The Destruction of Civilizations in Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles
The Destruction of Civilizations
Whenever a new culture arises in an area the old ones will inevitably begin to die away, whether this is through violence, force, or simply time. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is a collection of short stories all connected together to form one larger story. Throughout this story there is an over arching theme that shows when man kind goes to colonize a new area they end up destroying the culture of the people already there, whether it is intentional or not. The first way this happens is from the Martians themselves starting to lose their culture and acting more like the visitors. The next way that the Martians lose their culture is through them dying off due to the humans colonizing their planet, and then the people no longer respecting their memory or what remains of their past society. While in this story this was not the colonists intentions it still was due to them that many of the native Martians died. The final straw in the complete destruction of martian culture comes when Mars becomes nearly indistinguishable from earth due to people wanting things to seem more and more like home. By the time all of these are complete there is little to no remembrance or even acknowledgment of the past people who had lived there.
In the beginning of the story when the humans are first starting to come to mars, something happens to the Martians and they begin acting more like the humans. The Martians begin singing songs from earth without evening realizing what they are doing “The singer clasped her hands to her mouth. She stood, bewildered. ‘what words are those?’ asked the musicians. ‘What song is that? What language is that!’ and when they blew upon their golden horns the strange music came forth and passed slowly over the audience” (15). The humans influenced the Martians before they even got their and without the Martians even realizing what was happening to them. The next example of Martians acting like the people from earth came when the captain introduced himself to a group of people and they seemed very excited to see people from earth. “The captain cleared his throat. The audience ohed and ahed as the captain talked. He introduced his crew; each made a small speech and was embarrassed by the thunderous applause. Mr. Uuu clapped the captains shoulder. ‘It’s good to see another man from Earth. I am from Earth also’” (24). This shows how the Martians have been influenced by the people from earth even though they do not realize it. This is something the colonists do not even intend to do however they create a very large impact on the lives of the Martians.
The acts of the Martians dieing off and them being forgotten are much more directly related to the colonists arrival and their lack of caring for the indigenous people. For example the Martians all start dieing off due to a disease they had contracted. “I made tests. Chicken pox. Their metabolism reacted differently, I suppose. Burnt them black and dried them out to brittle flakes. But it’s chicken pox nevertheless” (50). The past expeditions which had landed on mars and had unintentionally given the chicken pox virus to the native Martians which had ravaging effect on their people. Even when unintentional this was a terrible thing done to the martian people by the astronauts. Years later children in the mars colonies would go hiking through the martian ruins, despite their parents telling them not to and would not be respectful of the past people. “One of them took off, into the nearest stone house, through the door, and into the bedroom […] Behind him would race six others, and the first boy there would be the Musician, playing the white xylophone bones beneath the outer covering of black flakes” (89). These kids are being disrespectful of the memory of the past people by going through their ruins and playing “Musician” with the bones of the long dead Martians. By doing this they are belittling the memory of the Martians. These two actions were some of the most devastating in the death of the Martians memory and their culture.
Near the end of the book Mars starts becoming nearly identical to Earth wiping any memory of the martians away leaving only what the people decided to leave of them. It starts with simple things like the colonists wanting to make life easier for themselves. “ We all need the air. It’s a thin air here on mars […] I’m planting oaks, elms, and maples, every kind of tree, aspens and deodars and chestnuts. Instead of making just fruit for the stomach, I’m making air for the lungs” (74). They are drastically changing the ecosystem of Mars just to make their lives a little easier. They have no idea how this could affect the life that is left on the planet. This next passage is describing a sudden mass exodus to mars by a large number of people. “The rockets set the bony meadows afire, turned rock to lava, turned wood to charcoal, transmitted water to steam […] And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness” (78). They only consider how they are “fixing” the planet to make it easier for them to live. They don’t take into account how the native Martians lived and how they could be destroying much of what they had left.
The Earthlings in The Martian Chronicles make the same mistake that many countries in our world today have made by destroying a previous civilizations or at least the remains of it just to make their lives easier. While this is a horrible thing to do it is in human nature for them to care about their survival before the survival of other cultures. They do things both intentionally and unintentionally that destroy the memory of the Martians. However, that is never their goal, they are
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