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Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES: ONLINE BOOK SUMMARY / SYNOPSIS

October 2026: The Million-Year Picnic

CHARACTERS

William Thomas
A former state governor of America who brings his family to Mars.

Alice Thomas
William's pregnant wife.

Timothy
William's oldest son.

Robert
William's middle son.

Michael
William's youngest son.

Bert Edwards
Plans to arrive on Mars after the Thomases, taking his wife and four daughters.



CONFLICT

Protagonist

Timothy Thomas, who narrates the story.

Antagonist

William Thomas, Timothy's Dad and the one whose motivations must be revealed.

Climax

Timothy and his brothers are finally told of Dad's plan to move to Mars permanently and start anew.

Outcome

Dad takes his family to see the Martians - who are, in fact, themselves, reflected in the canal waters.


THEMES

At the close of the book, we return to the theme of colonization and the march of progress - except now the progress is real, the colonization will be a true break from the past. With the last of the native Martians now dead - a point brought up in "The Long Years" and repeated in this story - the claim of these new Earthian settlers is less suspect, not as morally compromised as the first expeditions at the start of The Martian Chronicles. One may argue that as Earthians the Thomas family are still complicit in a wider sense of their race being ultimately responsible for the death of the native Martian race, but this is mitigated by William Thomas' disavowal of the world he has left behind and all it represents. Unlike the government expeditions and colonizing forces throughout much of the book, the Thomas family are truly starting over and wary of repeating the mistakes of their old civilization when establishing this new one.


Summary

Having arrived on Mars, the Thomas family goes on a fishing trip. Timothy senses something amiss with this supposed vacation, such as the gun and the huge amounts of food they brought with them. Dad promises to show the boys Martians later, though they know the Martians are supposed to be a dead race. As they ride along on their boat, they池e surprised by explosions; it takes a moment for Dad to realize it was the rocket self-destructing. Michael wonders why the rocket was blown up, and Timothy assures him it is part of the game. Dad tells Mom the radio has stopped on Earth, completely silent after years of diminished broadcasts. He then turns to his sons and tells them to pick a Martian city they like: it値l be where they値l live from now on, not Minneapolis. He goes on to say that in five days he値l collect the food from its hiding place and look for Bert Edwards, who値l be arriving with his wife and daughters.

While his brothers are busy, Tim is told more by his father: that the rocket they traveled on had been saved for years, after Dad saw how things were turning out on earth, that it was blown up so they can稚 return to Earth or be found by evil men, and that he had been looking up to the skies frequently for fear of such people following them. That night, Dad burns the last of his papers, the last remnants of Earth. He tells the whole family they値l be starting over on Mars with a few others, but are basically alone. He then shows them the Martians he promised: their own reflections in the water.


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