Study Guide

Red Mars The Home

By Kim Stanley Robinson

The Home

They had to be alienated somehow, alienated and solitary enough not to care about leaving everyone they had known behind forever—and yet still connected and social enough to get along with all their new acquaintances in Wright Valley, with every member of the tiny village that the colony would become. (2.1.10)

We think the key word here is "alienated." As in, they felt alienated enough from their home planet to go and make themselves aliens (read: Martians) on some other planet. It might be the only desire all the First Hundred share, and yet maybe not.

Eight people aboard were idiolinguists, a sad kind of orphaning in Maya's opinion, and it seemed to her they were more Earth-oriented than the rest, and in frequent communication with the people back home. (2.2.34)

The novel definitely makes a connection between language and the home, since language is infused with values and traditions. For example, what a group considers curse-word worthy.

Most of the terrariums were filled with spruce trees and other flora that made it resemble the great world-wrapping Terran forest of the sixtieth latitude. Like Nadia Cherneshevsky's old home in Siberia, in other words. (4.2.22)

There's a definite connection between home and environment, too. And we understand that feeling—for us, Kansas wheat fields might as well be Mars while a nice bayside view just feels comfy-cozy. But for others the reverse might be true.

"Yeah, yeah. But who knows what our kids will think is beautiful? It's sure to be based on what they know, and this place will be the only place they know." (5.2.147)

Home is what you know, but as John Boone points out, what you know will change with time. And what your children know will change with time. And what your children's children know will change with time. And what your children's children's children….

Jürgen shrugged, grinned. "We don't call it anything. It is just Mars." (5.3.17)

This quote has got us thinking: does it suggest that Jürgen has made Mars his home, or does he still think of it as a foreign place? It could go both ways. By not labeling the planet, he might not have made it his own. On the other hand, it could also mean he's accepted it for what it is, a home. What do you think?

All the residents of Acheron were there for dinner, holding to an Underhill custom as they did in many other ways. (5.6.14)

Home and custom go hand-in-hand like, um, two hands holding each other… anyway. Just think back to any Thanksgiving at Grandpa Joe's house, and you'll see what we mean.

It was strange to walk the square of hallways, remembering the pool, Maya's room, the dining hall—now all dark, and stacked with boxes. Those years when the first hundred had been the only hundred. It was getting hard to remember what that had been like. (5.9.107)

We often associate home with a place, but the novel doesn't seem to go that route. Every place in it changes, and what starts out as a home for the First Hundred doesn't ever seem to stay one.

People who had lived in cities all their lives went to Mars and moved around in rovers and tents. The excuses for their ceaseless travel included the hunt for metals, areology, and trade, but it seemed clear that the important thing was the travel, the life itself. (6.3.2)

Just because you've lived somewhere your whole life doesn't make it a home. To borrow the cliché, home is where the heart is—or Martian rover in this case.

"But look, the most successful women among you are modest and deferent at all times, they are scrupulous in honoring the system. Those are the ones that aid their husbands and sons to rise in the system. So to succeed, they must work to enforce the same system that subjugates them. This is poisonous in its effects. And the cycle repeats itself, generation after generation." (6.3.50)

Frank's argument brings up a good point: what we consider the home and proper home behavior is often dictated to us by our culture. But why do we need to listen to culture's idea of what makes a good home?

"What is this place?" Maya cried.

"This is home," Hiroko said. "This is where we start again." (7.4.12-13)

The fact that the novel ends on the idea of home shows how important the theme is in the novel. In a way, it's what the characters have really been searching for the entire novel. They had to destroy an entire planet to get there, but, hey, live and learn.