The Martian

The Martian Literary Elements


Science Fiction

Setting and Context

Mars and Earth, 2035

Narrator and Point of View

Mark Watney, in the first person, with some sections in third person (with an unnamed narrator)

Tone and Mood

The tone is humorous and occasionally playfully sarcastic, when Watney is speaking; the mood is suspenseful, due to the danger Watney faces

Protagonist and Antagonist

Watney is the protagonist; there is no human antagonist, although the Martian landscape is a "planetary" atangonist

Major Conflict

Watney must survive being left behind on Mars, then create a liveable environment within the Hab, then journey across Mars to Schiaparelli crater, to rendezvous with the crew of the Hermes


Watney's crew return to Mars and have a limited time period to pick Watney up in space and bring him back to their vessel.


The book occasionally flashes forward to indicate key equipment failures, as when part of the Hab's canvas tears, causing an airlock to rip out


Watney's attempts to make light of his situation through humor understate the harshness of the Martian terrain and the dangers Watney faces.


Watney alludes to pop culture repeatedly, especially 1970s pop culture: for example, "How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”


Watney's imagery tends to be strictly scientific, as does the unnamed narrator's; other images, such as those employed by NASA, are derived from Greco-Roman mythology




The story follows two parallel situations: Watney as he attempts to solve problems and NASA administrators on Earth as they do the same.

Metonymy and Synecdoche



Watney is alone on Mars and often personifies the potential reader of his logs, both to give himself someone to explain his actions to and to make sure his experiences would not be forgotten.