People and the Environment
These quotations express Bradbury’s belief that people will ultimately pillage and destroy whatever environment they inhabit.
“We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things. The only reason we didn’t set up hot-dog stands in the midst of the Egyptian temple of Karnak is because it was out of the way and served no large commercial purpose.” (Pg. 54)
This quotation comes from Jeffrey Spender, the archeologist who believes that the expeditions from Earth to Mars will only serve to destroy the beauty of the Martian civilization, rendering the planet much like the commercialized, concrete environment spreading over the Earth (and remember, Bradbury wrote this over 50 years ago!). Clearly, verbal irony (sarcasm) is at work here, as is foreshadowing — Sam Parkhill actually sets up a hot-dog stand later on in the book.
“…we’re kids in rompers, shouting with our play rockets and atoms, loud and alive. But one day Earth will be as Mars is today. This will sober us. It’s an object lesson in civilizations. We’ll learn from Mars.” (Pg. 55)
This quotation comes from Captain Wilder. While he is not as much of a zealot about the destruction that Earthlings will wreak on Mars, he also believes that when the civilizations on Earth have destroyed themselves through war and returned to the very beginnings of civilization, as the Martians have, only then will they see the error of their ways.
Writing Prompt: Think of some technological changes in the last fifty years that have made the Earth closer to Bradbury’s futuristic vision of it, as expressed in this novel. Take one of those changes and specifically describe ways that your change has harmed the environment, human society, or both.
Paradox: Beauty and Conformity
These quotations from The Martian Chronicles show the two sides of progress — breathtaking beauty, combined with harshly forced conformity to norms set by an authority.
“The rocket lay on the launching field, blowing out pink clouds of fire and oven heat. The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts.” (Pg. 2)
The image here is compelling — a huge missile, headed out for the stars. In our own time, people come from miles away to watch the space shuttle launches. But look at the other images — pink flames, and a heat that transforms the very weather. This image, in Bradbury’s mind, shows the truth of technological progress: it is intoxicating and alluring, but it brings inexorable change — and not the change that everyone wants.
“The rockets set the bony meadows afire, turned rock to lava, turned wood to charcoal, transmitted water to steam, made sand and silica into green glass which lay like shattered mirrors reflecting the invasion, all about. The rockets came like drums, beating in the night. The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke. 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, to bludgeon away all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with nails so they resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them into their swift hands as they hammered up frame cottages and scuttled over roofs with shingles to blot out the eerie stars, and fit green shades to pull against the night. And when the carpenters had hurried on, the women came in with flowerpots and chintz and pans and set up a kitchen clamor to cover the silence that Mars made waiting outside the door and the shaded window.” (Pg. 78)
This descriptive passage summarizes Bradbury’s view on the transforming effects of technology — both the good and the bad. The rockets bring power — the ability to travel beyond the borders of the imagination. However, look at the images — fire, lava, steam, shattered mirrors. Clearly, the change has power, but a destructive power. But it’s not just the rocket; it’s the people serving the machines with hammers and nails, building the new homogenous future.
Writing Prompt: What are some ways that you have conformed with others to make your life easier? This could be conformity with your peers or with expectations from authority.
- The quotations in this book come from the Spectra Grand Master Edition (1984). ISBN: 0553278223