Literature Study GuidesThe Martian ChroniclesSeptember 2005 The Martian Summary

The Martian Chronicles | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles | September 2005: The Martian | Summary

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Summary

LeFarge and his wife Anna have come to Mars to retire. LeFarge mourns the loss of his son Tom, even though he died back on Earth long ago. LeFarge sees a figure outside in the dark that resembles Tom and invites him in, leaving the door unlocked just in case.

The next day, Tom shows up and Anna accepts him immediately. They spend a joyous day together, until LeFarge begins to openly question Tom's identity. Tom begs him not to doubt, covering his face and running off.

When Tom returns, they go into town at Anna's stubborn insistence. While there, Tom gets lost in the crowd and disappears. LeFarge searches for him and discovers he has shape-shifted into the Spauldings' lost daughter Lavinia. LeFarge begs Tom/Lavinia to come back and he finally agrees, but when he does, the people he passes see in him their own loved ones. The pressure to be everyone to everybody kills him. LeFarge and his wife go home and bolt their door.

Analysis

The Martian who impersonates Tom has learned how to survive in a human-dominated world. Like the Martians in "April 2000: The Third Expedition," Martian Tom taps into human memories to survive, but unlike those Martians, Martian Tom cannot control the image he projects, which further underlines the decline of the Martians and the impact of the humans' nostalgia for Earth.

LeFarge knows Tom must be a Martian, but he is open to accepting the strange gift Mars has to offer. Anna, however, is too set in her Earth ways and demands Martian Tom behave like her human son. This rigidity leads to disaster, and they lose their son a second time. The house door represents LeFarge's degree of openness to Mars. While at the beginning he leaves it unlocked, at the end he is disillusioned and bolts it tight. This is yet another way Bradbury signals conditions for humans on Mars have deteriorated.

Although masses of Martians have perished in these pages, Martian Tom's death feels personal in a way those did not. Bradbury creates a tragic figure in Martian Tom by giving him empathetic traits. Martian Tom's desire to please LeFarge and Anna at great risk to himself is meant to disarm the reader, and so when Martian Tom dies as a direct result of Anna's human arrogance, it comes as a blow. Also, by wearing human faces as a mask, the Martian is more sympathetic to the reader. The reader's worldview of humans as protagonist and Martians as antagonist is challenged here more than in any other story in the novel.

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