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Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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FREE BOOK SUMMARY: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES

August 1999: The Summer Night

CHARACTERS

No specific ones.


CONFLICT

Protagonist

Martians who are receiving telepathic signals from Earthmen.

Antagonist

Earthmen who are unwittingly sending their thoughts ahead of them as they travel towards Mars.

Climax

The Martians grow disturbed by the sudden influx of alien information.

Outcome

The Martians become uneasy and restless.


THEMES

The psychological toll of invasion and colonization.


Summary

On a pleasant summer night, Martians are surprised by alien thoughts from Earth, giving them insights of a culture they had never encountered before.

Notes

In a literal foreshadowing of events to come, the psychological impact of the Earthian invasion of Mars takes place before the invasion actually becomes effective.


August 1999: The Earth Men

CHARACTERS

Jonathan Williams
Captain of the second expedition from Earth to Mars.

Three unnamed Earthians
Williams' crew.

Mrs. Ttt
Martian annoyed by arrival of Williams and his crew.

Mr. Ttt
Sends the Earthmen to Mr. Aaa.

Mr. Aaa
Sends the Earthmen to Mr. Iii.

Martian girl
Listens to the Earthmen describe their journey.

Mr. Iii
Locks the Earthmen in an insane asylum.

Mr. Xxx
"Cures" the Earthmen and himself of insanity by killing them and himself.


Mr. Uuu
Martian who claims to be from Earth.

Miss Rrr
Martian who claims to be from Earth.

Mr. Www
Martian who claims to be from Earth.

Mr. Qqq
Martian who claims to be from Earth.

Mr. Vvv
Martian who claims to be from Earth.


CONFLICT

Protagonist

Jonathan Williams, who tries to make the Martians believe he and his crew are from Earth.

Antagonist

The Martians, who all believe Williams is insane and his crewmen are external delusions borne of this insanity.

Climax

Williams and his men are placed in an asylum.

Outcome

Trying to cure Williams, Mr. Xxx kills Williams and his men, then kills himself when the delusion persists.


THEMES

There are two themes that create tension when they interact in this story: the ego of achievement and the limits of credibility. The ego of achievement is embodied by the astronauts from Earth, who are not content to have completed their feat, but to be universally recognized for what they did. The limits of credibility are embodied by the Martians, who find it preposterous and unbelievable that someone would travel from another planet to Mars. Of course, this is the same attitude Earthians have about people they encounter who make similar claims.


Summary

Captain Jonathan Williams and his crew of three men have arrived from Earth to Mars. They arrive at the home of Mrs. Ttt and wait to meet her husband for several hours, only to then be sent to Mr. Aaa and then Mr. Iii. Along the way to Mr. Iii, they speak to a little girl who seems unimpressed by the story she hears of their travels. Finally, Mr. Iii takes them to a room where they are feted by a group of Martians - only to discover they also claim to be Earth and are actually insane asylum inmates. Williams realizes he has been declared insane: seeing the insane Martians manifest their thoughts while sleeping, he understands that his strange Earthian appearance is being dismissed as yet another insane Martian using his everyday mental abilities to do the same.

The next morning, Mr. Xxx meets with Williams to cure him of this illness: Williams takes the doctor to the Earthian spaceship but Mr. Xxx deems him incurable thanks to the extent of the delusion - three seemingly solid crewmen and a seemingly solid spacecraft. Thus, Mr. Xxx decides to kill Williams, but the delusions persist; he then shoots the other three crewmen "delusions" but the craft is still there. Deciding he himself is incurably insane, Mr. Xxx does the merciful thing and kills himself. Later, Martians find the spacecraft and, not knowing what to do with it, pass it along to a junk dealer.

Notes

Obliquely, this story shows the hazards - and advantages - of thinking too logically, of not trusting imagination. A hazard, since the truth of the situation is never quite figured out by the Martians; but also an advantage along the lines of "ignorance is bliss" since they unwittingly fended off yet another invader from Earth. This story paves the way for both "The Third Expedition" and "The Martian", stories that build on the abilities of Martians.


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