Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles (1950)
- In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (b. 1920) imagines the first attempts by people from the Earth to conquer and colonize Mars, the Martian resistance through telepathy, the eventual conquest and colonization, and the effects of a nuclear war on Earth on the settlers on Mars. This collection of short stories built around the theme of Earth's colonization of Mars provides a critique of imperialism, conquest, environmental degradation, racism, and other aspects negatively associated with the "Frontier" mythology. Even while it challenges many Cold War ideologies, it also reflects the prevailing anxieties of America in the early 1950s, including fear of nuclear attack and reactions against racism.
- Questions to Think About:
- 1) The Martian Chronicles can be read as a commentary on the outcomes of the California Gold Rush. What are the parallels? How does the fate of Northern California's Indian population parallel that of the Martians? Can you find instances of the Frontier behavior that Turner describes, of adopting Indian culture and "playing Indian," reflected in the actions of characters in Bradbury's stories, especially in "And the Moon Be Still as Bright"?
- 2) Although The Martian Chronicles was written during the Cold War, the overall message does not reflect the general Cold War consensus. Why is that? In what ways does the fact that The Martian Chronicles is a science fiction allow Bradbury to comment in ways which are "counterhegemonic" and which challenge the prevailing "powers that be"? How is the genre liberating? How is it confining?
- 3) What is Bradbury's commentary on race relations in the American South in "Way in the Middle of the Air"? What is his commentary on race relations and inheritance in general in "The Night Meeting"? Can you place this in context with the time in which The Martian Chronicles was written?
- 4) Compare the opening section of the selections from Mary Austin's Land of Little Rain to Bradbury's "The Naming of Names." What do you make of the similarities and differences?
- 5) What are the borders, borderlands, and frontiers depicted throughout the book, especially in "The Third Expedition"? How do they shape the stories that Bradbury tells?
Further resources and readings:
- Professor Paul Brians, Department of English, Washington State University, Pullman, offers an excellent Study Guide which walks you through each story and explains links to other literature in the text. There are also excellent links at The Ray Bradbury Page.
Prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender for Honors 502 (American Frontiers and Borderlands), Department of History, The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified: Wednesday 13 September 2000.