradbury’s optimism that political tensions could be overcome.

Miller, Walter James. Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”: A Critical Commentary. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987. A detailed analysis of Bradbury’s masterpiece, offering a unique critical perspective on various aspects of the work.

Mogen, David. Ray Bradbury. Boston: Twayne, 1986. An excellent collection of critical essays on Bradbury’s novels, including The Martian Chronicles. Includes a selected bibliography and index.

Touponce, William F. Ray Bradbury and the Poetics of Reverie: Fantasy, Science Fiction, and the Reader. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Press, 1984. Written from a reader-response critical perspective, Touponce’s study offers keen insight into Bradbury’s works, including The Martian Chronicles. Includes a bibliography and index.

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Critical Evaluation