The Plot

In January, 1999, the first manned rocket to Mars is launched from Ohio. So begins Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, a book composed of fourteen stories and twelve sketches that are thematically connected and chronologically arranged. All but the last three stories take place between 1999 and 2005, during which time Mars is quickly settled and then, even more quickly, abandoned. People want to relocate on Mars primarily to escape tightening government controls and impending atomic war, but the Martians use their telepathic abilities to deceive and destroy the crews of the first three exploratory expeditions.

The fourth expedition succeeds because the Martians have been decimated by a plague of chicken pox inadvertently carried to Mars on a previous rocket. A crewman named Spender fears that people will come to Mars only for crass commercial and military purposes, not respecting and ultimately destroying what remains of a high Martian culture. Spender’s fears appear justified after Benjamin Driscoll (“The Green Morning”) discovers a quick way to make the Martian atmosphere more breathable. Human “locusts” now arrive in stages Bradbury likens to the development of the American West. In June of 2003, African Americans come in their own rockets (“Way in the Middle of the Air”).

“Night Meeting,” balancing quietly at the book’s center, records the first friendly meeting between a human (Tomás Gomez) and a Martian...

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The Martian Chronicles presents a series of connected tales ranging in time from January 1999 to October 2026. Most of the stories are...

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Literary Techniques

Bradbury was for years science fiction's premier literary stylist and, although his heavy use of adjectives and metaphors can seem cloying...

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Literary Qualities

Bradbury was for years science fiction's premier literary stylist and, although his heavy use of adjectives and metaphors can seem cloying...

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Social Concerns

Bradbury's social and political philosophy has always been humanist, liberal, pacifist, and populist, and the stories in The Martian...

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Topics for Discussion

1. What elements of the book make Mars seem realistic? What elements make it seem fantastic?

2. Why do most of the settlers...

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Read Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, and compare his vision of censorship in that novel with the ideas in "Usher II."


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Literary Precedents

Bradbury is a quintessentially American writer and several mainstream literary influences can be detected in The Martian Chronicles....

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Related Titles / Adaptations

Next to work of Edgar Allan Poe and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury's fiction is probably the most widely filmed of any American fantasy...

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For Further Reference

Greenberg, Martin Harry, and Joseph D. Olander, eds. Ray Bradbury. Writers of the Twenty-First Century Series. New York: Taplinger,...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

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...

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