The Martian Chronicles: “The Naming of Names” by Ray Bradbury, Summary and Analysis

The Martian Chronicles by Ray BradburyBelow is a synopsis and analysis of “The Naming of Names” from Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles for my class and, perhaps more accurately, for myself. I use these when I teach the novel, so I hope that someone else finds it useful and I hope you enjoy!

“The Naming of Names: 2004-2005” is a continuity chapter in The Martian Chronicles and was published with the first edition of the collection. Per usual (for a continuity chapter) it ends with an ellipsis, but it is the only chapter that covers a chunk of time rather than a specific date/month. In general the mini chapter discusses the re-naming of the towns and landmarks on Mars. It also lets the reader know that now humans are aware of what happened to the early expeditions: “Here was the place where Martians killed the first Earth men […] And here where the Second Expedition was destroyed.” The narrator also states that the place where “Martians” (though we know it was Yll) killed the First Expedition is called “Red Town and had to do with blood.” Bradbury’s use of color imagery is so detailed and subtle in this collection that this blatant association should be noted as important. The narrator also states “of course there was a Spender Hill and a Nathaniel York Town,” which implies that Spender (of the pivotal “- and the Moon be Still as Bright” story/chapter) is remembered as a hero and not as a villain.

In the second paragraph the narrator implies that the Martian names were known (or at least knowable), but that the Earth “rockets struck at the names like hammers, breaking away the marble into shale,” and changing them to “IRON TOWN, STEEL TOWN, ALUMINUM CITY,” and others. The use of all caps is unusual and metal imagery has become important in the text at this point so it is worth noting. After the towns, graveyards follow, and once “loneliness” is gone (both a reference to Spender being called “The Lonely One” and the chapter “The Settlers” wherein the narrator states “But the first Lonely Ones had to stand by themselves”) tourists and bureaucrats begin to arrive, which the narrator calls “sophisticates.” This is an usual word and it will be seen again in the text in “The Old Ones.”

These “sophisticates” bring rules and “red tape that had crawled across Earth like an alien weed, and letting it grow on Mars wherever it could take root.” The color red again in such a short chapter is worth of note. Additionally, I believe this to be a direct reference to H. G. Wells War of the Worlds and the red alien weed that spreads over Earth as the Martian invasion advances. The paragraph continues/concludes: “They began to plan people’s lives and libraries; they began to instruct and push about the very people who had come to Mars to get away from being instructed and ruled and pushed about. And it was inevitable that some of these people pushed back …” The reference to “lives and libraries” is unusual and we will see precisely what this closing paragraph foreshadows with “Usher II,” the next story/chapter in the collection.

Recurring symbols/themes that appear in this chapter:

  • Color: Red
  • Graveyards
  • Infestation
  • Loneliness
  • Metal: Iron, steel, aluminum
  • Rockets

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