The Martian Chronicles: Summary, Characters, Analysis, And More

The Martian Chronicles are a series of short stories written by the American author Ray Bradbury, they do not have a fixed plot, but they do contain contextual and temporal references that are common to all the stories, find out more below.

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Martian Chronicles Plot

The Martian Chronicles It was published in 1950 in English by Doubleday, is considered one of the best works of the writer along with the novel Fahrenheit 451, the main theme of the stories is the arrival of humans on Tuesday and its subsequent colonisation, the writing is full of poetic descriptions also melancholic about Mars and the Martians that are found there, despite the title of the book this is about themes about humanity that do not expire.

The themes that are dealt with in the book Martian Chronicles are war, man’s self-destruction, racism and how small man is in comparison to nature and the universe, to structure the book Bradbury was inspired by authors such as John Steinbeck who wrote The Grapes of Wrath, this book is in chronological order, the first takes place in the month of January 1999, is divided into four expeditions.

Listen to the Martian Chronicles audiobook in the video below.

Somewhere between a collection of short stories and an episodic novel, The Martian Chronicles follows a “future history” structure. The complete stories themselves are bound together as episodes within a larger sequential narrative framework. The overall structure is divided into three parts, marked by two catastrophes: the near-extinction of the Martians and the parallel near-extinction of the human race.

Martian Chronicles Characters

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The characters in The Martian Chronicles are the third person narrator known as Mrs K. Her husband calls her Ylla. She is a housewife on Mars, and her situation is very similar to that of a typical American housewife in the 1950s. She and her husband are tired of each other. Mrs K dreams of Captain Nathaniel York coming down in his rocket.

Her husband, known as Mr K or simply Yll, is practical and has a bad temper. She suspects that Mrs K is dreaming of Captain Nathaniel York, the captain of the first expedition, who only appears in Yll’s dreams as a seductive and attractive man, but who is mentioned throughout the novel The Martian Chronicles. The story Men of Earth develops the character of Captain Williams, an intelligent man who is the leader of the second expedition.

He quickly realises that he and his three men have been sent to an asylum. In the third expedition, Captain John Black is the leader of this expedition, when his rocket lands in a quaint American town, he finds it very suspicious, but his men convince him to explore, he is delighted to see his family, but suspects it is a trick too late.

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Also in this part of the Mars Chronicles, we meet Samuel Hinkston, an archaeologist from the third expedition. This character impatiently invents grandiose but implausible explanations about the American city in the middle of Mars, he is eighty years old but still strong due to future technologies, the navigator Lustig is the person who leads the ship of the third expedition.

On the fourth expedition, Captain Wilder is in charge, he is a good leader, he wants his men to relax and he throws a party, but he understands why Spender wants the men to be more dignified. He half agrees with Spender and tries to help preserve Mars after his death. See also The Divine Comedy, you’ll like it. Jeff Spender is the archaeologist of the fourth expedition, he likes the planet Mars very much and soon leaves the crew to explore the star by himself.

He learns to read Martian. Eventually, he decides that he must kill the crew in order to preserve the planet. He kills several, including Cherokee, but does not have the heart to finish the job. He talks to Wilder for a long time about how impossible it would be to protect Mars from government and corporate interests. Sam Parkhill is a member of the fourth expedition, the opposite of Spender, a violent and reckless man. He is eager to conquer the Martian landscape.

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Another character we meet in these stories is Hathaway, a doctor and geologist on the fourth expedition. He and his family do not leave Mars when the war on Earth begins. When the rest of his family dies and he is left alone, he builds robot replicas of his dead family members. We also have the characters of Biggs, a member of the fourth expedition, who is hated by Spender, and Cherokee, also from the fourth expedition, who says he sympathises with the Martians but still clashes with Spender.

In The Green Morning, Benjamin Driscoll is a simple man who comes to Mars to work, but almost has to return because the oxygen is too thin for him. In Night Meeting, Thomas Gomez is an early settler, he is poetic when he thinks. Muhe Ca is a Martian who is friendly and has a deep love for the kind of feast that Gomez describes. Pop is an old man who works in a petrol station, he believes that people should take Mars as it is and appreciate it for being different.

