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Free Study Guide for The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury-MonkeyNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

FEBRUARY 2002: The Locusts

CHARACTERS

No specific ones.

CONFLICT

Protagonist - Settlers who arrive on Mars.

Antagonist - The forbidding Martian landscape.

Climax - The settlements grow and start to assert themselves.

Outcome - The colonization of Mars continues afoot, making the planet more Earthian little by little.

THEMES

The progress of colonization, as the civilizing forces of humanity - builders, women, actual towns - begin to make their presence known on Mars. The rockets are likened to locusts, swarming towards Mars and covering it.

Summary

This prose poem evokes the process of colonization and of the attempt to turn the strange surroundings into something more familiar and inhabitable. At the end of this vignette, it's noted that ninety thousand colonizers have already settled, with many more coming to Mars.

Notes

The title of this story may or may not refer obliquely to Nathanael West's 1939 novel, Day of the Locust, about people searching for success in contemporary Hollywood. One may argue that the influence of ambition and human frailty is as important a part of Martian settlement as in the surreal world of Hollywood.


AUGUST 2002: Night Meeting

CHARACTERS

Tomas Gomez - A young settler on his way to a party.

Old Man - A worker at a gas station who appreciates the newness and beauty of Mars.

Muhe Ca - A Martian on his way to a festival.

CONFLICT

Protagonist - Tomas Gomez, an Earthian settler on his way to a party.

Antagonist - Muhe Ca, a Martian on his way to a celebration.

Climax - The two realize they inhabit different times in Martian history, but cannot agree on whose experience is the present.

Outcome - They go off on their separate trips, wishing each other the best.

THEMES

The main theme is that interaction between beings is always an attempt to overcome solipsism. Solipsism is the belief that one's self and one's experiences are the only verifiable truths: for example, when and where you live determines how you see the world. However, when encountering others who've had a vastly different set of experiences - perhaps even contradictory ones from your own - an effort must be made to understand that other view and to reconcile it with one's own. It's worth noting that both Tomas and Muhe Ca are insistent that theirs is the "present" view and the other being's view is of that present's past. The notion that one's race faces extinction is apparently disturbing to them both, and creates a subtle bond between them. This leads to a minor theme in the story, that one should appreciate life to the fullest: suddenly made aware of their individual mortality and the grander scope of a universe where civilizations disappear in a cosmic blink, each of them continue on their trips to celebrate and enjoy themselves. This isn't a frivolous pursuit, but rather an affirmation of being alive and appreciating what little time they have in the world.

Summary

On his way to a party, Tomas stops for gas and talks with the attendant about the qualities of living on Mars. He drives on, stopping briefly at a dead Martian town to take in the ambiance, then stops again at a promontory. At this point an insect-like Martian ship approaches and its rider, Muhe Ca, climbs out: he is on his way to a festival at a Martian city. The two beings introduce themselves to each other, and Muhe Ca picks up English telepathically so they can communicate more easily. Tomas tries to share a drink with the Martian when they find they cannot touch each other or their respective belongings. Each insists the other is a ghost, a remnant of the past: Muhe Ca does not know of the Earth landing and insists the Mars he knows is very much alive, while Tomas informs him of the death of his people. Muhe Ca argues that it may be his experience that is thousand of years in advance, not the other way around. Finally, they agree to disagree: while pondering one's mortality is difficult, there is too much of life to appreciate and enjoy to be weighed down by this. They wish each other well and resume their journeys.

Notes

Given the end of the book, it's possible that his version of events is as correct as Tomas Gomez - that is, the new Martians at the close of Bradbury's books may have evolved.

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