Free Study Guide: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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December 2005: The Silent Towns


Walter Gripp
Apparently the last man on Mars.

Amelia Ames
Colonizer of Mars who returned to Earth.

Helena Arsumian
Colonizer of Mars who returned to Earth.

Genevieve Selsor
Apparently the last woman on Mars.



Walter Gripp, who finds himself the last man left on Mars.


Genevieve Selsor, who finds herself the last woman on Mars.


The two meet and find themselves unsatisfied with each other.


When Genevieve signals a desire to marry, Walter flees and stays far away from her.


The theme of this comic story is being careful of what one wishes for: Walter has been seeking a wife and when he finally has a chance to marry it's under a situation he cannot endure. Further, Bradbury provides an interesting caveat to the previously established theme of loneliness: that is, as painful and forbidding as loneliness can be, bad company can be much worse than no company at all. Given the scope of possible choices, for Walter the Sartrean edict holds true: Hell is other people.


Walter Gripp is a miner living in a remote shack in the hills. He walks to town every two weeks in the hopes of meeting a quiet, intelligent woman to marry - to no avail. A week ago, he came to town and found it empty. Realizing what happened, he enjoyed himself for a week but was soon seized by loneliness. A phone call gives him hope that there’s at least one other person on Mars; however, he searches for the source of the ringing in the empty town and cannot locate it. He reasons it must be a woman and that she must be trying different numbers to find somebody. Now with a mission, Walter goes through the phone book from the beginning, but only gains false hope when he reaches an answering machine recording for a Miss Helena Arsumian.

He then decides to call the logical places from where a woman would place calls and strikes pay dirt when he rings up the biggest beauty parlor in New Texas City. There he speaks to a Genevieve Selsor, telling her he’s in Marlin Village - only for the line to disconnect. Flush with excitement and anticipation, he drives to New Texas City, but finds she’s no longer there. He then realizes she probably drove to him and returns to Marlin Village, where they finally meet: Gripp, a skinny, scruffy fellow, and Genevieve, a larger woman constantly stuffing herself with chocolates and wearing way too much make-up. They spend a day together, and the mutual lack of attraction becomes obvious. However, Genevieve shows Walter something she brought with her from New Texas City: a wedding dress.

Walter immediately flees, placing 10,000 miles between himself and Genevieve before settling at Holtsville Springs. He enjoys his life there and whenever the phone rings, he doesn’t answer.


While the comedy of this story is unusual for the collection, the ghastly turn it takes - first in the loneliness that takes hold of Gripp, then his meeting with Genevieve Selsor - is in keeping with the overall tone of the book.

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