Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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FREE BOOK NOTES ANALYSIS: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES

April 2000: The Third Expedition

CHARACTERS

John Black
Captain of the third expedition from Earth to Mars.

Samuel Hinkston
Archaeologist on the third expedition.

David Lustig
Navigator on the third expedition.

Nameless Old Woman
First person encountered by the expedition on Mars.

Grandma Lustig
A Martian posing as David Lustig's relative.

Grandpa Lustig
A Martian posing as David Lustig's relative.

Edward Black
A Martian posing as John Black's brother.

Mother Black
A Martian posing as John Black's relative.

Father Black
A Martian posing as John Black's relative.

Marilyn
A girlfriend from John Black's youth.

Mayor
Mayor of the town.


CONFLICT

Protagonist

John Black, who wishes to solve the mystery of how their trip to Mars landed them in what appears to be a small 1920s-era Earthian town.

Antagonist

Martians preying on the memories of the Earthians by posing as their dead relatives.

Climax

Black realizes what the plot is but is too late to save himself.

Outcome

The entire third expedition is killed and buried by their "families".


THEMES

The seductive - even fatal - nature of nostalgia and memory. The men of the third expedition try to rationalize the existence of an Earthian town from the past on Mars but ultimately give up the riddle when confronted with loved ones they considered long dead. In refusing to question thoroughly how this could be possible, the men have doomed themselves to being murdered by the Martians.


Summary

The Third Expedition lands on Mars, only to discover a town straight out of Earth circa the 1920s. Captain John Black confers with Samuel Hinkston and David Lustig on possible reasons for this, including the possibility that earlier expeditions had set up this town, but find nothing that fits. Finally, Black instructs the rest of the men to stay on the ship and be ready with guns while he goes with Hinkston and Lustig to explore the town. They knock on the door of a house and are informed by the old woman living there that they are in Green Bluff, Illinois, in the year 1926.

The men continue to walk through town, shocked but still trying to figure out this problem logically - when Lustig sees his grandparents, long dead, and rushes to meet them. The grandparents assure Lustig and the others that this isn't Heaven but a second chance on another Earth. Black then discovers the other men of the expedition had abandoned the ship as their own relatives greeted them. He is enraged until his own, long-dead brother, Edward, meets him. Black returns to the home of his childhood, where his parents wait for him.

As he falls asleep that night, he asks Edward about his girlfriend from that time in his life, Marilyn. As Black falls asleep in his childhood bed, he begins to think some more about his situation, coming to the conclusion that this whole scenario would be an excellent way to get his expedition's guard down and kill them. Scared, he sneaks out of bed but is stopped by his brother, who kills him. The next day, a group funeral is held for the sixteen men of the expedition, all killed overnight, then the town took the day off.

Notes

The motif of knocking on the door of a stranger is repeated in this story: this was done literally with the second expedition and, one may argue, figuratively in the first expedition where an Earthian threatened a specific Martian household. There is some comedy played in the idea that people from Earth must observe common courtesy in an alien setting. Also, it's worth paying attention to the story's denouement, where the Martians continue to behave as if they were Earthians when they bury the bodies. They seem to have completely assimilated in their roles as Earthian relatives, a phenomenon we will see again in "The Martian".


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