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Literature Study GuidesThe Martian ChroniclesJanuary 1999 Rocket Summer Summary

The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles | January 1999: Rocket Summer | Summary



It is an especially cold winter in Ohio, when housewives go "lumbering like great black bears in their furs along icy streets." And then a wave of warmth passes over the town. The rocket to Mars launches, and it is all people can talk about.


This short story, the first chapter of the collection of interconnecting short stories that constitute the novel, sets the mood for the whole work. The language Bradbury uses here is highly descriptive and creates an atmosphere of wonder and awe.

In 1950 the first manned space mission was still 11 years away, and space travel seemed like a fantastic dream. Thus, the melting of winter can be interpreted two ways: literally or figuratively. It can be the rocket is so large and powerful that igniting it causes the whole town to warm up suddenly to summer temperatures. But it can also be the idea of humankind's expansion into space lit up the townspeople's imaginations in a way that felt like an intellectual summer. Either way, the radical shift in weather hints at the cataclysmic environmental changes resulting from technology, showing man's destructive nature.

Some of the details evoke the 1940s, supporting the theme of memory and nostalgia. For instance, the fur-wearing Ohio housewives might have been included as an homage to American novelist Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio.

The story begins with doors shut tight to winter, symbolizing the townspeople's closed-off nature, but then the "doors flew open," symbolizing a rapid change in attitude and acceptance of new ideas. Fire also makes its first symbolic appearance here, but it starts out with its positive connotation of excitement.

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