On the road in the air is Mr Teece, a white racist salesman who sometimes attends lynchings and is shocked that black people want to leave. He tries to stop them with contracts, but his friends persuade him to let them go. Belter owes Mr Teece fifty dollars. Silly, a young man who works in Teece’s store, hopes to open his own hardware store on Mars.

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In Usher II we meet William Stendahl, a very rich and bitter man who is a lover of fantasy authors such as Edgar Allan Poe (see: The Raven), Nathaniel Hawthorne, HP Lovecraft and Lewis Carroll. These authors are banned from Earth and his library is destroyed. Garrett is a moral climax researcher. Pikes used to be an actor in fantasy films, now he is a master robot builder.

In the story The Martian, the characters that develop are Tom is not really Tom. The real Tom is the deceased son of LaFarge and Anna. However, a Martian takes his form and wants to be accepted by the old couple. He longs for love and is afraid to go to the city. LaFarge and Anna have moved to Mars to retire and miss their son Tom, who died of pneumonia as a child. When the Martian Tom arrives, LaFarge quickly guesses the truth, but doesn’t want to tell his wife because it would hurt her deeply.

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In the off-season we find that Elma is Sam Parkhill’s wife, she is smarter than him and seems amused by his mishandling of life on Mars. Walter Gripp lives in the mountains and is unaware that Mars has been evacuated because of the war on Earth, he is a simple and educated man who desperately wants a female companion. Genevieve Selsor is a large woman who eats constantly and seems childishly impatient and immature when she is with Walter.

In The Long Years, Williamson’s character investigates whether Hathaway’s real family may be dead. Finally, in The Million Year Picnic there is Dad, the father of the family who appears in this story, quiet, warm and eager to start a whole new life on Mars. He burns a map of Earth, symbolising his willingness to forget a past life, and is a former governor of Minnesota. Timothy is Dad’s eldest son and looks to be about thirteen years old.

Summary of The Martian Chronicles

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A Martian woman dreams of a rocket coming down from the sky, carrying a light-skinned, blue-eyed creature called Nathaniel York. Her husband is tired and when the rocket lands, he shoots the men. All over Mars, people start humming tunes from Earth and having strange dreams. When a second rocket lands, the astronauts go out to explore. They say they are from Earth, but everyone thinks they are crazy people who have hallucinated their rocket. So they are all killed by a psychologist.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, a mad taxpayer tries to board the third rocket to Mars, but is denied. When it lands, the astronauts find themselves in an ideal small American town. They reunite with their dead relatives and split up for dinner with their lost parents and siblings. Captain John Black goes to bed next to his long-lost brother, only to realise that it’s probably all a Martian trap. His “brother” kills him before he can leave the room.

A year later, a fourth expedition arrives and succeeds. Almost all the Martians have died of chicken pox, apparently contracted from one of the previous expeditions. Captain Wilder lets his men drink and dance, but this infuriates the team’s archaeologist, Jeff Spender. He is honoured by the great Martian civilisation and wants the rest of the crew to behave with dignity. He goes mad and tries to kill the crew. Wilder talks him down and has some sympathy for him, but eventually has to shoot him.

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Settlers begin to arrive on Mars, lured by work. Benjamin Driscoll plants trees. One morning, after it finally rains, he turns around and sees that the barren landscape is now covered in green. Another settler, Tomas Gomez, experiences a strange event when he meets a Martian in the middle of nowhere. They cannot touch each other, they seem to exist in different planes of time. The first settlers are rough, but they build churches in small slums, like in American cities.

Sometimes their children sneak out into the Martian ruins, where there are still countless corpses. They play songs on the Martian bones. Back on Earth, all the blacks of the American South have banded together to emigrate to Mars. As they walk through a town in a departure parade, a racist white man, Mr Teece, tries to stop them, but they unite to pay off all their debts. The racist man cries and feels lost without them.

