“So life adapts to conditions. And at the same time, conditions are changed by life. That is the one of the definitions of life: Organism and environment change together in a reciprocal arrangement, as they are two manifestations of an ecology, two parts of a whole” (205).
These sentences appear within the opening pages of section four of Red Mars. Transformation appears as a continuous theme throughout the novel, which I think many of us understood as our class began to venture through the novel and classroom discussion. Initially, I expected that the novel would present only Mars transforming into a habitable and conquered planet by constant figures. However, as soon as I read the section that I quoted above, I began to distinguish the several forms of transformation that appear in Red Mars. The quoted paragraph was a bit jarring. It was jarring because I was able to refer back to former sections and distinguish moments conveying various forms of transformation.
For example, I referred back to the third section of the novel. It conveys a transformation on a social level within the group. Robinson writes, “It was strange how the group was changing again, how the feel of it was changing. She could never get a fix on it; the real nature of the group was a thing apart, with a life of its own, somehow distinct from the characters of the individuals that constituted it” (132). As another example, Robinson conveys an interior and mental transformation after an altering experience for Nadia. Robinson writes, “Weight seeped inward from her skin, and she didn’t feel hollow anymore; on the contrary she felt extremely solid, compact, balanced. A little thinking boulder, set spinning like a top” (142). In the fourth section, Robinson conveys that Mitchel has an individual transformation as well. He has had a change of mind and heart since arriving to Mars. She writes, “He shouldn’t have chosen to go, and now he could not remember why he had fought so passionately to be chosen” (222). These are three examples of many that I was able to find, but I would like to look underneath the pattern of transformation to explore and question what the novel may be saying about transformation. Predominantly, Robinson places each character into the unknown environment of Mars. It’s worth noticing that these transformations occur after being removed from a previously comfortable location. Mars is transforming them as they simultaneously transform Mars. It is a precise example of the reciprocal arrangement that I quoted at the top. Leading from that acknowledgement, I am guided toward what questions Red Mars may be trying to say about transformation on a variety of levels. First: Are we to understand that an unfamiliar environment will provoke a transformation of our mindset as an individual? Second: How does our desire to change the environment factor into our result of additionally changing us?
As an answer, I think the novel says yes due to the written evidence. As an answer to the second, I think Robinson may be alluding: As humans, transforming our environment has the power to simultaneously transform us. I think that Robinson desires for readers to understand that simultaneous transformation as a feature of human nature and nature together. It’s a result of developing a relationship with nature. Thus far, I think Robinson also may be using transformation as a positive, but I am not yet sure each character will go through a transformation. It will be interesting to move onward through the novel to see what Robinson does with the process and result of transformation.