Social Sensitivity

Bradbury’s social and political philosophy has always been humanist, liberal, pacifist, and populist, and the stories in The Martian Chronicles frequently reflect these positions. “Way In the Middle of the Air,” for example, relates the disbelief and consternation of a group of white bigots when they discover that all of the local blacks are emigrating to Mars. The bigots are shown to be cruel and, in the final analysis, fashioners of their own fate, shortsighted oppressors who cannot fathom an existence suddenly lacking potential victims. Other stories, such as “There Will Come Soft Rains,” contain poignant warnings against the dangers of runaway technology, or the evils of nuclear war.

Several stories, including “The Martian” and “The Off Season,” parallel the fate of the native Martians to that of Native Americans. In these stories Bradbury comments on American culture’s obsession with material wealth and on the Manifest Destiny philosophy that has allowed Americans, in previous centuries and today, to feel morally justified in taking land and other possessions from the less powerful.

Another target of Bradbury’s is censorship and, in its broader incarnation, lack of imagination. Many of the settlers who come to Mars are incapable of appreciating the new planet. They shut out that which they cannot comprehend, and destroy that which they deem threatening. Whether the object be a single book or an entire civilization, Bradbury stresses that failure to appreciate or tolerate other points of view is one of the greatest of evils. In “Usher II,” the protagonist recalls the growth of a strict censorship movement on Earth, leading to government-sanctioned book-burning: “There was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves.” Bradbury suggests that fear of the unfamiliar may spread from one person to another, and eventually lead to similar tragedies.

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