Study Guide

The Martian Chronicles Freedom

By Ray Bradbury

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To get away from wars and censorship and statism and conscription and government control of this and that, of art and science! ("The Taxpayer," 1)

Although the Taxpayer doesn't get to make any big speeches, we do get a short summary here of what he believes in. We're wondering if Bradbury agrees with him. Sure, the guy doesn't come off too sympathetically, but a lot of the settlers we see later are trying to escape the same thing. Maybe—and we're just trying this out—it's good to go to Mars if you're looking for something new, but not so good to go if you're just trying to get away from your problems.

"After all, like the Pilgrims, these people came here to escape Earth. Maybe they won't be too happy to see us. Maybe they'll try to drive us out or kill us." ("The Third Expedition," 100)

Here, Lustig says that the Pilgrims were leaving in search of freedom, too. (But England, not Earth.) And the village they're discussing actually just looks like an Earth village—it's a trick played on them by the Martians. It's funny that Lustig expects people to use violence to protect their freedom—just as Spender and Stendahl do later.

"Abandoned!" said the captain. "They abandoned the ship, they did! I'll have their skins, by God! They had orders!" ("The Third Expedition," 140)

Oh, the irony. In just the next time or two, this noble Captain Black is going to abandon his ship. But notice that this sort of chain of command is another form of restriction on freedom—and if all the men had stayed on the ship, near their weapons, they might have survived this Martian trap.

"When I got up here I felt I was not only free of their so-called culture, I felt I was free of their ethics and their customs. I'm out of their frame of reference, I thought." ("—And the Moon Be Still as Bright," 223)

Spender tells Wilder that he's free from Earthman restrictions. But at the end, there's a note of doubt in that "I thought." In fact, as we've seen, Spender isn't a total rebel: he feels a little sick after killing people—so he's not entirely free of Earth-style morality.

The legend has it that one of us, a good man, discovered a way to free man's soul and intellect, to free him of bodily ills and melancholies, of deaths and transfigurations, of ill humors and senilities . . . ("The Fire Balloons," 214)

Here the second Martian race (the blue spheres) tells Father Peregrine and the other priests how they became free of sin. Turns out, all you have to do is get free of your body. The question is whether that freedom comes at too high a price—we're not sure we'd want to give up our bodies, even to be free of sin.

Them that has helps them that hasn't! And that way they all get free! ("Way in the Middle of the Air," 102)

The theme of freedom really comes out explicitly in "Way in the Middle of the Air," where the African Americans leave the South. (Or America in general? It's unclear.) Note here that, while Teece tries to stop them from leaving (first Belter, then Silly), the African-American community works together to make sure everyone gets out. This seriously might be the only story in the book where people help each other obtain freedom, since everyone else is apparently just out for themselves. Or the Martians, in Spender's case.

"What's the use?" The men all talked now. "Cut it out, Teece." ("Way up in the Middle of the Air," 157)

Here the white men hanging out at Teece's store join together to help Silly get free. And it almost seems like the white guys are working together here to free themselves from Teece's bullying. So, maybe racists are just as trapped as the people they're racist against?

They began to plan people's lives and libraries; they began to instruct and push about the very people who had come to Mars to get away from being instructed and ruled and pushed about. And it was inevitable that some of these people pushed back... ("The Naming of Names," 4-5)

This interchapter leads into "Usher II," which is largely about Stendahl and Pike and their defense of freedom through killing censors. (Don't try this at home, by the way.) This interchapter lays out the issue very clearly: there's no sympathy here for people who want to control other people's lives. Thanks to this description, we don't care about the censors who get killed in "Usher II."

"Because everyone picked on me. So I stayed where I could throw perfume on myself all day and drink ten thousand malts and eat candy without people saying, 'Oh, that's full of calories!' So here I am!" ("The Silent Towns," 137)

Here's Genevieve Selsor explaining why she's freer now that her family isn't around. This fits in with the theme in the book that others often threaten freedom. But notice that all Genevieve does with her freedom is drink malts and eat candy. Not a great way to spend your days.

"I'm burning a way of life, just like that way of life is being burned clean of Earth right now." ("The Million-Year Picnic," 123)

Timothy's dad continues to try to make a home on Mars by freeing the family from Earth thoughts, a lot like Spender and Stendahl and all the other "Pilgrims" who came to Mars (or who couldn't come to Mars, like the Taxpayer) in search of freedom. If the past is any guide, he's not going to be too successful—but he probably has to keep trying, anyway.

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