Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed

by

Ray Bradbury

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Harry Bittering Character Analysis

Harry Bittering is the protagonist of “Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed.” Harry is made uneasy by the Martian landscape from the start, expressing a desire to return to Earth upon first stepping foot on Martian soil. Harry is particularly attuned to the uncanny ambiance of the Martian environment, and frequently finds himself thinking that the new world he inhabits is suspicious and may even mean him and his family harm. In keeping with this, Harry is also very attached to Earth and relies on the ability to communicate with and travel to Earth to keep his fears about the Martian world in check. When the ties between Earth and Mars are severed by nuclear war, Harry is more deeply affected than both his family and the other settlers, going so far as to attempt to construct a rocket single-handedly in order to escape from Mars. However, as time goes by and all the settlers become more acclimated to the Martian environment—and begin to succumb to the physical and psychological changes it inflicts upon them—Harry, too, is changed. He gradually loses his anxiety over returning to Earth and abandons his project with the rocket. Although Harry is the most resistant to the subtle changes wrought by Mars, he eventually gives into them like everyone else and ultimately moves with his family to the Martian villa. There, he forgets his attachment to Earth and Earthly things altogether, deeming Earth settlements “odd” and “ridiculous.”

Harry Bittering Quotes in Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed

The Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed quotes below are all either spoken by Harry Bittering or refer to Harry Bittering. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Avon Books edition of Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed published in 1990.
Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed Quotes

The wind blew as if to flake away their identities. At any moment the Martian air might draw his soul from him, as marrow comes from a white bone. He felt submerged in a chemical that could dissolve his intellect and burn away his past.

Related Characters: Harry Bittering
Related Symbols: Wind and Mist
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

Earth people left to the strangeness of Mars, the cinnamon dusts and wine airs, to be baked like gingerbread shapes in Martian summers, put into harvested storage by Martian winters. What would happen to him, the others? This was the moment Mars had waited for. Now it would eat them.

Related Characters: Harry Bittering
Related Symbols: Wind and Mist
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

He glanced up from the garden to the Martian mountains. He thought of the proud old Martian names that had once been on those peaks. Earthmen, dropping from the sky, had gazed upon hills, rivers, Martian seats left nameless in spite of names. Once Martians had built cities, named cities; climbed mountains, named mountains; sailed seas, named seas. Mountains melted, seas drained, cities tumbled. In spite of this, the Earthmen had felt a silent guilt at putting new names to these ancient hills and valleys.

Related Characters: Harry Bittering
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

The Earthmen had changed names. Now there were Hormel Valleys, Roosevelt Seas, Ford Hills, Vanderbilt Plateaus, Rockefeller Rivers, on Mars. It wasn’t right. The American settlers had shown wisdom, using old Indian prairie names: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho, Ohio, Utah, Milwaukee, Waukegan, Osseo. The old names, the old meanings.

Related Characters: Harry Bittering
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

You know they have! Onions but not onions, carrots but not carrots. Taste: the same but different. Smell: not like it used to be.” He felt his heart pounding, and he was afraid. He dug his fingers into the earth. “Cora, what’s happening? What is it? We’ve got to get away from this.” He ran across the garden. Each tree felt his touch. “The roses. The roses. They’re turning green!”

Related Characters: Harry Bittering (speaker)
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

“If we stay here, we’ll all change. The air. Don’t you smell it? Something in the air. A Martian virus, maybe; some seed, or a pollen.”

Related Characters: Harry Bittering (speaker)
Related Symbols: Wind and Mist
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

Lying abed, Mr. Bittering felt his bones shifted, shaped, melted like gold. His wife, lying beside him, was dark from many sunny afternoons. Dark she was, and golden-eyed, burnt almost black by the sun, sleeping, and the children metallic in their beds, and the wind roaring forlorn and changing through the old peach trees, the violet grass, shaking out green rose petals.

Related Characters: Harry Bittering, Cora Bittering
Related Symbols: Gold, Wind and Mist
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

“Cora, how long have your eyes been yellow?” She was bewildered. “Always, I guess.” “They didn’t change from brown in the last three months?” She bit her lips. “No. Why do you ask?” “Never mind.”

Related Characters: Harry Bittering (speaker), Cora Bittering (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

They leaped into the canal water, and he let himself sink down and down to the bottom like a golden statue and lie there in green silence. All was water-quiet and deep, all was peace. He felt the steady, slow current drift him easily.

If I lie here long enough, he thought, the water will work and eat away my flesh until the bones show like coral. Just my skeleton left. And then the water can build on that skeleton—green things, deep water things, red things, yellow things. Change. Change. Slow, deep, silent change. And isn’t that what it is up there?

Related Characters: Harry Bittering (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

Looking at the small white cottage for a long moment, he was filled with a desire to rush to it, touch it, say good-bye to it, for he felt as if he were going away on a long journey, leaving some­ thing to which he could never quite return, never understand again.

Related Characters: Harry Bittering
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed PDF

Harry Bittering Character Timeline in Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed

The timeline below shows where the character Harry Bittering appears in Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
Harry Bittering and his family arrive as settlers on Mars. While he cannot explain why, Harry... (full context)
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Harry continues to have trouble settling into his life on Mars. While on the surface everything... (full context)
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
Memory, Identity, and Language Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
...have a sense of foreboding, and cannot shake the feeling that “something” will happen. While Harry tries to reassure both his children and himself that the ruins are harmless, and that... (full context)
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
...the family is in stunned disbelief, unsure of what to do with this new information. Harry is particularly affected by the news, at first accusing his daughter of lying and then... (full context)
Memory, Identity, and Language Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
Harry’s unease with the Martian environment is exacerbated by the severed connection to Earth. He reflects... (full context)
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Harry views even innocuous aspects of the new world with suspicion. His scrutiny is rewarded when... (full context)
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
Harry heads into town and is disconcerted to find that the other settlers are less concerned... (full context)
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
While Harry still devotedly works on his rocket, he begins to experience other changes. His eyes grow... (full context)
Memory, Identity, and Language Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
Cora finally encourages Harry to pause his work on the rocket and join the family for a picnic and... (full context)
Memory, Identity, and Language Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
Harry’s drive to work on the rocket dwindles as the settlers become more and more at... (full context)
Memory, Identity, and Language Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
...pity upon the small Earth settlement and wondering what became of the people there. While Harry wonders once or twice whether they should return, they ultimately remain in the villa, having... (full context)