Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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June 2003: Way in the Middle of the Air


Samuel Teece
Owner of a hardware store in the South.

Grandpa Quartermain
Friend of Samuel Teece.

Clara Teece
Samuel's wife.

Works for Clara Teece

Owes Teece fifty dollars.

Old Man
Helps organize payment for Belter's debt to Teece.

Works for Teece's hardware store.



Samuel Teece, who discovers the Negroes of his town are heading to Mars.


The various Negroes whose lives intersect with Teece, and who Teece tries to force to stay behind.


Teece tries to force Silly to stay, but finally allows him to leave.


Teece and Grandpa follow the Negroes to find they have departed for Mars, but left many of their belongings behind.


Racism is the obvious theme of this story, but also a solution as well. This story predates 1954's Brown versus the Board of Education ruling, which overturned the "separate but equal" rulings that were the basis of segregation. Bradbury proposes a kind of pro-active segregation; if anything, it recalls the attempt to repatriate freed slaves to the African nation of Liberia, which started in the early nineteenth century.


In the South, the men sitting on the porch of Samuel Teece's hardware store receive news that all of the Negroes are leaving for Mars. Teece jokes that this may be where Silly had disappeared, stealing Teece's bicycle. Soon enough, the men on Teece's porch watch as a procession of Negroes walk down the street, heading to their rendezvous. Teece's wife Clara comes crying to him with news of Lucinda, their housekeeper, leaving as well. Teece dismisses her and sees a young Negro, Belter, who owes him $50. Teece then stops him and demands to be paid back before he can leave for Mars. Belter is unable to do so but an old man gathers enough money from other Negroes to pay off Teece. Teece refuses the fifty dollars, which Belter lays at his shoes before continuing.

After the long procession passed, Silly returns on Teece's bicycle, ready to resign from working at the hardware store and leave for Mars himself. Teece protests and tries to hold Silly to a contract he'd signed to work at the store; Grandpa Quartermain, one of the men on the porch, interjects and says he will take Silly's job. The other men also urge Teece to let Silly go, and so Silly is allowed to join his family when their car arrives. As Silly rides off to the rendezvous, he asks how Teece will spend his nights now. Teece realizes this is a reference to the lynch mobs he took part in, and decides to drive after the Negroes. Grandpa decides to join Teece on this drive; together they follow the trail until they find the belongings of Martian-bound Negroes neatly laid on the ground. Enraged, Teece drives over the belongings until his car overturns. He and Grandpa Quartermain walk the miles back to the hardware store, where Teece marks his last triumph: that Silly had called him "Mister" all the way until the end.


This was one of two stories Bradbury would cut from the British version of The Martian Chronicles.

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