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Illusion over Reality in the Martian Chronicles

In: English and Literature

Submitted By pgvallejom
Words 1153
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Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Foreign Languages Department
Written English VI
Gabriela Vallejo Matiz
December, 2013
04861318

The Martian Chronicles: Illusion over Reality
The Martian Chronicles can be interpreted as the choice of illusion over reality. There were many events where the Martians shaped their bodies to the humans’ deepest desires or the humans themselves created illusions to fulfill these desires. By doing so, it could be seen that the characters chose to follow their illusions instead of accepting the reality they were facing. “The choice of illusion is related to the strong emotions of love, hate and empathy.” (Taylor, 2013)
In chapter six –the third expedition- is clear that the humans’ illusion is to have their beloved dead ones back. Despite the Captain’s reservations and warnings, everyone accepts the illusion of Green Bluff, Illinois in Mars, which suggests unreality given that it may not be possible to copy an identical place in a different one. However, this acceptance brings comfort to the crew who are blinded by the emotion of having their resurrected family back; these families “were given a second chance to live in a new world” which, at the same time, is unreal because there is no way to bring back a dead person. The Martians linked this illusion to the strong empathy with the crew’s emotions through telepathy in order to carry out a dreadful funeral. Earth men never suspected what was happening until the last moment when they were killed because they couldn’t resist this emotion.
In another story, Spender is under the illusion that everyone will understand his concept of Martian culture and his desire of preserving it. He starts killing everybody in order to avoid humans from destroying Mars and turning it into something totally different. Nonetheless, his illusions are broken apart when he realizes that no one will follow his desires and he is killed. Then, Earth men start colonizing and building a new civilization on Mars. By doing so, they created what Spender once feared.
The building of a new world in Mars is also an illusion of the Earth men who go to Mars and start a new civilization and life far away from the violence, the instructions and the rules. But, they did not realize that Mars was turning into a replication of the old civilization with identical Earth infrastructure and names. The violence as well as the ruling persisted until Mars was abandoned. One example of these last points is depicted in chapter seventeen –Usher II- when Stendhal and Pikes’ illusionary world is created to take revenge on the investigators who destroyed the literature and films they loved given that it was forbidden to create books or films that “suggest any ghost, vampire, fairy, or any creature of the imagination” (Bradbury, 1950, p. 151) because “every man must face reality (…) and everything that was not so must go” (Ibid., p. 149). The illusion together with Stendhal and Pikes’ obsession, hatred, and insanity leads to the awful massacre of the investigators and the characters’ freedom. This shows that the ruling continues through the censorship and the violence through the deaths.
The illusion is a way out not to accept a reality that is hard to confront. This is portrayed in most of the novel’s stories. However, LaFarge’s and Dr. Hathaway’s stories are the ones that fully depict this. The former, LaFarge, is a man who accepted the illusion of having his beloved dead son back for the love of his wife in order to avoid her suffering. This illusionary son was a Martian who shaped into LaFarge’s son and the surrounding human’s desires. Thus, LaFarge’s eagerness to preserve his son ends up in killing the Martian and breaking the others’ illusions apart as well as giving heartache to his wife. This represents both the non-acceptance of his son’s death and the desire to bring him back. The latter illustrates a similar story. Dr. Hathaway is a man who went to Mars to start a new life with his family but they died from an unknown virus. So, he created an illusionary family because he could not resist their loss and the loneliness of his life. However, his relief was not complete because his illusionary family -a robotic one- did not age as he did, therefore, the illusion was imperfect. These stories show one of the humans’ deepest fears: people do not want to face the reality because it is hard for them; instead, it is better to live an illusion where everything is possible.
In chapter twenty-three –the silent town- the reader can observe the representation of being alone. Walter Gripp is the last man on Mars who is under the illusion that the last woman of Mars will be the woman of his dreams and will become his one true love. Nevertheless, once he faces the reality, which was that the woman he wanted was not what he expected, he realizes that he is all by himself. This is another of the humans’ deepest fears that people don’t want to confront: loneliness. Therefore, the illusions are the only way to escape from the dreadful reality.
At the end of the novel, a family went to Mars with the illusion that they were going on holidays. However, the parents had different plans for their future since they wanted to live there. When they told their children, they became nostalgic because of the farewell to Earth. But, they were eager to meet the Martians. When the father took his children to see the Martians, he instructs them to look at the Martians reflected on the water. By doing this, they see their own reflection which means that they were the Martians. This represents that reality is always present. The only thing that people have to do is to focus on it and stop following their illusions. Also, this shows that it is time to face reality.

All things considered, the interpretation of the choice of illusion over reality can be observed in the different stories of the novel. All of these stories give an account of how humans follow their illusions instead of facing the reality. It is in our nature to stick to the people we love, either dead or alive, given that we are social beings and we are afraid of loneliness. This leads to the creation of a world where we imagine perfect people, places and company because that is what we want. We don’t want to face a reality that seems cruel to us. In my opinion, what The Martians Chronicles illustrates is that we prefer to live in a world where everything is possible and there is no suffering.
References
Bradbury, R. (1950). The Martian Chronicles. New York: Doubleday.
Taylor, L. (2013). Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles. [Online] Available at: http://louisecharente.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/ray-bradbury-the-martian-chronicles/ [Accessed: 18 Dec 2013].

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