Home » Fantasy and the human mind » Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles.

Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles.

English: Cover art by Frank E. Schoonover from...

Coursera, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World  by Eric Rabkin.

A compilation of vignettes this week from Ray Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles.

The book is between a compilation of short stories and a full novel as the story of human influence on Mars and the Martians progress.  It was quite like a cowboy film again with the Americans conquering and making the planet into a copy of the country they left.

I loved the story Usher 11  – very imaginative and lots of horrid deaths. There were so many themes to chose from. I chose illusion over reality as it came up a few times. I didn’t want to go with one of the main themes as I saw loads of other essays on the internet about them and wished to do something more original.

Please write an essay that aims to enrich the reading of a fellow student who is both intelligent and attentive to the readings and to the course. Each essay should be between 270 and 320 words.

Here is the essay that I submitted which received an average 4.. I am disappointed that I didn’t have any very useful comments.


In many of the stories included in The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury explores choosing illusion over reality. The choice of illusion is related to the strong emotions of love, hate and empathy.

Despite his reservations, Captain Black (1) accepts the illusion of Green Bluff, whose very name suggests unreality. Acceptance brings comfort to his weary crew who cannot resist the emotional tugs of their resurrected families. Black feels “soaked to the skin with emotion.” The Martians play out a tearful funeral – a further illusion due to a strong empathy with the crew’s emotions absorbed via telepathy.

Stendhal and Pikes’ (2) illusionary world is designed to effect revenge on investigators who destroyed the film and literature that they loved. Garrett tells Stendhal “You’re insane!”, to which he replies, “I won’t argue that point.” Revenge, fuelled by insanity, leads to death for the inspectors of the house but Stendhal and Pikes escape to freedom.

La Farge (3) accepts an illusion for the love of his wife; non-acceptance would have led her to suffer further. Creating illusions in order to be loved kills the Martian and brings heartache to some of the illuded townspeople.

Walter Grip (4) is under the illusion that the last woman on Mars will be the woman of his dreams, someone to love with “lips like red peppermints”. Once he faces reality he is able to face the fact he has no wife; he is “all alone”.

In creating his illusionary family, Dr. Hathaway (5) is able to withstand his isolation and the terrible loss of his family. “He said it was the worst thing that could happen to a man to know how to be lonely.”  His relief is not complete because the illusion is imperfect. The robotic family doesn’t age as he does.

In the concluding chapter, (6) the father instructs his family to look at “the Martians” in the water. They see their own reflections. Bradbury is telling us that it is time to face reality.


Works cited:

Please note that this essay is written in British English.

References from Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles

  1. The Third Expedition
  2. Usher II
  3. The Martian
  4. The Silent Towns
  5. The Long Years
  6. The Million Year Picnic

Peer Review 

The review process is split into three parts.

Part one FORM

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the FORM of the essay you have just read.  FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct?  Are the words properly used?  Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly?  An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 2 → Argument vague for me although I liked the examples of metaphor. The text is well structured but the exploration of the them of illusion does not feel conclusive.
Fair enough. It worked for me -horses for courses.
peer 3 → As I am a second-language speaker, I have tried to give a very considerate critic to this essay. Some verbs seem to be used a little unusual (if that is the right expression). For example: “…is deigned…” or “…illuded (which I did not find in the oxford dictionary). I did not get exactly the starting thesis in the essay. I would have liked to read a more detailed statement at the beginning, explaining exactly what Bradbury “explores”. I am also not all sure about the correct usage of the verb ‘explore’ in this context. A more defined usage of words may have simplified my reading of the essay.
I think you need to get yourself a better dictionary.  If you type ‘define + word’ into a search engine such as google you will get the definition from all the available sources on line. In hard copy I have ‘The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary’ and it has the word illuded in it.  The word has several definitions.  The verb ‘explore’ is also in my dictionary and is correctly used.
A more detailed statement at the beginning? – I think it is simple and clearly stated – illusion vs reality  I am not sure what more you need there. As for defining my word usage that is what dictionaries are for. They sit in five hefty volumes above my desk and the word limit does not allow me to included them.  The purpose of the essays is not to simplify it for readers but to put words to the best use possible in order to get a point across within the word limit. 
Due to a problem with the review system further reviews were allowed for 24 hours. I received another review from peer 5 – which means that peer 4 left no comment.
peer 5 → The grammar is good, so is the sentence structure and word use. The argument is well presented and supported. But the conclusion could be stronger.
I agree. Re reading the essay it does seem to fizzle out at the conclusion and the change isn’t explained. 

