Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury|
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THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES: FREE STUDY GUIDE / SUMMARY
Sam Parkhill not only desecrates the Martian landscape with his hot dog stand,
he does the same to the poem associated with the Statue of Liberty. With
his focus on personal benefit at the expense of all else - as well as
the hubris to think of Earth as his to exploit - he is the book’s clearest
example of how man’s noble quest for advancement can be corrupted and
turned into something quite different.
Earth changed in the black sky. It caught fire. Part of it seemed to come apart in a million pieces, as if a gigantic jigsaw had exploded. It burned with an unholy dripping glare for a minute, three times normal size, then dwindled.
"What was that?" Sam looked at the green fire in the sky. "Earth,"
said Elma, holding her hands together. (143)
This description of Earth finally succumbing to atomic war and humans on the
last march to self-destruction is typical Bradbury: simple declarative
sentences with a disarmingly mundane simile (the exploding jigsaw puzzle)
manages to convey an objective sense of the horror the Parkhills witness,
making it both vivid and oddly distant for the reader.
From "The Long Years"
On nights when the wind comes over the dead sea bottoms and through the hexagonal graveyard, over four old crosses and one new one, there is a light burning in the low stone hut, and in that hut, as the wind roars by and the dust whirls and the cold stars burn, are four figures, a woman, two daughters, a son, tending a low fire for no reason and talking and laughing.
Night are night for every year and every year, for no reason at all, the
woman comes out and looks at the sky, her hands up, for a long moment,
looking at the green burning of Earth, not knowing why she looks, and
then she goes back and throws a stick on the fire, and the wind comes
up and the dead sea goes on being dead. (166)
The end of this story is instructive for the way Bradbury uses highly detailed
descriptions to create a tableau that is first mundane (the family huddled
together), then poignant (the wife looking up at the sky, uncomprehending
of its significance). What adds a frisson of strangeness goes unspoken
at this closing: that the people described here are all robots, unable
to truly feel or understand, going through motions and routines because
they are programmed to do so. Bradbury often plays with this kind of narrative
hide-and-seek: depicting a seemingly normal situation before unraveling
it with some imaginative flight of fancy. It is a stylistic variation
on his thematic concern about the wonders found in everyday life.
From "The Million-Year Picnic"
"I'm burning away a way of life, just like that way of life is being
burned clean of Earth right now. Forgive me if I talk like a politician.
I am, after all, a former state governor, and I was honest and they hated
me for it. Life on Earth never settled down to doing anything very good.
Science ran too far ahead of us too quickly, and the people got lost in
the mechanical wilderness, like children making over pretty things, gadgets,
helicopters, rockets; emphasizing the wrong items, emphasizing machines
instead of how to run the machines. Wars got bigger and bigger and finally
killed Earth. That's what the silent radio means. That's what we ran away
Much like Spender, Thomas criticizes the ways of Earth civilization and how
science tends to outpace the other aspects of culture. Where Spender condemned
Earth and Earthians on behalf of the native Martians that were destroyed,
Thomas condemns Earth on behalf of the new Martians - himself, his family,
other survivors - who wish to learn from the mistakes of an old civilization
when starting over.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on The Martian Chronicles".
. 09 May 2017