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Free Study Guide for The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury-MonkeyNotes
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SYMBOLISM / MOTIFS / IMAGERY / SYMBOLS

The over-arching narrative of The Martian Chronicles mirrors established patterns of colonization: that is, it extrapolates the real history of colonization as the basis for the colonization of Mars. Most all of the major symbols and imagery in the book reflect this historical connection.

The planet Mars is a symbol rife with multiple meanings throughout the book, and takes on its own unique character. Like other frontiers, it challenges the human spirit with its desolation and forbidding terrain - and thus, it must be "tamed" and shaped into something that humans can live in. And like the "frontier" declared by European conquerors of the Americas, Mars has a history and a previous culture that haunts the colonizers. Martian cities and the specter of Martian culture, then, are an important motif, much in the same way Native American cultures are a motif in stories of the American frontier: a commentary on what has been lost in the conquest of a land and a standing criticism of the conqueror's set of values.

The last important symbol are the rockets themselves. From the beginning, they are depicted as fiery beasts that change the landscape around them. In that way, they are the most potent image of the influence colonizers have upon the lands they claim. They also represent how science has outpaced other aspects of human achievement, and thus how technology has become a bludgeon to suppress the finer, more humane aspects of civilization. The rockets that bring settlers are a danger to Martian culture, while the rockets with atomic payloads are themselves a danger to Earthian culture. The destruction of the rocket in "The Million Year Picnic" then stands as a key part in Earthian civilization starting over: it is a refutation of technology and all the ills it brings upon a people.


IMPORTANT / KEY FACTS SUMMARY

Title: The Martian Chronicles

Author: Ray Bradbury

Date Published: 1950

Meaning of the Title: A history of the colonization of Mars by Earth.

Setting: Mars primarily, with several stories on Earth.

Genre: Science fiction, specifically science fantasy.

Protagonist: Earthians colonizing Mars.

Antagonist: Mars as a frontier, Martian culture.

Mood: Elegiac (a sense of loss or sorrow for the past), often wryly ironic.

Point of View: Third person.

Tense: Past tense.

Rising Action: Earthians send expeditions to Mars for the sake of colonizing the planet, not succeeding until the majority of Martians are killed by Earthian chickenpox.

Exposition: Mars is slowly colonized by Earthians, with varying experiences.

Climax: Worldwide atomic war takes place on Earth and almost all the colonizers return to Mars to be with family. Earth is cleansed of human civilization in a final burst of self-destructive warfare.

Outcome: William Thomas escapes the atomic war and takes his family to Mars to start a new civilization.

Major Theme: The process of colonization, mirroring the experiences of past colonizers especially the Europeans in North America.

Minor Themes: Human achievement and the vice of hubris, the threat of loneliness, the mechanical routines of modern life.

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