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The Martian Chronicles | June 2001: —and the Moon Be Still as Bright | Summary

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Summary

Captain Wilder and the crew of the fourth expedition, including Hathaway and Sam Parkhill, land on a cold Martian night. The auxiliary rocket crew reports while four out of five Martian cities appear to have been dead for centuries, the other cities contain houses filled with freshly dead Martian bodies. They died from chicken pox, brought to Mars by the previous expeditions.

Jeff Spender observes the rest of the crew celebrating and ends up hitting Biggs. Captain Wilder fines him but seems to sympathize with his position of honoring the Martian culture. Captain Wilder theorizes there are not enough Martian survivors left to be a problem.

But then Spender seems to be infected by the Martian point of view. He leaves the crew and doesn't come back for more than a week. When he does return, he claims to be a Martian and kills six of the crew, including Biggs. Wilder leads a squad bent on neutralizing Spender and ends up shooting Spender himself after having a long conversation with him about conserving Martian culture.

Analysis

This story is a turning point in the narrative, transitioning from the exploration of the first act to the settling of Mars in the second act.

At first Spender's role seems to be Bradbury's mouthpiece, criticizing colonialism and all the ways it negatively impacts natives. He equates what humans are doing on Mars to what happened when Cortez and the Spanish Empire destroyed the Aztec civilization in Mexico. He can envision the "imported blasphemy" of littering proud Martian cities with American nostalgic junk. His predictions of them "rip[ping] the skin off, and chang[ing] it to fit ourselves" are prophetic, though Wilder wrongly does not think man can have that much of an impact stating Mars is "too big and too good."

But Spender goes too far when he starts killing his crewmates in the name of saving Mars from further human impact. In the space of a few pages Bradbury documents the making of a radicalized terrorist. "I have something to fight for and live for; that makes me a better killer," Spender says. "I've got what amounts to a religion, now."

Captain Wilder takes a more moderate approach. He's conflicted about colonialism, but he's following orders from Earth. He also speculates because all the Martian cities are intact, they must have simply "acceded to racial death" without a fight. He opines they do not mind humans' presence more than they would "mind children playing on the lawn," a line that takes on a more sinister connotation in the later story "The Musicians" where children desecrate Martian bones, symbolizing man's destructive nature is innate. Even though Wilder can agree with Spender in theory, he is compelled to end his terrorist actions. Still, at the end, Wilder violently punishes Parkhill for destroying Martian buildings, implying Spender's argument might have affected him more than he will admit to, a fact which later leads to Wilder being sent away from Mars for his liberal attitude.

Bradbury quotes English poet Lord Byron for a second time, taking the chapter title from the poem "So We'll Go No More a Roving." Because it is a lament to what has been lost, its use further underscores Bradbury's moderate critique of colonialism over the more radical approach embraced by men like Spender.

In this chapter and others including "April 2003: The Musicians," Bradbury refers to the brittle nature of Martian bones. Hathaway describes Martian remains as having been "[b]urnt ... black and dried," a way to show fire functioning as a symbol of destruction.

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