Selected from Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed Summary

Ray Bradbury

Selected from Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed

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Selected from Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed Summary

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Selected from The Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed by Ray Bradbury contains his famed short story The Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed along with several essays about the story. It tells of a group of humans who make a settlement on Mars and are irrevocably changed.

There is an atomic war on Earth. In response, the United States sends colonists to Mars to establish an outpost. Eight hundred settlers are chosen for the first wave, including the Bittering family: Harry, the father and leader of his family, Cora, the mother, and children Daniel, Laura, and David. When they first arrive, Harry finds the landscape disquieting, but they all settle in.

Life becomes strange, however. The family cow sprouts a third horn in the middle of its head. The grass grows purple. The seeded vegetables don’t grow quite as expected. Harry becomes more restless, comforted only by the idea that the family can return when the next supply ship appears. This hope is dashed when the conflict on earth destroys New York City and the only spaceport.

Harry is distraught and resolves to build himself a rocket home. The townsfolk, including his own family, have begun to transform in response to the Martian landscape. Their limbs elongate, their skin darkens, and their irises turn gold. Harry avoids these changes for a time by staying inside and eating only food brought from earth. When supplies run out, he is forced to begin eating things growing on Mars, and soon he notices that his irises have become golden.

The colonists begin to use Martian language, and lose interest in their Earth home. Cora convinces Harry that he should relax and that a swim in the canals would probably do him some good. He doesnot want to go, but he agrees. While there, he finds that David has begun to refer to himself by a Martian name and soon everyone adopts the same.

When they get back to town, they find the colonists preparing to retreat to the mountains to avoid the stifling heat of the valleys in Martian summer. Harry wants to stay with his rocket, but he grudgingly goes with his family when they tell him that he can return when summer is over.

The story picks up five years later. The spaceport has been repaired, and a convoy is sent to Mars. They find the colony abandoned. Upon exploration, they discover a colony of Martians in the mountains. They seem surprisingly good at English. Once the explorers are convinced that the Martians had nothing to do with the disappearance of the colonists, they decide to build a bigger settlement using the remains of the town built by the first.

Bradbury uses the symbolism of change in the colonists’ bodies to draw attention to Harry’s fear of change. Although he chose to come to the colony on Mars, he clings desperately to his old home and way of life. Even after his wife and children embrace their new life, he isolates himself to avoid the physical changes happening.

He cannot avoid change forever. As he eats Martian food and interacts with the Martian landscape more and more, it becomes clear that change is inevitable. Once the colonists decide to leave their human settlement and build something entirely new in the mountains, it is only a small matter to convince Harry, and he relinquishes the last vestiges of “earth human.” Later, it is impossible to see what he once was.

This acceptance versus resistance is the catalyst for Harry’s story arc. Harry is unable to accept the strange things happening around him, and it causes him a lot of stress that his family doesnot seem to feel. Once he accepts that these changes are inevitable, and that he cannot return to earth, he is able to join the rest of the settlers in redefining their settlement to suit their Martian characteristics.

When the colonists first arrive, they want their houses and food to be exactly the way they were on Earth. As things appear differently, they begin to let go of their memories of the earth. Deciding to move to a Martian home in the mountains is the final act in letting go of their memories of Earth and fully embodying their identities as Martians.

Humanity has always pushed the limits, and at times it seems scary. When the colonists left Earth, it was to be an outpost of Earth. Instead, they are changed by the landscape and lose their humanity. Bradbury leaves it up to us to decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing. They live peacefully in the hills in stark contrast to the war raging on earth, and by the time earth arrives to rescue them, they no longer need it.

It is an inevitable part of being human to fear change. Bradbury’s story plays on our discomfort of turning into something that we arenot and uses it to subvert our primal fears of losing our identity. By the end of the story, everyone in the colony has adopted a new name, and thus a new identity, permanently separating themselves from humanity on earth.

The book also includes additional essays and information about the author, Mars, and space travel. Bradbury answers a few questions about the story and all this information collected together becomes the focus of the book.