Literature Study GuidesThe Martian ChroniclesApril 2026 The Long Years Summary

The Martian Chronicles | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles | April 2026: The Long Years | Summary

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Summary

Twenty years after nuclear war on Earth, Hathaway sits with his family and wonders what became of the rest of humanity. He sees a rocket coming and celebrates his salvation by drinking wine he has saved for the occasion.

The next day the rocket lands and Captain Wilder emerges with his crew of 20 men to eat breakfast with Hathaway and his family. They exchange what little news they have of Earth, which appears to be still at war. Williamson notices Hathaway's wife and children have not aged. At Wilder's urging he investigates and finds their graves from 2007.

Hathaway collapses near the end of breakfast and dies. When Wilder informs the robot version of Hathaway's wife Alice, she takes it dispassionately. Wilder and his crew leave Hathaway's family, which continues to converse around a fire for years afterward.

Analysis

Bradbury reveals Wilder was "kicked upstairs" to prevent him from meddling in Martian affairs, and he has been traveling the solar system the past 20 years. Sam Parkhill ended up going back to Earth with his wife. The reader also learns there have been some signs of life from Earth, and perhaps humanity is not completely lost.

Hathaway stands in stark contrast to Walter Gripp from "December 2005: The Silent Towns." Whereas Walter rejected further communion with humanity and even rejects Wilder's offer to take him back to Earth, Hathaway cannot live without community—to the point he creates robot versions of his dead family. Bradbury elicits sympathy from the reader for Hathaway's plight, a softer stance toward the human race than he took in the previous chapter.

Wilder sees Hathaway's replacement family was lovingly built and does not have the heart to euthanize them after Hathaway's death. Alice is therefore a symbol of humanity's enduring legacy on Mars, and she continues to watch Earth every night.

Robots function as masks here, too. Like the Martians who assume human guise in "April 2000: The Third Expedition" and "September 2005: The Martian," the robots are a product of human nostalgia.

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