The Martian Chronicles: Character Profiles

Mr. and Mrs. K are the first native Martians we meet in The Martian Chronicles. Mrs. K, Ylla, experiences telepathic, dream-like communication with Captain Nathaniel York of the First Expedition from Earth—a relationship tinged with romance and eroticism that drives her husband, Yll, jealous… jealous enough, in fact, to kill York and his fellow human when they do arrive on the Red Planet. Yll is bound to the ways of the past, whereas his wife remains open to the possibilities of the future.


Captain Jonathan Williams commands the Second Expedition to Mars from Earth. His insistence upon the reality of human life on “the third planet,” so at odds with Martian doctrine about life in the Solar system, leads Mr. Xxx, the Martian psychologist, to brand Williams a lunatic—a madman who needs to be shot. 


Captain John Black commands the Third Expedition. He and his men find themselves in Green Bluff, a town that appears to be an exact (if overly nostalgic) reconstruction of a “typical” Midwestern American town. Black and his men embrace their surroundings, only to discover too late that it is a hypnotic illusion produced by the telepathic Martians as a means of self-defense.


Spender is the member of the Fourth Expedition who “goes native” on Mars, identifying with the grand but dead civilization of the Red Planet, a civilization not left alone even to rot in peace because of the encroaching human settlers. Although he resorts to violence to enforce his vision of what Mars’ future should be—and, as such, must eventually be stopped (and killed) by expedition commander Captain Wilder—he does grasp the fundamental conflict between the arriving human settlers and the nearly extinct Martian civilization of the distant past. Spender attempts to persuade Wilder that human settlement of Mars must, at the least, be delayed by a half century, in order to let archaeologists uncover and learn from the wisdom of the ancient Martians. Unfortunately, as the attitude of men like expedition crew member Sam Parkhill demonstrates, humanity will not adopt the reverence or the patience that Spender counsels. For his part, years after the Expedition, Parkhill opens a hot-dog stand in a greedy—but, in the end, thwarted by the atomic war on Earth—attempt to “get rich quick.”


Benjamin Driscoll is the “Johnny Appleseed”-like figure of Martian exploration. Instead of planting apples, Driscoll seeds trees, trees that grow in an instant to their full height and majesty. Driscoll seems to represent the best of humanity as it encounters a new world: he remakes it, but he does so in a way that leads to new growth, new life, new possibilities. Driscoll is a visionary, concerned (where so many of his fellow humans are not) with the future.


“Pop” is the owner of a lonely gas station on a Martian road, one of the few human characters in Bradbury’s book who correctly articulates the reason humanity is having difficulty living on Mars: they will not accept the alien world as alien! They shut themselves up against it, refusing to accept it and to leave behind the cultural and psychological baggage of old Earth (primarily represented in the text through the increasing threat and eventual eruption of atomic warfare). 


William Stendahl is a wealthy emigrant to Mars who spends his personal fortune building a replica of the House of Usher (from Poe’s famous tale). Stendahl uses this house to exact revenge against a number of elite society members who, previously on Earth, censored all fantastic, horrific, and otherwise otherworldly literature and artistic expression. Stendahl, however, in his zeal to keep that imaginative tradition alive, actually perverts it, by drawing upon it to deal death, not life.


Lafe LaFarge is an old settler, one of the last wave of emigrants to arrive on Mars from Earth, who, along with his wife, still mourns the death of their son, Tom. One of the few remaining native Martians emerges from hiding and assumes the shape of Tom, desperate for acceptance and love from the LaFarge family. That Martian’s need, however, becomes its undong, as it unwittingly takes on the physical identity of every human it encounters in town. The humans’ need to cling to the past rather than to meet the present and future condemn “Tom” the Martian to death: he changes too rapidly, too often, unable to be all things to all people—especially people who will not let him and his planet simply be who and what they are.


Walter Gripp is one of the few human settlers who remains on Mars after most humans return to Earth when atomic war breaks out. He makes telephone contact with another, Genevieve Selsor, and excitedly arranges to meet her. To his disappointment, Genevieve is not all that he imagined. Again, however, instead of accepting her for who she is, Walter leaves her, preferring instead to live in illusion rather than in reality. Even when Captain Wilder returns to Mars in 2026, Walter Gripp refuses to come along.


Hathaway is a former member of the Fourth Expedition whom Wilder encounters upon his return to Mars in 2026. Hathaway, too, is living an illusion, having constructed robotic replicas of his dead family.


The Thomas family—Mom (Alice) and Dad (William) and their sons Timothy, Robert and Michael—is the first of several families who flee atomic war-ravaged Earth in 2026 in secret rockets, eager to begin a new effort to colonize Mars, freed from the mistakes of the past. Rather than shutting Mars out in favor of illusion, as their predecessors did, this family fully comes to identify itself as “the Martians.” Their picnic expedition at the end of the book represents the stirrings of new hope for humanity on Mars.