Study and Discussion Questions for Stanley Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" [1934]

Weinbaum's 1934 story is an early response to the bug-eyed monster [BEM] tales that dominated early 20th century American science fiction.  While "A Martian Odyssey" does contain a number of  creatures conforming to the BEM tradition, Tweel is often considered one of the earliest sympathetic aliens.  One of our goals is to consider exactly who [or what] Tweel is and how his level of intelligence compares to that of Jarvis.  As you read the story, please also consider the following issues:

  1. What devices does Weinbaum use to encourage our participation in the story, to create a sense of plausibility?  To what extent are these plausibility devices dependant on the frame tale structure and on the opportunities it presents to prod us to read ahead for solutions to problems or to use characters as foils who ask the necessary questions?
  2. How do character names function in the story?  Do the names themselves assign traits to characters through stereotypes?

  3. Who or what exactly is Tweel?  Where is he from?  What details and behaviors encourage us to estimate the level of Tweel's intellectual development? 

  4. What is the impact of Jarvis's statement, "Thanks, Tweel.  You're a man!"? (22)  Given Jarvis's behaviors over the course of their relationship, how is this final comment to Tweel ironic?

  5. What is the significance of the crystal egg that Jarvis reveals to his crewmates at the story's end?  How is his taking of the egg that acted as a wart cure and perhaps will provide a cure for cancer and other diseases a commentary on human nature? 

  6. To what extent does "A Martian Odyssey" participate in the traditional romance mode narrative form?