Study Guide

The Martian Chronicles Man and the Natural World

By Ray Bradbury

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Man and the Natural World

The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. ("Rocket Summer," 5)

The Martian Chronicles starts with a very dreamy and beautiful image (we think) of a winter suddenly turning into a summer. But this isn't any kind of natural, season change—it's a violent, destructive technology, and it's just an accidental by-product of another kind of technology.

"We have superior weapons." ("The Third Expedition," 101)

Of course, those superior weapons don't help the Third Expedition. But notice how this particular type of technology makes the Earth Men feel safe on Mars. (Although it's funny that Mars doesn't seem to have its own diseases to kill Earth Men.)

"Because I've seen that what these Martians had was just as good as anything we'll ever hope to have. They stopped where we should have stopped a hundred years ago." ("—And the Moon Be Still as Bright," 212)

Spender argues that there was some time in the past when we were at peace with nature. We should have put a halt to our technological development then, just like the Martians did. It's kind of a strange argument to make, but he's probably right to question the benefits of technology. (Unless he's talking about our iPhones. No one's prying those away from us.)

"They knew how to live with nature and get along with nature. They didn't try too hard to be all men and no animal." ("—And the Moon Be Still as Bright," 233)

Spender just won't let it go. This one's a little weird, though, because it forces a distinctive between men and animals. So is he really saying that the Martians (and other indigenous people …) are a little animal-like? Not so nice when you put it that way, and it makes us think that maybe Bradbury doesn't totally agree with him.

There were so many things a tree could do: add color, provide shade, drop fruit, or become a children's playground, a whole sky universe to climb and hang from; an architecture of food and pleasure, that was a tree. ("The Green Morning," 2)

Benjamin Driscoll is the most environmentally aware person in the book who doesn't kill other people. Here he is realizing that Mars won't work for him unless it changes. But he doesn't go for some fancy technological solution—he just uses trees. (Note too that Bradbury makes this seem okay by noting that Martian plants are all dying off anyway. Otherwise, we'd have the issue of invasive species competing for land. Whew.)

"We've got to forget Earth and how things were. We've got to look at what we're in here, and how different it is. I get a hell of a lot of fun out of just the weather here." ("Night Meeting," 4)

This is "Pop" the gas station attendant talking to Tomás Gomez. He's a really appealing character, because he's just got a great attitude. He's so interested in Mars that he even enjoys the crazy weather—which sounds a lot like Southern California, if you ask us. He even claims that he's going to move to a quieter road if the one he's on gets too busy.

"The way I see it is there's a Truth on every planet. All parts of the Big Truth. On a certain day they'll all fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw." ("The Fire Balloons," 224)

This is Father Stone, who has just has his mind blown by an encounter with the blue sphere Martians. But Father Stone has a vision here of the universe being part of one natural order. You have to wonder if that natural order includes Earth Men flying rockets all the way to Mars.

The old Martian names were names of water and air and hills. [ . . . ] And the rockets struck at the names like hammers, breaking away the marble into shale, shattering the crockery milestones that named the old towns, in the rubble of which great pylons were plunged with new names: IRON TOWN, STEEL TOWN, ALUMINUM CITY, ELECTRIC VILLAGE, CORN TOWN, GRAIN VILLA, DETROIT II, all the mechanical names and the metal names from Earth. ("The Naming of Names," 2)

This is the "Spender was right" chapter. As he predicted, humans renamed everything on Mars. While the Martian names were natural, the human names are mechanical—all related to business and industry. We get it, Bradbury: you think our priorities are out of order. Seriously, we get it.

"But, as I was saying, Hathaway, there's nothing on Jupiter, nothing at all for men. That includes Saturn and Pluto." ("The Long Years," 97)

Maybe Captain Wilder is telling the truth here, but what if he's not? Maybe Jupiter is actually really great, but Wilder wants to protect it by giving it a negative review. You know, like that great little restaurant you don't want anybody else to know about. Maybe that's the only way to protect a foreign environment—to keep people away from it.

"Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, / If mankind perished utterly; And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn / Would scarcely know that we were gone." ("There Will Come Soft Rains," 88-9)

This is the haunting Sara Teasdale poem that the house reads in "There Will Come Soft Rains." By the end of the book, the poem's prediction has come true: every human is dead, even the family dog. (Dude, they even killed the dog.) The house is destroyed, but the sun still dawns on schedule. Nature goes on, with or without us.

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