page 1 of 2
In August of 2001, drawn by the promise of work, settlers begin to arrive. At first, many suffer from loneliness, as their numbers are few. Benjamin Driscoll is one such settler. Upon arrival, he had trouble breathing, so he made it his personal mission to plant oxygen-producing trees. He rides a motorcycle and plants seeds wherever he goes, but he doesn't know if they'll grow. One morning in December, after it finally rains, he turns around and sees that the once-barren landscape is now covered with green.
By February of 2002, rockets are landing like flies. A dozen towns have sprung up, little Americas. One night in August, Toma's Gomez is driving to a party where there will be girls and whiskey. He stops at a filling station, where an old man talks about how much he likes Mars. The old man doesn't expect Mars to be like Earth; he anticipates differences. As Gomez drives on, he thinks of how the air looks and smells like Time. He has just stopped to have a cup of coffee when a giant, jade-green praying mantis shows up. A Martian by the name of Muhe Ca dismounts, and Gomez gives him a winning smile. They talk, but soon find that they cannot touch each other, as if they were both ghosts. Also, the Martian is headed to a giant festival in a town that looks deserted and ruined to Gomez. They agree to disagree and part ways.
By October of 2002, wave upon wave of settlers is hitting Mars. The first was rough and built to build homes where there was nothing, but the second wave comes from the cities. Still, all the settlers come from America. By February of 2003, wood for entire cities is brought in, and the towns are then built. They are just like American towns. By April, the settlers' children have found an odd way of amusing themselves: they hike out to a ruined Martian town filled with chicken pox corpses and stamp on the bodies, making black leaves fly up in the air, and they take bones from the skeletons and make music from them. They play hard, because they know that, all over the planet, men are working to clean up the corpses.
This part of the book contains a great many short sections. While many of the longer stories in the book, like "Earth Men" and "--And the Moon Be Still as Bright," were first published separately, these smaller pieces are written specifically to connect the stories and to give the novel continuity. They describe the settling of Mars, which began with a few astronauts, began in earnest with workers, and now includes city-dwellers and children.
Benjamin Driscoll is a futuristic Johnny Appleseed. In American myth, Johnny Appleseed was a pioneer who planted trees all around America. Although Bradbury does not refer to the Johnny Appleseed legend, he is certainly making an allusion to it. It is clear that Bradbury intends for The Martian Chronicles to be a commentary on American myth of the frontier.
The story of the "Night Meeting" is very hard to explain. It seems that Martians are not only able to read minds and change their shape, but also--perhaps--to exist on a plane completely different from that of humans. Throughout the novel, as Bradbury shows how Martian civilization has been destroyed, it is comforting to think that Muhe Ca's world still exists, even if one does not understand in just what way it "still exists."
Take a Study Break!