The Martian

The Dust Storm Symbol Analysis

The Dust Storm Symbol Icon

The dust storm that Watney must circumnavigate on his way to Schiaparelli represents the danger of the unknown. Watney does not notice when he enters the storm, and the further he drives into the storm, the less power he gains from his solar cells. Once the solar cells’ efficiency drops to a certain level, Watney’s life support will fail. NASA scientists are powerless to alert him to the storm, and they know that once he is deep within it, their satellites will be unable to track him. Though Watney does notice the storm soon enough to change his course, his limited knowledge continues to threaten to his safety. He is able to determine the direction in which the storm is moving, but he can’t know the exact shape or size of the storm. Usually, Watney is able to identify what he doesn’t know and seek out answers. The dust storm is a different situation entirely; it emphasizes that when Watney is unaware that he is missing a key piece of information, the unknown is potentially deadly.

The Dust Storm Quotes in The Martian

The The Martian quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Dust Storm. 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:
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Broadway Books edition of The Martian published in 2014.
Chapter 22 Quotes

“The edge of the storm isn’t a magic line. It’s just an area where the dust gets a little more dense. […] It’ll be really subtle; every day will be slightly darker than the last. Too subtle to notice.” Venkat sighed. “He’ll go hundreds of kilometers, wondering why his solar panel efficiency is going down, before he notices any visibility problems. And the storm is moving west as he moves east. He’ll be too deep in to get out.”

Related Characters: Venkat Kapoor (speaker), Cathy Warner (speaker), Mark Watney
Related Symbols: The Dust Storm
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 23 Quotes

If I could get Opportunity’s radio working, I’d be in touch with humanity again. NASA would continually tell me my exact position and best course, warn me if another storm was on its way, and generally be there watching over me. But if I’m being honest, that’s not the real reason I’m interested. I’m sick of being on my own, damn it!

Related Characters: Mark Watney (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Dust Storm
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Dust Storm Symbol Timeline in The Martian

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Dust Storm appears in The Martian. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 21
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
The Betrayal of the Familiar Theme Icon
...to the rover’s airlock—she and Venkat think it’s a workshop. Randall explains that a small dust storm is picking up in Arabia Terra (which Watney has to drive through). It will block... (full context)
Chapter 22
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Betrayal of the Familiar Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
On the Mark Watney Report, Cathy asks Venkat if Watney is doomed—the dust storm in Arabia Terra will block eighty percent of sunlight, leaving him without enough energy to... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Betrayal of the Familiar Theme Icon
...Watney’s most recent Morse code status message and emails it out, noting “five days until dust storm entry.” (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Betrayal of the Familiar Theme Icon
Aboard Hermes, Lewis and Martinez are discussing the fact that Watney entered the dust storm the day before. Lewis is worried, but Martinez tells her he thinks Watney will make... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Betrayal of the Familiar Theme Icon
...to the rover, the view is clear. Watney realizes that he’s several sols into a dust storm —one that gets thicker closer to Schiaparelli. He’ll have to go around it. Back on... (full context)
Chapter 23
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
...until he’s at 19 percent power loss. Watney sets out to calculate how fast the dust storm is moving, and in what direction. To do this, he’ll set up three solar cells,... (full context)