Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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The primary setting of the stories in The Martian Chronicles is Mars. However, it is a Mars borne out of popular imagination more than scientific fact, a reflection of Ray Bradbury's desire for allegorical power over scientific extrapolation. For example, by the time Bradbury wrote his stories of Martian exploration, the scientific belief in canals had fallen out of favor; however, as Bradbury is more a science fantasist than a "hard" science fiction writer (that is, one who adheres strictly to rules and laws established by ), he kept the idea of canals for his stories.

Several stories take place on Earth, specifically the United States of America. In The Martian Chronicles, the United States of the late 20th century is powerful and technologically developed enough to send explorers to Mars.


Characters in specific stories are listed in the plot summary for each story. Given the allegorical nature of Bradbury's stories, the major "characters" are communities and planets, not actual individuals; under Minor Characters are the individual characters most important to the overall plot's thematic development.

Major Characters

Earthians of the United States
Explore, settle, and colonize Mars. As the Americas were explored and settled by Europeans at the expense of indigenous peoples, so the United States now explores and colonizes the planet Mars in a similar manner.

The native beings of Mars, wiped out by chickenpox from Earthian explorers, though a few of their number survive.

While not a person, the actual planet and landscape of Mars as a major character in the book: desolate and forbidding to Earthian explorers and settlers, it holds memories of the native Martians in the cities still nestled on its surface.

Other Earthians
Other nations on Earth, unable to explore and colonize Mars due to war.

As the planet whose native inhabitants have the hubris to invade its neighbor, Earth is depicted as a planet that is sick, that needs to renew itself. In a sense, it does exactly that when humanity destroys itself in atomic war and the planet cleanses itself to begin anew.

Minor Characters

Nathaniel York
Captain of the first Earthian expedition.

Jonathan Williams
Captain of the second expedition.

John Black
Captain of the third expedition.

Captain of the fourth expedition, his views on Martian colonization led to assignments that took him further out of the solar system.

Jeff Spender
Archaeologist of the fourth expedition who kills his fellow crewmen to save Mars but is killed himself. He embodies the values of the dead Martians and Martian culture.

Physician / geologist of the fourth expedition who discovers that chickenpox brought by Earthians killed off the Martians. He's stranded on Mars after the exodus back to Earth.

Sam Parkhill
Crewman of the fourth expedition who embodies the worst colonizing impulses of the Earthians. His desire to establish a hot dog stand on Mars is only thwarted by the exodus back to Earth when an atomic world war begins.

William Thomas
Brings his family to Mars right before Earthians destroy themselves in worldwide atomic war.

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The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury: Free Summary

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