Please grade the FORM of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct? Are the words properly used? Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly? An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Everyone should strive for perfect grammar. However, if someone writes in ways that are particularly vivid or uses particularly incisive key terms to focus the argument or in some other way is outstanding in usage or structure, that essay should be awarded a 3 but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2


Part two CONTENT

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the CONTENT of the essay you have just read. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 2 → I’m not sure that choosing illusion over reality is a key theme. I think it may be a subset of Bradbury’s general pessimism about the colonising of Mars in the shadow of the 1950s Cold War/. There are many exceptions in various stories to the examples mentioned here and other themes much more prominent and well-developed.
You are right and I didn’t say it was a key theme I just said there were many examples of it. There are many well developed themes but nothing in the instructions to say that I can’t write about something that struck me as interesting. 
peer 3 → I cannot completely follow your interpretation: Illusions I understand to be false ideas or beliefs. Hathaway for example, to my opinion, does not create an illusionary (you mean illusive?), but rather substitute family, a robot family. He knows all the time, that this is not his real family (he visits the graves of the dead family and he even apologizes for his creation). Hathaway uses the power of imagination and creativity to console himself. What is within the essay identified as ‘illusion’, a kind of self-deception, is to my opinion an effective survival strategy. It helps withstand solitude, isolation, pain etc. And moreover: the reflection of the ‘Martians’ in the water does not mean: “Be realistic!” I recognize the ‘new’ Martians, the Martians of today and tomorrow. To me it means: invent yourself anew!
Again I think you need a better dictionary, you have selected one definition from a dictionary and gone with it. Think of the great magicians that create illusions for us, they are not giving us a bad idea or belief just making us see things that we believe are real but in fact aren’t. Illusion is something that appears to be real but isn’t. 
Thank you for your opinion on what the reflection of the Martians in the water means but please don’t tell me that my opinion is wrong. This is what it meant for me and my opinion is as valid as the next persons. You are allowed to tell me that you disagree with me but not that I am wrong. 
peer 5 → Very persuasive, you have several points that are well stated and well connected to your main point. Only the conclusion doesn’t seem to follow the beginning argument that characters choose illusion over reality, is this a turning point or exception?
Thank you peer 5. It is a turning point I believe. As you have rightly pointed out this should have been stated. 

Please grade the CONTENT of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Most people will offer their readers a new insight and some detailed reference to the text that argues for the significance of that insight and for an appreciation of how that detail functions, so most essays will enrich our reading and earn a 2. Some essays will be astonishingly new or persuasive or useful by making the story much richer and even by helping you understand better how to read stories in general. Such essays earn a 3 in Content, but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2


Part three COMMENTS 

Please write here any other comments which you feel might be of use to you or the writer of this essay.
peer 1 → Uh Oh it looks like you have plagerized your going straight to the Retard Home for that Straight to the home! Straight to the home! run up to a stranger and stick out your top teeth in a bucktooth manner, Than say Straight to the Home! Straight to the home! Your going Straight to the Home!
I have seen on the forum that someone is leaving comments like this one. Can’t help trolls. 

What I will take forward. 

I am very disappointed with the quality of these peer reviews.  I felt quite offended with the criticism of word choice. The course is aimed at undergraduate level English speakers. Maybe I over reacted.

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4 Comments

  1. Richard Hare says:

    Three supporting points would indicate a strong case; five is pretty close to proof!

    Like many of the quality essays I’ve read on this course, I would have enjoyed something at least twice the length going deeper into the significance of illusion in this book and how it relates to the emotions you mentioned in the opening.

    • Louise Taylor says:

      Thank you for your comment Richard.

      All my essays start out much longer than the word limit. I find it very tight. It does however sharpen my focus and I have to decide what is really important. Sometimes I fail. In this essay I failed with the conclusion. But that’s OK as I will know for next time. I had one helpful peer review – number 5 – that was a bonus after the extended time so I am pleased with that.

  2. Sean says:

    I think my interpretation of the reflection was closer to yours – especially with the description of the reactions of the different children – a need to leave the childhood fantasies (and nightmares) behind. Although their view was also really “drop the fantasy and reinvent yourself” – so I don’t see why they needed to be negative really.

    I thought the whole book was very soft-focus and dream-like.

    • Louise Taylor says:

      You are right. It does have a dream like quality. You could imagine it run in sepia with no hard lines. Some mist thrown in here and there for atmosphere.

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