About the Book

Book Protagonist: Mark Watney
Publication Date: 2011
Genre: Action and Adventure, Science Fiction

Themes and Analysis

The Martian

By Andy Weir

There is a range of themes one should consider when analyzing Andy Weir’s novel, ‘The Martian,’ these include teamwork and respecting nature. 

Within this analysis, readers can explore these themes, Weir’s use of tone and figurative language, as well as the style that the novel is written in. Below there is also a collection of key moments from the novel to help readers keep events in order. 

The Martian Themes and Analysis 

The Martian Themes 

Below, readers can explore three of the most important themes in The Martian. They are:

  • Isolation
  • Perseverance
  • Nature

Despite the prevalence of these three themes, there are many others, such as teamwork and science, that are important parts of the novel. 


Mark’s isolation is a threat to his survival. Not only is he without the assistance of other people for most of the novel, but he’s also without their company. He makes logs throughout his time on Mars, using these diary entries as a way of talking to someone. When he finally makes contact with Earth, he breaks down, knowing he’s going to get help but that he’s also going to be able to relay messages to his family. 


Watney’s perseverance, as well as that demonstrated by the men and women working to save him on Earth (not to mention the crew of the Hermes), is impressive. Throughout the novel, all the characters show some degree of perseverance. But, it’s Mark’s attitude towards his situation that makes it survivable. No matter what goes wrong, he does his best to overcome it. 


Without the threat of Mars and the vacuum of space, there would be little plot in this novel. Nature is the force against which Watney is continually contending. It’s the only antagonist this novel has, and it’s an admirable one. Throughout the book, Watney is continually trying to offset the effects of living on Mars. For example, when he first comes to realize the desperate nature of his situation and puts his botany expertise to work. He figures out a way to grow potatoes only to have his crops destroyed when the Hab explodes. 

Analysis of Key Moments in The Martian 

  • Mark is stranded on Mars after a storm. 
  • He fixes his injuries and analyzes his situation, 
  • Mark starts crowing crops inside the Hab. 
  • He takes a trip in a rover to pick up the Pathfinder probe and Sojourner rover. 
  • With these devices, he’s able to reestablish contact with Earth. 
  • NASA scrambles to tell the public Watney is still alive. 
  • They decide not to tell the crew of the Hermes that Watney lived. 
  • Mark communicates with Earth through a complicated system which later improves. 
  • NASA micromanages everything he does. 
  • NASA’s Iris probe crashes in the ocean after liftoff. 
  • China determines to help the US by giving them their own probe to use. 
  • A breach in the hab causes Mark’s potato plants to die. 
  • The Rich Purnell Maneuver is relayed to the crew who decide to go back to get Mark against NASA’s orders. 
  • Mark makes repairs to the rover, improving it for the long journey to the Ares 4 site.
  • After a daring rescue, Mark makes it into the Hermes. 

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

Throughout the novel, Andy Weir uses the first and third person. The first-person sections are the bulk of the novel. They come in the form of log entries that Mark makes that recount what happened during the day. This means they are mostly all in the past tense. The rest of the novel is written in the third-person omniscient perspective. This occurs when Weir takes readers to Earth or to the Hermes spaceship. 

The tone of the novel is lighthearted despite the terrible situation that Mark is in. His narration is usually filled with humor and optimism. No matter what goes wrong, he has a joke to tell or a humorous way of approaching the situation. 

Weir’s use of figurative language is fairly basic. He uses similes, metaphors, and more. These are usually parts of Watney’s speech that help him convey what a particular situation was like. 


The Potatoes 

The potatoes are Mark’s most important source of food on Mars. He uses his engineering and botany knowledge to create a system that allows them to grow. They were originally meant to be part of the Thanksgiving dinner the crew was going to cook but, after the mission was aborted, they came to serve a more important purpose. They symbolize the perseverance Mark shows throughout the novel and how life can survive in difficult situations. 

The Hab 

The Hab symbolizes safety but, it’s also where Mark is confined. It’s the only place he can relax to any degree, but it’s never completely safe. The canvas tears partway through the novel, resulting in the depressurization of the entire area and the death of Mark’s crops. 

The Dust Storm 

The dust storm that occurs at the end of the novel, when Mark has to make his way to Schiaparelli, symbolizes the unknown and the dangers it represents. Anytime Mark tries something new on Mars; there are risks; this is one of the biggest. When he enters the storm, the solar cells start to die, something he’s unaware of at first. NASA, now out of communication with him, is powerless to stop him or to warn him. 


What can you learn from The Martian?

There are several life lessons one could take from this book. Perseverance is important no matter how difficult a situation seems; one step at a time is the only way to solve a problem, miracles can happen, and that teamwork is important to solve complex problems. 

What is the main idea of The Martian?

The main themes of The Martian are the fear of being alone or forgotten and how teamwork can make anything possible.

How does the book The Martian end?

It ends with a daring rescue of Mark Watney from Mars. He barely makes it to the ship but ends up safe and happy, with the entire crew surviving.

Is The Martian scientifically correct?

The Martian has been praised for being very scientifically accurate. Much of what Watney does was painstakingly researched by Andy Weir. 

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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