Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version


April 2000: The Third Expedition


John Black
Captain of the third expedition from Earth to Mars.

Samuel Hinkston
Archaeologist on the third expedition.

David Lustig
Navigator on the third expedition.

Nameless Old Woman
First person encountered by the expedition on Mars.

Grandma Lustig
A Martian posing as David Lustig's relative.

Grandpa Lustig
A Martian posing as David Lustig's relative.

Edward Black
A Martian posing as John Black's brother.

Mother Black
A Martian posing as John Black's relative.

Father Black
A Martian posing as John Black's relative.

A girlfriend from John Black's youth.

Mayor of the town.



John Black, who wishes to solve the mystery of how their trip to Mars landed them in what appears to be a small 1920s-era Earthian town.


Martians preying on the memories of the Earthians by posing as their dead relatives.


Black realizes what the plot is but is too late to save himself.


The entire third expedition is killed and buried by their "families".


The seductive - even fatal - nature of nostalgia and memory. The men of the third expedition try to rationalize the existence of an Earthian town from the past on Mars but ultimately give up the riddle when confronted with loved ones they considered long dead. In refusing to question thoroughly how this could be possible, the men have doomed themselves to being murdered by the Martians.


The Third Expedition lands on Mars, only to discover a town straight out of Earth circa the 1920s. Captain John Black confers with Samuel Hinkston and David Lustig on possible reasons for this, including the possibility that earlier expeditions had set up this town, but find nothing that fits. Finally, Black instructs the rest of the men to stay on the ship and be ready with guns while he goes with Hinkston and Lustig to explore the town. They knock on the door of a house and are informed by the old woman living there that they are in Green Bluff, Illinois, in the year 1926.

The men continue to walk through town, shocked but still trying to figure out this problem logically - when Lustig sees his grandparents, long dead, and rushes to meet them. The grandparents assure Lustig and the others that this isn't Heaven but a second chance on another Earth. Black then discovers the other men of the expedition had abandoned the ship as their own relatives greeted them. He is enraged until his own, long-dead brother, Edward, meets him. Black returns to the home of his childhood, where his parents wait for him.

As he falls asleep that night, he asks Edward about his girlfriend from that time in his life, Marilyn. As Black falls asleep in his childhood bed, he begins to think some more about his situation, coming to the conclusion that this whole scenario would be an excellent way to get his expedition's guard down and kill them. Scared, he sneaks out of bed but is stopped by his brother, who kills him. The next day, a group funeral is held for the sixteen men of the expedition, all killed overnight, then the town took the day off.


The motif of knocking on the door of a stranger is repeated in this story: this was done literally with the second expedition and, one may argue, figuratively in the first expedition where an Earthian threatened a specific Martian household. There is some comedy played in the idea that people from Earth must observe common courtesy in an alien setting. Also, it's worth paying attention to the story's denouement, where the Martians continue to behave as if they were Earthians when they bury the bodies. They seem to have completely assimilated in their roles as Earthian relatives, a phenomenon we will see again in "The Martian".

Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury: Free Summary

Cite this page:

Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on The Martian Chronicles". . <% varLocale = SetLocale(2057) file = Request.ServerVariables("PATH_TRANSLATED") Set fs = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject") Set f = fs.GetFile(file) LastModified = f.datelastmodified response.write FormatDateTime(LastModified, 1) Set f = Nothing Set fs = Nothing %>