Literature Study GuidesThe Martian ChroniclesNovember 2005 The Off Season Summary

The Martian Chronicles | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles | November 2005: The Off Season | Summary

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Summary

Sam Parkhill has been on Mars for over four years, since the successful fourth expedition.

He opens a hot-dog stand with his wife Elma on a crossroads on Mars, hoping to make money on all the new arrivals to Mars. A Martian comes in peace to speak with Sam, but Sam tells him to go away and threatens him with chicken pox. The Martian takes out a tube to show Sam, but Sam mistakes it for a gun and shoots him. He buries the Martian.

Then a dozen Martians approach on sand ships; Sam speeds off, and the Martians pursue him. A Martian woman teleports onto Sam's ship and asks him to return to the crossroads for an important message. Sam kills her.

Sam attempts to fend off the remaining ships, but he is outnumbered. The Martian leader does not kill Sam, but gives him the deed to half of Mars. He tells Sam to prepare for a great event that night. While Sam and his wife prepare hot dogs, they look at the sky and see Earth explode.

Analysis

The Martians that survived the chicken pox finally reveal themselves to one of their chief aggressors. Sam cannot understand why they do not kill him outright when they have the chance—after all, he has killed plenty of them. But the Martians know something Sam does not, and they relish his poor timing, goading him to prepare his hot dogs for a mass of customers who will never come.

Sam represents many of the negative aspects of humanity. He is foolhardy, narrow-minded, quick to violence, opportunistic, and dismissive of his wife. Note Bradbury recognizes these traits in Martians such as Yll in "February 1999: Ylla," even before Martians are infected by humanity, so he is not saying Martians are inherently better than humans. In any case, it would have been easy for the Martians to wipe him out like humanity wiped out the Martians, but leaving Sam alive to realize humanity has practically extinguished itself is a far crueler revenge. Bradbury seems to revel in Sam's comeuppance right along with the Martians. The way the Martian leader mocks Sam is reminiscent of the way Silly mocks his former oppressor Samuel Teece in "June 2003: Way in the Middle of the Air." What will Sam Parkhill do now?

Bradbury uses the character of Sam structurally as well, placing him in both of the novel's turning point stories. Sam's enterprising nature serves him well as an explorer who conquers Mars, but it leaves him unprepared for a life of thoughtful stewardship of the planet. He destroys things on Mars in the same way humans ultimately destroy Earth. And this lack of reverence ushers in the third act of the novel, or as Elma calls it: The Off Season.

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