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Literature Study GuidesThe Martian ChroniclesJune 2003 Way In The Middle Of The Air Summary

The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles | June 2003: Way in the Middle of the Air | Summary



Samuel Teece, a Southern hardware proprietor, is upset all the black people in town are planning on leaving to Mars in a rocket. When Belter comes by with a group of black people, Teece demands he pay back the $50 he owes or spend two months working it off. Each member of the group pitches in a couple of dollars to pay off Belter's debt, and he continues on.

Silly returns with Teece's bicycle and asks for the day off so he can leave on the rocket. Samuel refuses and reminds him of his contract, but Grandpa Quartermain intervenes on Silly's behalf and offers to take up his duties. Teece reacts with rage and threatens to lock Silly up, but Teece's friends insist he let Silly go.

Silly taunts Teece as he leaves, so Teece follows him with a gun. Grandpa drives, but they cannot get very far because the group has left all their belongings in the road in bundles. Everyone but Teece watches the rocket take off.


This chapter is left out of some later editions of the novel because of its racial content, but it does provide an accurate portrait of the American South in the middle of the 20th century.

Samuel Teece is the kind of coward that would never dare go somewhere like Mars, even at the level of sanitation it has achieved by this point in the novel. He is enraged because people he deems inferior are braver than he is. Their mass exodus threatens his comfortable status and security, as evidenced both by the departure of his wife's housemaid and his hardware staff. When Silly asks him, "What you goin' to do nights?" Samuel is reminded how vulnerable he is to roving men with mean eyes without his staff protecting him.

Teece is a villain in this chapter, no doubt, and he represents an outdated and narrow-minded way of thinking that is best eradicated. Teece is against reform, and conforms to the norms of a "better time" to his nostalgic memory. Even Grandpa and Teece's friends understand they cannot stop the "black warm waters" of progress and emancipation, and they move out of the way. Still, even after all the black people in town have left, Teece holds on to the small victory that his staff called him "Mister" to the end.

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