The Martian Chronicles: A Commentary on Human Life
The novel The Martian Chronicles, written by Ray Bradbury, is composed of a series of stories, all acting independently and focusing on one setting. For this reason, Bradbury entitled his work with the word chronicles, as opposed to history or expeditions. The Martian Expeditions suggests one adventure or journey fulfilled by a specific group, unlike the Martian Chronicles in which each chapter is revolved around one, arbitrary group. The Martian History suggests a study of past events relating to Martians. Both history and expeditions, however, possess chapters all related and dependent on the previous.
Nevertheless, the word chronicles suggests an unorthodox method in which each chapter is its own story. Furthermore, this novel chronicles humanity’s endeavor to colonize Mars; it is neither one journey nor a record of past events. It begins with the first expedition, followed by the second, and so on, each chapter possessing its own main character, climax, and denouement; the chronological annals in the book also contribute to the overall scheme. Beginning in 1999, humans have not visited Mars and it is just beginning to be portrayed. The next year was 2000, where humans had ideas of Mars and preparations for the possibilities that may transpire. This collectively exemplifies how the novel is chronicling the adventures to Mars.
Indeed, the telepathic abilities of the Martians are striking. The ability to communicate beyond the ordinary senses seems outrageous, and, to the Earth men, it is most definitely endangering, whether it be directly or indirectly. During the beginning chapters of the book, humans were not aware that the inhabitants of Mars possess such a power; their mindset upon landing on Mars was distracted by their accomplishment of successfully reaching Mars. Therefore, they were not prepared for the possibilities that may transpire. In “February 1999: Ylla,” Ylla starts to dream about a man and makes remarks about him while sleeping. Yll, Ylla’s husband, becomes jealous that his wife is dreaming about a man whose is portrayed as wonderfully kind and handsome. “A shot sounded” (Bradbury 15).
At this moment, Yll killed the dreamy man and his partner, all the while lying to his wife, claiming he is going hunting. This exemplifies the indirect vulnerability humans have in regards to the Martians’ telepathic abilities. Nevertheless, it seems as though only a minority of the Martian population have full control over their powers. In “August 1999: The Earth Men,” it is shown that the Martians have a possibility of going insane, predominantly shown through unwillingly hallucinating, similar to Ylla’s indeliberate dreams where she foretells impending events. On the contrary, the Martians in “April 2000: The Third Expedition” have full control of their powers, to the extent in which they can recall past memories of others and portray them in present time. “They’ve been dead thirty years” (Bradbury 53). This was said by Lustig to the captain regarding the odd appearance of Lustig’s long-dead grandparents.
Eventually, the Martians finished the Earth Men while they were asleep, unsuspicious of anything. This contact, between the Martians and the humans, creates a vulnerability in which the Martians are exposed to the humans. This was the cause of the eventual decimation of the Martian race, for chicken pox was the ending factor for most of them. Apart from this, Martians could also read the minds of other Martians, and, thus, opens a gate to many other complications and issues.
In “June 2001: —And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” Captain Wilder states that it would be a good idea for his crew to think of Spender from time to time. The captain literally thinks that his men would benefit from contemplating on Spender’s outlook on life and other aspects. With this being said, the captain delineates Spender in a positive manner. During the crew’s celebration, Spender cogitates about Mars and its ultimate value; he feels humbled by this ancient civilization. In fact, when the crew rallies up to explore a town, Spender wanders off.
Time passes, and, suddenly, Spender shows up, claiming to be a Martian, eventually killing multiple crew members and running off. Captain Wilder finds him and tries to reason. Wilder learns that Spender has deepened his understanding of Mars’ ancient civilization; Spender is amazed as he grasps the Martians’ lifestyle, that is, balancing religion and science in a fashion to prevent opposition, giving art meaning and thought, and much more. He believes killing the crew would prevent humans from destroying such a beautiful place in multiple ways: renaming old structures, eradicating old architecture, and supersede everything with less meaningful things, for lack of a better word. Wilder embraces Spender’s ways but eventually, yet unwillingly, kills him. Taking this into consideration, the captain has a positive attitude for Spender.
