- Slides: 11
The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury Historical context & thematic overview
The Cold War 1945 -1963 • During World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union fought together as allies against the Axis powers. However, the relationship between the two nations was a tense one. • Americans had long been wary of Soviet communism and concerned about Russian leader Joseph Stalin’s tyrannical, blood-thirsty rule of his own country. For their part, the Soviets resented the Americans’ decades-long refusal to treat the USSR as a legitimate part of the international community as well as their delayed entry into World War II, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Russians. • After the war ended, these grievances ripened into an overwhelming sense of mutual distrust and enmity. Postwar Soviet expansionism in Eastern Europe fueled many Americans’ fears of a Russian plan to control the world. Meanwhile, the USSR came to resent what they perceived as American officials’ bellicose rhetoric, arms buildup and interventionist approach to international relations. • In such a hostile atmosphere, no single party was entirely to blame for the Cold War; in fact, some historians believe it was inevitable.
The Cold War (1945 -1963) • The Soviet Union wanted to spread Communism in Eastern Europe and create a "buffer zone" of friendly governments as defense against any attacks, whether by the Capitalists or by Germany. • In 1946, with Eastern Europe under Soviet control and influence, Europe was divided into a West (western democracies and the United States) bloc and East (Soviet Union and Soviet occupied territory) bloc. An "Iron Curtain" separated Europe.
Harry Truman • In 1947, President Truman (1884 -1972) declared before Congress that “It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation…by outside pressures. ” • In 1950, a National Security Council Report known as NSC– 68 echoed Truman’s recommendation that the country use military force to "contain" communist expansionism anywhere it seemed to be occurring. – To that end, the report called for a four-fold increase in defense spending. – Thus began a deadly “arms race”
The Arms Race • 1949 USSE tests an atomic bomb • Truman responds by announcing the development of an even more destructive bomb the hydrogen bomb, or “super bomb” – Stalin follows suit
Eniwetok • The first H-bomb test, in the Eniwetok atoll in the Marshall Islands, showed just how fearsome the nuclear age could be. • It created a 25 -square-mile fireball that vaporized an island, blew a huge hole in the ocean floor and had the power to destroy half of Manhattan. • Subsequent American and Soviet tests spewed poisonous radioactive waste into the atmosphere.
Psychological toll • The ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation had a great impact on American domestic life. • People built bomb shelters in their backyards, practiced attack drills in schools and other public places, and the 1950 s and 1960 s saw an epidemic of popular films that horrified moviegoers with depictions of nuclear devastation and mutant creatures. • In these and other ways, the Cold War was a constant presence in Americans’ everyday lives.
The Red Scare • Beginning in 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) brought the Cold War home in another way. The committee began a series of hearings designed to show that communist subversion in the United States was alive and well. • As this anticommunist hysteria spread throughout the 1950 s, liberal college professors, [movie industry professional, federal employees, among others] lost their jobs, people were asked to testify against colleagues and "loyalty oaths" became commonplace.
The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury
Overview • In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (b. 1920) imagines the first attempts by people from Earth to conquer and colonize Mars, the Martian resistance through telepathy, the eventual conquest and colonization, and the effects of a nuclear war on Earth on the settlers on Mars. • This collection of short stories built around theme of Earth's colonization of Mars provides a critique of imperialism, conquest, environmental degradation, racism, and other aspects negatively associated with the "Frontier" mythology. – Even while it challenges many Cold War ideologies, it also reflects the prevailing anxieties of America in the early 1950 s, including fear of nuclear attack and reactions against racism.
Overview cont’d • One striking feature of many of these stories is the progressive political values which they embrace. • Written during the height of the Cold War anti-Communist hysteria, they criticize imperialism, racism, environmental pollution, censorship, and the nuclear arms race. • Several SF writers critiqued smug assumptions about the superiority of American values during that period. • That such a volume could become the single most widely-read SF book during the fifties is a tribute to the charm of Bradbury's style, a compound of sentimental nostalgia, idealism, and above all delight in the pleasures of the senses. – Note how often colors, textures, smells, and sounds are used in these stories to bring a scene to life.