The Inevitability of Change in The Martian Chronicles
Change is rarely accepted into open arms, for good reason. Ray Bradbury’s science-fiction collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles, explores the colonization and eventual collapse of Martian civilization. Throughout the novel, rockets are used as the connection between humans and Martians, and take on different meanings to each group. The humans, called Earthmen by Martians, use them to escape the fact that they’ve destroyed Earth, only to repeat their mistakes on Mars. Later, when future humans realise what went wrong, they feel ashamed to have ever contributed to the death of society. The theme of The Martian Chronicles is that change is unavoidable, as evidenced by the symbolism, the setting, and the tone.
Throughout each of the stories, rockets are used to signify change in technology and environment. In the beginning of “Rocket Summer”, the lift off of the first rockets from Earth show a group of humans a summer scene in the middle of winter. “The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts,” (“Rocket Summer”, 13). This is the first time the rockets are being used, and people are amazed by the sight of it. Personification of the exhaust as being breath makes them seem almost mythological, adding to the spectacle. The rockets are not only changing the environment, but will eventually affect how the humans understand and view their world. While the humans see them as an opportunity to begin the colonization of Mars, the Martians later see them as an end to civilization. The rockets connect the two worlds, and are used as a catalyst for human destruction.
While most of the stories take place exclusively on Mars, a lot of the human motivation is due to the state of the Earth. Due to the possibility of atomic warfare and constant strain on resources, Earthmen see the takeover of Mars as the last remaining option. After the final successful landing on Mars, humans are quick to start rebuilding a replica of their previous lives. “And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, and the bludgeon away all the strangeness,” (“The Locusts”, 101). With total disregard for the Martians already living there, they are ready to manipulate the environment to how they see fit. In order to forget the mistakes of Earth, they try to make an ideal human habitat. Though they are trying to stop the past from repeating itself, the transition from harmless expeditions to full on settlement is inevitable.
This collection of stories shows both the good and the bad of planetary colonization. There are attempts to preserve human and Martian cultures, but neither end up preventing loss. When the final expedition arrives on Mars, it’s apparent the lack of respect humans had for the red planet. One explorer is especially taken aback by the lack of respect the humans have previously had, “‘No matter how much we touch Mars, we’ll never touch it. And then we’ll get mad at it, and you know what we’ll do? We’ll rip it up, rip the skin off, and change it to fit ourselves,’,” (“ - And the Moon Be Still as Bright”, 73). This explorer, named Spender, sees how his colleagues are joking around, and feels that they will ruin the beauty of Mars, just as they did on Earth. They’ll end up changing names, applying societal roles, and ruining the civilization they once dreamed about all over again. He feels humankind is doomed to repeat this cycle forever, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
The use of symbolism, setting, and theme all convey that change can’t be fully prevented. Rockets full of humans are inescapable to the Martians, and continue to land with little consideration for their society. Humans have convinced themselves that this colonization will be different than on Earth, and try to force the planet into submission. Even the future attempts to preserve what little remains fails, leaving the two planets and civilizations torn to shreds. Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles shows how this descent was unstoppable from the start. The positive changes in society, technology, and knowledge for humans will always triumph over ethics and respect for others.