Back on Mars, a man called William Stendahl has built a replica of the House of Usher. He is angry that the government has made fantasy stories illegal. He invites the leaders responsible to a party where they are systematically murdered. Mars is finally overrun by pensioners. A couple miss their dead son, until one day Tom appears on their veranda.

He is actually a Martian who changes shape according to the wishes of those around him, and when he goes into town, many people fight over him, each thinking he is a different person. News comes from Earth that a nuclear war is imminent. Sam Parkhill, a man on Captain Wilder’s expedition, is proud of the hot dog stand he has just opened.


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Suddenly some Martians approach him, but he kills them. Finally he is subdued. They give him the credit for half of Mars. He is stunned until later that night when he sees the Earth go up in flames. People all over Mars watch, and a radio signal reaches Mars with the words “Come home”. Everyone evacuates. One man, Walter Gripp, who lives in the mountains, is left behind.

He desperately searches for a woman to keep him company, but when he finds Genevieve Selsor, she is repulsive. Twenty years pass and Hathaway lives with his family in a hut on Mars, waiting for rescue. Finally, a rocket lands. He can’t understand why Hathaway’s family hasn’t aged, and when Hathaway suddenly dies of a heart attack, he realises they’re robots.

Back on Earth, a fully automated house is dying. Its inhabitants died long ago, in the nuclear war, but the house was washed and played music every day. A falling branch sets it on fire. On Mars, a family has escaped the wasteland of Earth. The father tells his children that they are now Martians. Soon another family arrives, with girls. Dad is happy to have left the nonsense of Earth.

Analysis of the Martian Chronicles

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The early chapters are the most convoluted in the book. The Martians figure less in the rest of the book, and so do their strange and complicated powers. One might wish that Bradbury had explained the Martians’ powers more thoroughly, but if something is mysterious, perhaps it is more exciting. Here is a video summary of Bradbury’s two major works.

The first expedition to the third

The United States is sending rocket after rocket to Mars. The first rocket has only two men on board; one wonders if the humans expected there to be Martians. This team is arbitrarily killed by a lonely husband who kills the man of his wife’s dreams. Ylla’s strange dreams seem almost prophetic at first, but then the same thing happens to many Martians before the second expedition arrives.

And the experience of this expedition shows that the Martians are telepathic, in that what they see and see themselves seems to be based on what is imagined. It seems that when humans approach, the Martians’ minds are flooded with visions of them and the songs they know, because Martians are telepathic. This telepathy also explains why Mr K thinks Williams’ rocket might be a hallucination.

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The second expedition is accidentally killed; in fact, its story is almost a joke. It contains the most extreme cases of far-fetched telepathy in the novel; the astronauts being mistaken for mad Martians is absurd. When the third expedition arrives, however, it seems that the Martians have been waiting for them and have set a trap. Apparently the Martians also have the ability to make people hallucinate.

Although the moon shines

This story is crucial to the novel. Wilder, Hathaway and Sam Parkhill will appear later, and Spender’s ideas are very important. Spender’s words neatly express many of the ideas that are thought to have motivated Bradbury to write The Martian Chronicles. As the novel progresses, we see Spender’s worst nightmare come true. For a glimpse into the life of the author of The Martian Chronicles, watch the video below.

He was right to predict that corporate and government interests would dominate. Makeshift industrial cities spring up everywhere, and Martian ruins are ignored. Wilder’s conscience wavers as he shoots Spender. In many ways we can see Wilder as Bradbury’s representative. The author and Wilder do not tolerate Spender’s extremism. They do, however, take up his cause.

In the previous chapters we have seen hints of how complex Martian society must have been, and this gives us reason to sympathise with Spender. It was clever that Bradbury did not explicitly explain how Martian society worked. The author only gives us clues; we want to discover its secrets as much as Spender does. It is curious that Bradbury uses two poems by Byron. However, such literary references are found throughout the novel and are sometimes more arbitrary than significant.

