The Frontier Spirit in Science Fiction Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles

“The Martian Chronicles” could be considered a male fantasy rooted in the romantic idea of the American “Western” myth. There are no female voices or love interests and the men all epitomise the Frontier Man who is able to survive harsh conditions with ingenuity and a moral code, – bringing civilization to the savages. It could also be considered an example of science fiction as frontier literature. Bradbury provides a nostalgic and sometimes melancholy critique of conquest which mirrors established patterns of colonization, degradation of the environment and racism, using common Western themes and motifs.

“And the Moon Be Still as Bright” has obvious parallels to the smallpox epidemic brought to the Native Americans by the first European settlers. The explorers sadly dismiss the dying Martian culture “There aren’t enough…to be a native problem. This planet is through.” (Bradbury p56) and express Bradbury’s cynical condemnation of colonial behaviour “We’ll rip it up, rip the skin off, and change it to fit ourselves…We Earthmen have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things.” (Bradbury p 57)

“The Settlers” draws parallels between the experiences of the Martian settlers and the pioneers in the American West. For example, their reasons for leaving “they were coming to find something or leave something or get something, to dig up something, or buy something or leave something alone.” (Bradbury p73) and the incentives offered by the Government of the time “there’s work for you in the skies: see Mars!” (Bradbury p73).

Bradbury’s stories reflects the prevailing anxieties of America in the early 1950’s, including reactions against racism and fear of nuclear attack and highlight how Americans continued to push the limits of frontier once their western frontier was closed. In his inaugural speech in 1960, Kennedy renewed the frontier dream encouraged by acceleration of the space programme, when he called on his compatriots to “be new pioneers of that new Frontier.” [1]

[1]- 1960: JFK‟s inaugural: “stand on the edge of a new frontier, a frontier of unknown challenges and perils. I am asking you to be new pioneers of that new Frontier.”

Bradbury R. (1951) The Martian Chronicles Harper Collins, London



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