The Martian Chronicles

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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...

(The entire section is 469 words.)