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The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury

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The Martian Chronicles | Symbols



Fire occurs often in The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury chooses fire as an ongoing motif because it can be both positive when controlled as a source of warmth and inspiration and negative when it burns out of control. The fire from the engines of the rockets in "January 1999: Rocket Summer" starts out the narrative on a positive note, awakening humanity's imagination for the possibilities of space. Of course, it also ends up destroying Earth in "November 2005: The Off Season" and offers reminders of the detrimental effects of human progress in "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains." But even when it destroys, fire can cleanse and be a source of renewal. This is true in "April 2005: Usher II" when the killer mansion explodes taking with it all the offensive moral climates. Fire as renewal is also evident in "October 2026: The Million-Year Picnic." Through the actions of William Thomas, Bradbury suggests humanity can rise again from the ashes.


Masks are prevalent throughout The Martian Chronicles, and the Martians are especially prone to wearing them—a facet of their high level of mystery for both the reader and the Earthmen that encounter them.

Martian masks are literally referenced in "February 1999: Ylla," when Yll wears a mask to disguise his true feelings from his wife and in "November 2005: The Off Season," when Sam Parkhill has his encounters with the masked Martians. In many other instances, Martians assume the form of humans, taking on figurative "masks" based on human memory and nostalgia as a survival tactic. The robots in "April 2005: Usher II" and "April 2026: The Long Years" can also be seen as masks, since in both cases, nonhumans are disguised as humans. The mask functions in a variety of ways, though two prominent functions are disguise and deception and hospitality and friendship. The tricky part is: which mask is being worn at any given time? The response to the mask seems to reflect the personality (e.g., Sam's response versus LeFarge's in "September 2005: The Martin" or Wilder's in "April 2026: The Long Years").


Bradbury uses doors to symbolize a character's level of openness and also as a pathway to discovery. In "February 1999: Ylla" a Martian woman dreams of a door opening on a rocket to reveal a human man, indicating her openness to the arrival of humanity. Conversely, in "August 1999: The Earth Men," Mr. Iii has Captain Williams lock himself behind a door in the insane asylum because Mr. Iii does not want to bother with him. In "December 2001: The Green Morning," Benjamin can see a future where "towns doors would flip wide" which points to his dream of settlers developing open-mindedness toward Mars. In "September 2005: The Martian," LeFarge leaves his door unlocked for the Martian impersonating his son, opening himself to the wonders of Mars, but after the titular Martian's death, LeFarge bolts his door. He's too old to be disillusioned again.

Questions for Symbols

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