Study Guide

The Martian Man Versus the Natural World

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Man Versus the Natural World

Chapter 2
Mark Watney

People have speculated on how to make crop soil out of Martian dirt for decades. I'll just be putting it to the test for the first time. (2.46)

That's a tall order. Learning how to farm was an important step in the development of civilization, and now Mark is trying to make the leap all by himself. If he can do it, he'll be one step closer to taming this barren Martian wasteland.

Chapter 3
Mark Watney

This sort of farming [...] would turn their land into a dust bowl within twelve years. It's not sustainable. But who cares? I just need to survive for four years. (3.17)

At this point, Mark just wants to survive. Maybe the work he's doing now will set the stage for future human colonization of Mars, creating the guidebook that later explorers will follow. That would actually be pretty awesome. Still, Mark has no desire to stay on Mars any longer than he has to.

Chapter 7
Mark Watney

I'm no stranger to Mars [...] But I've never been out of sight of the Hab before today. You wouldn't think that would make a difference, but it does. (7.100)

Mark never gets used to life on Mars. The Hab helps him stay sane, providing him a small connection with his life back on Earth, but even that is fleeting. Sooner or later, Mark is going to need to explore more of the Martian surface—that is, if he's up to the challenge.

Chapter 9
Mark Watney

Everywhere I go, I'm the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill. (9.38)

This must be simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. On one hand, it probably feels pretty cool, like he's breaking a Guinness World Record every day. On the other, Mark literally has no idea what could be waiting for him on the other side of that hill. Spoiler: it's probably Martians.

With all due respect to Carl, I can call it whatever the hell I want. I'm the King of Mars. (9.16)

Well, that didn't take long—it's only a matter of time until he starts making decrees. Still, he better not get too cocky. He might be winning the battle, but the war is still a'raging.

Chapter 13
Mark Watney

They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially "colonized" it. So technically, I colonized Mars. (13.7)

He actually did it! Mark is feeling pretty good about life right now: creating the first Martian farm feels like slam dunking the ball in Mars' face. Now that's what you call a Space Jam.

Chapter 14
Mark Watney

I've got a few minutes before I run out of air and I'll be damned if I spend them playing Mars's little game. (14.2)

And just like that, Mark is down a dozen points in the fourth quarter. Every time it looks like he's about to pull away with the victory, Mars pulls out a crazy trick play and takes the lead.

Chapter 19
Mark Watney

I've been thinking about laws on Mars. Yeah, I know, it's a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time. (19.24-25)

You're getting a little ahead of yourself on this one, Mark. Although you've done an admirable job surviving thus far, you've got to admit that you're fighting a losing battle—Mars is the god of war, after all. Your only hope is to run away before it's too late.

Chapter 25
Mark Watney

I still can't quite that this is really it. I'm really leaving. This frigid desert has been my home for a year and a half. (25.194)

Mark must feel really weird to be leaving Mars. Although he hasn't had a great time during his stay, Mark has become used to his lifestyle there, no matter how bizarre it might be. That being said, we're still willing to bet he won't be back anytime soon.

Ares 3 Crew (Commander Lewis, Martinez, Johansen, Beck, Vogel)

"Seems needlessly dangerous."
"Coming to Mars was needlessly dangerous," Lewis said. "What's your point?" (12.35-36)

Nobody had any illusions about the Ares 3 mission. Mars is a dangerous place, and each crewmember needed to make peace with the possibility of not making it home alive.

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