The settlers to the musicians

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This part of the book contains many short pieces. While many of the longer stories in the book, such as “Men of Earth” and “And the Moon Is Still as Bright” have been published separately, these smaller pieces are written specifically to link the stories together and give continuity to the novel. They describe the colonisation of Mars, which began with a few astronauts, took off with workers and now includes city dwellers and children.

Benjamin Driscoll is a futuristic Johnny Appleseed. Although Bradbury does not refer to the Appleseed legend, he certainly alludes to it. It is clear that Bradbury intends The Martian Chronicles to be a commentary on the American frontier myth. The story of the nocturnal encounter is very difficult to explain. It seems that the Martians are not only able to read minds and change shape, but perhaps also to exist on an entirely different plane from humans.

Throughout The Martian Chronicles, which shows the destruction of the Martian civilisation, it is comforting to think that the world of Muhe Ca still exists, even if one does not understand how it exists. In “The Musicians”, Bradbury repeats his theme of careless humans destroying Martian civilisation. This time it is not an ancient building that is destroyed, but actual Martian corpses. The children enjoy the destruction and make music with what they find.

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This can be interpreted as incredibly bold and inventive, seeing music in something unpleasant, but it also smacks of heartless racism, as if the children enjoy their game because it demonstrates their superiority over the Martians. Wuthering Heights is a romantic story worth knowing.

A Way Through The Air To Usher II

A Way Through the Air stands out as one of the only long stories in The Martian Chronicles set on Earth, the other being “Gentle Rain Will Come”, which is about a house, not people. It also explicitly addresses a contemporary political issue, that of racism in the United States. Note that the story first appeared in 1950, long before the civil rights movement.

In some ways, this story in The Martian Chronicles highlights some of Bradbury’s weaknesses, because the characters are no longer so fantastical and we can compare them to real-life models. The story also provides an opportunity to point out another weakness of The Martian Chronicles, which is its lack of continuity.

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“The Choice of Names” alludes to the Garden of Eden, when Adam named the animals. It is ironic that for Bradbury this represents a controlling and strangling government of life. Reading “Usher II”, one wonders about Bradbury’s obsession with forbidden books. Most of the deaths are allusions to stories by Edgar Allan Poe (see: The Black Cat), who has often been cited as one of Bradbury’s main influences.

The Elders of the Watchers

In The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury is clever to include pensioners in his story of colonists. They represent another class of people who are interested in finding something new on Mars, but what they do is recreate the old as soon as it arrives. This is symbolised in the way different people see different things in the Martians. Sam Parkhill represents the destruction of a careless American. Some films and series have been inspired by the Martian Chronicles, see the video below for an example.

Penultimate chapters

The story of Walter Gripp gives Bradbury the opportunity to describe the desolation and ruin of human ruins. Mars now has Martian ghost towns and terrestrial ghost towns. It is also an opportunity for Bradbury to present a story of basic human nature persisting in extraordinary circumstances, a technique to which he often resorts. Pride and Prejudice is a classic you might like, get to know it.

The Long Years is a strange story in The Martian Chronicles. It brings together characters from the fourth expedition; they remember Spender and reflect that he got his wish that humans should leave Mars. It should also be clear that Wilder is impressed, not disgusted, by Hathaway’s work. He admires Hathaway for recovering from the loss of his family and then building such fantastic robots.

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Latest chapters

The irony presented in The Martian Chronicles in the story “Soft Rains Will Come” is powerful. The poem within the story describes how happy nature will be when man has destroyed himself, but the truth is that nature has been decimated by war. But nature lives on mechanically. In this penultimate story, Bradbury gives his final example of the folly of thoughtless technological development.

Picnic of a Million Years is a fitting denouement, or conclusion, after the climax. It is his alternative to the pioneering style criticised in the rest of the book. Instead of making Mars as much like Earth as possible, Timothy and his family will adapt to Mars. The father tries to convince his children that they will be Martians, and symbolically burns a map of Earth. They decide to live in a Martian town instead of building a wooden American town.

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