Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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Earthians seeking to colonize the planet Mars, even as difficulties on the home planet lead to international tensions.


Martians and Martian culture under threat of this colonization.


The Earthians succeed in their invasion and colonization of Mars, but there is an exodus back to their home planet when war breaks out there.


As atomic war finally destroys human civilization on Mars, a family from Earth flees to Mars to start over.


The Martian Chronicles is a history of the settlement of Mars by Earthians. The first three expeditions fail, and all of their crews are killed by the native Martians; by the fourth expedition, most all the Martians have succumbed to Earthian chickenpox and were killed. Despite the actions of a crewmember of this expedition who was sympathetic to Martian culture, a foothold on the planet was established and colonization began.

This colonization was exclusively by the United States of America, as other nations were tied up in international struggles. There were some Martians left on Mars, who interacted sporadically with Earthian settlers. On the eve before a hundred thousand Chinese and Mexican settlers were to arrive, the Great War began on Earth. Instead of a sizeable increase in Earthian colonizers to Mars, there was a return by colonizers back to Earth until the planet was left almost entirely uninhabited.

Twenty years after the Great War and at the brink of human civilization's final collapse, some Earthians escaped their home planet to start over in Mars.


Major Themes

The defining theme is the progress of colonization: how people from another land - in this case, planet - go to another place and claim it as their own. In doing so, they are infringing on the another race's territory and culture, eliminating the native peoples in the process. This story is most familiar to American readers in terms of the European conquest of the Americas, and Bradbury draws clear analogies between his story of Martian colonization and the real history of the American frontier.

Minor Themes

Related to the major themes are minor themes: the hubris of human achievement, in the belief that great deeds must be recognized by others in order to be validated; the desire for freedom which often motivates settlers to leave their homes; the power of nostalgia on people, especially those who have been cut off from their past in such a powerful manner.


The mood of these stories is often elegiac, evoking a sense of loss and solemnity. Part of this comes from injustices done to Mars and Martians; another part of it comes from the emotions settlers experience when leaving their homeland to live on an alien frontier. There is also a strong thread of wryly ironic humor: sometimes it's a bitter irony, other times it's a strong sense of absurdity at a particular situation. Often, the humor is dark, complementing the elegiac mood instead of contrasting against it.

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The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury: Free Summary

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