Literature Study GuidesThe Martian ChroniclesAugust 1999 The Summer Night Summary

The Martian Chronicles | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles | August 1999: The Summer Night | Summary

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Summary

On the night before the humans from the second expedition land on Mars, Martians are inundated with human songs, poems, and nursery rhymes that terrify them by their sudden onslaught and strangeness. These human words cause Martian women to wake up screaming, and their men have to soothe them. Just before dawn, a night watchman begins to sing as well.

Analysis

Even though Bradbury seems to suggest in the previous chapter only one Martian woman, Ylla, felt the presence of the first expedition, by the second expedition six months later, all the women and children (but not the men) are "infected" with human consciousness. This leads to mass hysteria and an ominous atmosphere. One Martian comments "Something terrible will happen in the morning," which implies the destructive nature of humanity.

The change in tone from Ylla's warm feelings toward humans to these Martians' cold terror signals a shift in how Bradbury wants the reader to feel about the human expeditions. This is exemplified by his choice of literary allusions. He opens with a singer overcome by English poet Lord Byron's "She Walks in Beauty," a lovely poem that references the starry skies and seems innocuous. But he follows up with the "Old Mother Hubbard" nursery rhyme and quotes the line about the bare cupboard to chilling effect. Bradbury points out the cold and the snow numerous times to underline this shift. Perhaps the arrival of the humans is not so positive after all.

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