The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles | April 2005: Usher II | Summary



Mr. William Stendahl has his architect build a house on Mars reminiscent of American writer Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." Stendahl explains Poe's works were burned in the Great Fire of 1975 back on Earth, victim of a law to ban "all the beautiful literary lies and flights of fancy." These laws have now been transported to Mars.

Garrett, Investigator of Moral Climates, comes to inspect the house and declares his intention to raze it to the ground. He comes inside and a robot ape kills him. Stendahl's henchman, Pikes, creates a robot version of Garrett and burns the body.

Stendahl throws a party and invites all of his former rivals. The real Garrett shows up, after having sent a robot originally. Garrett observes as each guest is murdered in ways that mirror murders in Poe's stories; a robot version of each guest watches its double's murder. Then, Stendahl chains Garrett up and bricks him in before escaping with Pikes and blowing up the whole house.


"April 2005: Usher II" is the ultimate revenge fantasy, and Bradbury tells it with glee. The ultimate situational irony of the tale is if his rivals had been familiar with the works of Poe, they would have recognized Stendahl's trap. But since they were merely in the habit of upholding laws others deemed necessary without investigating for themselves, they were doomed. As Stendahl tells Garrett: "Ignorance is fatal." Stendahl hates their "robotic" following of others' orders so much he makes literal robots of them and has the robots comment on their living counterpart's death.

"April 2005: Usher II" illustrates Bradbury's contempt for those who would try to suppress and control the freedom of ideas. Stendahl is just as much of a terrorist as Spender is in "June 2001: —and the Moon Be Still As Bright," and yet Bradbury treats him as an avenging hero who literally fights fire (book burning) with fire (burning those who would burn books) and then flies off in his helicopter to live another day. This is one of the ways fire is used as a positive symbol of renewal and starting over from a rigid society of conforming. Perhaps the fantasy context makes it feel less wrong to the reader. Spender's murders are military style and typical of realistic war fiction, while Stendahl's murders are all literary allusions to horror fiction and therefore seem less "real."

In any case, Bradbury includes this "flight of fancy" at this point in the novel to show not all humans are thrilled by the importation of humanity to Mars.

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