“June 2003: Way in the Middle of the Air” has a social theme concerning racism. The main plot of this chapter is the immigration of all the African-Americans from Earth to Mars. Nevertheless, throughout the chapter, Teece epitomized insolence and indignation toward a race deemed less merit than his own. In order to accommodate his displeasures, he attempts to prevent blacks from migrating but, to an extent, is persuaded otherwise. This is specific to only Earth life for those who immigrate to Mars seek to avoid such problems, meaning its presence on Mars is unlikely. In “April 2005: Usher II,” the social themes focus on death and the suppression of fantastical imagination. Death is prevalent in this chapter, shown through ghosts and bats and the repetition of the word death. Beyond this, the limitation to imagine certain things is also pertinent; it is the reason the chapter transpired. Stendahl and Pikes are of the few people on Earth to be affected by the burning of fantasy related items.
With this in mind, they desire revenge. Stendahl spends a great amount of cash to create his dream house, parallel to a haunted house. He invites the top members of the Society for the Prevention of Fantasy and eventually kills them all through clever and devious ways. This is both specific to Mars life and Earth life for laws are being imposed on Mars to ban fantastical imagination, and laws have already been enforced back on Earth. “October 2026: The Million Year Picnic” is the last chapter of the book, possessing a social theme based around colonization and the destructiveness of human nature. Timothy and his family are going on a fishing trip, or so his father states; Timothy is old enough to infer that this is not the case. William, the father of Timothy, exhibits sadness and depression when contemplating the sky or hearing apropos of the wars on Earth. The ramifications of the atomic war on Earth created an uninhabitable planet where life is almost nonexistent.
Amid the family’s journey through Mars, they claim a dead city as their own and diminish clues about their whereabouts. At the end, the children want to see Martians and, thus, the father takes them to see their own reflections. The colonization aspect of this chapter is validated by the fact that the family escaped Earth and resselted on Mars. In other words, the family avoided the immense amount of wars and human ruination as a means to make a new life and an idealistic utopia, where they are the Martians.
“April 2026: The Long Years” features machines in the form of people able to sense and react. Their roles in the story predominantly revolve around creating a family for Dr. Hathaway In the beginning of the chapter, it seems that Dr. Hathaway and his family have missed the last rocket to Earth. “I was very much alone” (Bradbury 208). Hathaway said this while facing four graves, unable to cry since his tears have dried. Time passes and Captain Wilder returns from his unique mission to beyond Mars, but he is dubious. Hathaway is old, as he should be, but his family is not only young but also have gravestones. Upon further investigation, it becomes clear that the family at the dinner table is just a group of robots that have been programmed similar to Hathaway’s departed family. This is a clear commentary on human life. To begin, humans disrelish isolation and loneliness, and thus, do whatever they can within their power to diminish such notions. In this case, Hathaway was isolated and lonely due to his family’s death, and, so, he created robots to replace them.
“August 4, 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” feature machines in the form of automated technology that complete daily functions. Their role in the story is to execute the normal tasks of a normal day: concoct breakfast, prepare the table, read bedtime stories, etc. However, there are no humans to receive or await for the completion of these actions; the family of this house has died due to an atomic bomb, along with the rest of the neighborhood. Furthermore, a dog, which was a past pet, walks in the home seeking its family; it was not pleasantly greeted. “Behind it whirred angry mice, angry at tracking mud, angry at inconvenience” (Bradbury 223).
Briefly after, the dog dies and the automated mice mercilessly dump it into the incinerator. Even in the event of the dog, the technology continues its day. Night comes, and a tree falls, producing a domino of effects that engender a fire. The house tries to save itself but is ultimately defeated by the fire. This, as a whole, is a commentary on human life. Humans are constantly and rapidly developing technology in hopes that life becomes easier. Even as technology encompasses humans’ lives and self-dependence becomes more difficult to obtain, nature will always prevail over technology, no matter how advanced it becomes. This is metaphorically shown as the fire prevails over the house, which translates to nature prevailing over technology.
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