Characters in "The Earth Men"
Williams and His Crew
Picture this: you fly millions of miles in a rocket ship to an entirely different planet, and when you get there a housewife shrieks at you to keep your muddy boots off her clean floors. Not exactly the ticker-tape parade you were expecting?
Then you'll probably understand how Captain Jonathan Williams feels. He successfully leads the Second Expedition to Mars, and no one even congratulates him. (In fact, it seems suspiciously like they want to kill him.)
What's weird is that Williams—and his crew—seem to think their job is done once they get to Mars. Sure, it's thrilling and all, but they seem awfully uninterested in this crazy new world they've landed on.
You'd think that meeting Martians would be an amazing first contact that raises all sorts of questions, like, just off the top of our head: what do you eat, how do you sleep, what sort of social organization do you have, what do you think happens to you when you die, how do you reproduce, do you have art and medicine and science, do you have pets, does this space suit make me look fat?
But these guys don't care about learning anything new: "We don't want to know anything," objected the captain, pouting out his thick lips. "We already know it" (42).
All right. So, maybe they're not waving guns around like total jerks, but they're definitely clueless idiots. Which makes them a perfect match for...
The Martians are about as clueless as the humans in this story. Instead of realizing that they've just encountered something new and amazing—and, you know, maybe a little dangerous—the Martians here are obsessed with their own, narrow concerns:
- Mrs. Ttt, the housewife, is worried about her clean floors (26).
- Mr. Aaa is only interested in making sure that people listen to him (54).
- The little girl would rather play with her spider toy (85).
- Mr. Iii makes them sign a form because he can only imagine that they are crazy (103).
- The actual insane Martians that the Earth Men meet are mostly interested in their own insanities and hallucinations (122). (Well, this one is understandable.)
- And Mr. Xxx, of course, thinks Captain William is crazy and that the others are just hallucinations. So when he sees how detailed the rocket is, all he can think is that he's going to write a great paper on this (210).
So the humans and the Martians seem to be pretty well paired here—just about everyone in the story is a clueless idiot. It's a nice warning to us not to obsess about our own little world, but to try to see beyond it. (See our notes in "What's up With the Epigraph?" for more on that.)