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

AUGUST 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains

CHARACTERS

The house - An automated building meant to cater to the needs of the long-dead McClellan family.

A dog - A dying animal that wanders into the house.

CONFLICT

Protagonist - The McClellan house, preserving order and routine long after the death of its owners by atomic war.

Antagonist - The forces of entropy and decay.

Climax - After years of following empty routine, a fire destroys the house.

Outcome - A last remnant of the routine remains in the mechanical voice that recounts the date.

THEMES

The routine of everyday life is made strange by the absence of the humans that the house was built to serve. If anything, Bradbury's decision to separate metaphorically the dancer from the dance helps to show how artificial and mechanical life can be, especially in an age where technology dictates so much of what we do and how we do it. If anything, the house stands as a testament to the hubris of technology outstripping the more humane concerns of a culture, and the destruction of the house is a kind of rough justice done to a world that values machines more than people.


Summary

In Allendale, California, the fully automated house of the McClellan family continues as if humans still lived in it. It is the only house in the neighborhood, standing among ruins, the silhouettes of the atomic-flashed family still visible on the west wall. On August 4, 2026, the house proceeds with its usual routine: serving breakfast, then cleaning up afterwards, sprinkling the garden, cleaning. A stray dog sneaks in around noon, but it only wanders around before dying; the robotic cleaning mice quickly clean up its remnants. The children’s hour takes place at 4:30 PM, at 5 PM a bath is filled, and at 9 PM a poem is read aloud for the benefit of Mrs. McClellan. At 10 PM that night, the house begins to die: a falling tree falls through the kitchen window, starting a stove fire. The fire spreads through the house, setting off explosions. The next morning, all that’s left of the house and its routine is the voice repeating mechanically, "Today is August 5, 2026."

Notes

As noted in "The Watchers", Los Angeles was bombed in the initial throes of the Great War.

OCTOBER 2026: The Million-Year Picnic

CHARACTERS

William Thomas - A former state governor of America who brings his family to Mars.

Alice Thomas - William's pregnant wife.

Timothy - William's oldest son.

Robert - William's middle son.

Michael - William's youngest son.

Bert Edwards - Plans to arrive on Mars after the Thomases, taking his wife and four daughters.

CONFLICT

Protagonist - Timothy Thomas, narrates the story.

Antagonist - William Thomas, Timothy's Dad and the one whose motivations must be revealed.

Climax - Timothy and his brothers are finally told of Dad's plan to move to Mars permanently and start anew.

Outcome - Dad takes his family to see the Martians - who are, in fact, themselves, reflected in the canal waters.

THEMES

At the close of the book, we return to the theme of colonization and the march of progress - except now the progress is real, the colonization will be a true break from the past. With the last of the native Martians now dead - a point brought up in "The Long Years" and repeated in this story - the claim of these new Earthian settlers is less suspect, not as morally compromised as the first expeditions at the start of The Martian Chronicles. One may argue that as Earthians the Thomas family are still complicit in a wider sense of their race being ultimately responsible for the death of the native Martian race, but this is mitigated by William Thomas' disavowal of the world he has left behind and all it represents. Unlike the government expeditions and colonizing forces throughout much of the book, the Thomas family are truly starting over and wary of repeating the mistakes of their old civilization when establishing this new one.

Summary

Having arrived on Mars, the Thomas family goes on a fishing trip. Timothy senses something amiss with this supposed vacation, such as the gun and the huge amounts of food they brought with them. Dad promises to show the boys Martians later, though they know the Martians are supposed to be a dead race. As they ride along on their boat, they’re surprised by explosions; it takes a moment for Dad to realize it was the rocket self-destructing. Michael wonders why the rocket was blown up, and Timothy assures him it is part of the game. Dad tells Mom the radio has stopped on Earth, completely silent after years of diminished broadcasts. He then turns to his sons and tells them to pick a Martian city they like: it’ll be where they’ll live from now on, not Minneapolis. He goes on to say that in five days he’ll collect the food from its hiding place and look for Bert Edwards, who’ll be arriving with his wife and daughters.

While his brothers are busy, Tim is told more by his father: that the rocket they traveled on had been saved for years, after Dad saw how things were turning out on earth, that it was blown up so they can’t return to Earth or be found by evil men, and that he had been looking up to the skies frequently for fear of such people following them. That night, Dad burns the last of his papers, the last remnants of Earth. He tells the whole family they’ll be starting over on Mars with a few others, but are basically alone. He then shows them the Martians he promised: their own reflections in the water.

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