Study Guide

The Martian Chronicles Identity

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Identity in The Martian Chronicles is not just a question of masks and playacting, although it's that too. (Stendahl uses robot lookalikes to trick everyone at the party, even though it would seriously be easier just to shoot them all.) It's mostly important, however, because we've got two cultures meeting, trying to communicate, and figuring just what the other is all about. One of the first things they have to communicate is who they are. Think, for instance, of Tomás Gomez and Muhe Ca in "Night Meeting," trading their identities before going on to form a strange sort of friendship.

Questions About Identity

  1. How do characters (and places) get identities in this book? For instance, take Timothy in "The Million-Year Picnic." What identity does he have and how did he get it?
  2. When is identity mysterious? When do we not hear who is doing something? What about when Spender comes back to shoot Biggs—how long does it take for him to be identified? Are there other times when we don't know who someone is?
  3. Other than masks and names, in what ways does identity emerge as a theme in these stories? 
  4. Is it possible to change one's identity? For instance, Spender calls himself "the last Martian"—but has he really changed? Does identity depend exclusively on history or biology?

Chew on This

In The Martian Chronicles, masks—whether literal or figurative—can't hide true identity. All the characters in this book eventually reveal their true natures.

Identity in The Martian Chronicles relies on names. Identity is a social construction—you are what others say you are.

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