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Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES: FREE STUDY GUIDE / SUMMARY

IMPORTANT QUOTATIONS - QUOTES AND ANALYSIS (continued)

From "The Luggage Store"

"I know, we came up here to get away from things - politics, the atom bomb, war, pressure groups, prejudice, laws - I know. But it's still home there. You wait and see. When the first bomb drops on America the people up here'll start thinking. They haven't been here long enough. A couple years is all. If they'd been here forty years, it'd be different, but they got relatives down there, and their home towns." (132)

The store proprietor reasons correctly why the Mars settlers will return home in the face of war on Earth. In doing so, he points out an inherent contradiction for settlers and immigrants of all sorts: they leave their homes in order to escape all the bad things and start anew, but as humans they still have roots and must pay heed to those roots when they are threatened. One can head to a bold new future, but the past is a powerful anchor for those who can still remember it.

From "The Off Season":

"Good old wonderful Earth. Send me your hungry and your starved. Something, something - how does that poem go? Send me your hungry, old Earth. Here's Sam Parkhill, his hot dogs all boiled, his chili cooking, everything neat as a pin. Come on, you Earth, send me your rocket!" (143)


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 from." (180)

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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