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An Analysis of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

Presentation by: Krzysztof Drewniak

Krzysztof Drewniak

on 9 March 2012

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Transcript of An Analysis of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress By: Robert A. Heinlein Presentation by: Krzysztof Drewniak Pentad Aspects Scene Actor Act Agency Purpose The Moon is a Harsh Mistress takes place in the Moon in the years 2075 and 2076. Around a hundred years prior to the begining of the book, a newly-formed world government had set up the moon as a penal colony. The moon, controlled by the Lunar Authority, produced grain to feed the ever-expanding population of Earth. Unfortunately, remaining in the Moon's low gravity for an extended period of time made it nearly impossible for transportees to return to Earth after their sentences had ended. Because of this, most of the Moon's population is free, and there are free families that go back three generations. Since the Moon has no atmosphere, the Moon's inhabitants live in underground cities or in branching tunnels. The lack of atmosphere also means that essentials, such as air, have to be paid for or self-produced. This creates mild exploitation because the Authority sells air, water, and power at a higher price than it pays for grain. This irritates the Moon's inhabitants, but not enough to cause open hatred. There are several "revolutionary" groups, which are mostly ignored by the authorities because they are all talk and no action. Most of the Moon's electronic systems are ontrolled by one master computer who, unbeknown to all but one computer technician, is self-aware. Literary Aspect - Diction
Because the people of Luna came from all over the world, the English spoken on the Moon has several differences from what we would call standard. First, many Russian words, such as gospodin, entered popular (in-story) usage. Also, Lunar English grammar has some slight variations from standard English, mostly in the lack of articles. This unique dialect helps to lend a sence of otherness and a futuristic feel to the text. The story follows four main characters:
Manuel O'Kelly, nicknamed Manny, is a computer technician. He is not especially eager for revolution at the begining of the story, but becomes convinced after the computer predicts food riots several years in the future under present conditions. He is the narrator of the book.
Wyoming Knott, or "Wyoh", is a young, zealous revolutionary from the city of Hong Kong Luna. She is very hot-headed and brave.
Professor Bernardo de la Paz ("Prof") is an elderly academic with anarchistic political leanings. He provides most of the political inspiration for the revolution and believes in a government as limited as possible.
The Moon's main computer, known to the other characters as "Mike", is a highly intelligent machine with a juvenille sense of humor and extreme feelings of boredom. These are his main reasons for joining the revolution. Literary Aspect - Characterization Since the text is written in first-person limited narration, much of the direct characterization is the narrator's opinions of various characters. Most of the indirect characterization is given by the characters' dialogue, since descriptions of their actions tend to be interleaved with the narrator's comments on the situation. For example, Manny is revealed to be a practical person when he agrees to join the revolution only after he is informed of the drastic consequences of not revolting. There are three main acts in the text, which is divided into three parts
1. The first part of the text covers the protagonists' initial meeting and the begining of the revolutuionary effort. It continues through the events and plots leading up to the revolt. The main buissiness of the revolution in this section is raising tensions to the point that the people are willing to rebel against the Authority. This section ends with Prof and Mannie being sent to Earth to deliver a Declaration of Independence.
2. The second part of the book covers Mannie and Prof's fight for recognition on Earth. It fails in part because of Prof's delibarate antagonization of the committie hearing their case on Mike's advice. The pair narrowly escapes Earth and returns to Luna, where elections had been held in their absence. The protagonists take charge of the new reigeme and eventually pass an embargo against Earth. A war with Earth begins soon after. 3. The third part of the book covers the war with Earth and the eventual peace. At the begining of the section, troops from Earth land on the Moon and attempt to invade, but are driven back. The people of the Moon retaliate by launching rocks from the grain catapult at uninhabited targets. The purpose of this plan is to ensure that the world government bombs the catapult, not the Lunar population. The plan succeeds, but bombardment continues from a secret second catapult. As the situation grows dire, peace is acheived, but not before the complex holding Mike is struck by an atomic bomb, "killing" him. Literary Aspect - Conflict - Man vs. Society At the begining of the text, the protagonists are in conflict both with the society of Earth (which does not share their revolutionary aims) and with their own society, which does not strongly support any revolution and needs to be swayed to the cause. Later in the text, the conflict is narrowed down to action against Earth, and the side conflict with Lunar society is resolved. Most of the revolution's plans are developed by Mike in order to give the revolution the best probability of success. Mike's superior analytical abilities enable the revolution to proceed with fewer difficultues caused by imcompetent planning.

The revolution used many methods to acheive its goals. As mentioned earlier, the revolutionaries used rock bombardment in order to provoke Earth's forces into attacking the catapult, not cities. The revolution financed itself by having Mike skim money off the Lunar economy without anyone noticing. Since Mike controlled the phone system, the revolution used a unique communication system. Each member had an emergency phone number that connected him to the "chairman", Adam Selene, who was really Mike. The control of phones also allowed the revolution to spy on the Authority by listening at phones that appeared not to be placing a call. Literary Aspect - Incitement as a Motif One of the methods the protagonists use repeatedly is inciting and provoking the enemy. Initially, the revolutionaries attempted to raise tensions between additional security forces and the Lunar population in order to provoke a revolt. Later, the protagonists delibarately antagonise the world government's representatives to prevent reasonable-seeming compromises, as this would doom the revolution. The new Lunar state's embargo against Earth is an act meant to provoke the Earth's forces into attacking, which would give the new government grounds to retalliate. The launching of rocks at uninhabited, but still important, areas is intended to goad Earth into destroying the catapult, an act which prevents the quick re-establishment of the old order. All of the main characters have their own motivations for participating in the revolution. Manny was initially skeptical about the possibility of revolution but was convinced to join out of practical considerations. Specifically, Mike predicted that there would be food riots and chaos in Luna within seven years if the situation did not change. Wyoh joined the revolution mainly because she was restless, hot-headed, and wanted change. She had been a member of a "revolutionary" group before the plot began. Prof revolted because of his political principles, which called for extremely limited government free of taxation and other forms of involunary coertion, which he wished to institute. Mike joined the revolution because of boredom, his friendship with Manny, and a desire to joke around and be funny. Literary Aspect - Theme The main theme of the novel can be summed up in the Lunar saying, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch," commonly abbreviated to "TANSTAAFL" when spoken. In the text, this is true both literally and at a deeper level. In Luna, nothing, even air, is truly free. Things are either paid for, directly or indirectly, self-produced, or accquired by other means. At a more metaphorical level, the theme is that nothing is without its cost or consequences. The revolution, though it succeeded in overthrowing the Authority, caused Lunar society to transform, bringing with it laws, taxes, and other systems Prof had tried to head off but failed. The theme is also shown by the financing of the revolution, which is paid for first with stolen funds and then with an inflationary currency. Ratios Scene and Agency There are many interesting conclusions we can uncover by examining the ratio between scene and agency. Some options are closed to the protagonists because they are in the moon, while new opportunities and tactics become available. For one, the ability to throw rocks at the opposition gives the fighters a powerful tool against Earth. However, the rebels cannot send armies off Luna to Earth because most of the soldiers would be killed by the higher gravity. The converse, however, is not true, and defences against Earth's warships have to be hastily improvised. The great distance between the opposing factions makes it easy to form plans of attack without fear of spies, removing one complication from revolutionary plans. Act and Actor The ratio between act and actor is also interesting. Mike's membership in the revolution has a profound influences on the courses of action available to the characters. Since Mike controls most of the systems of the colony, the revolution can use various tactics to make the Authority more tense. For example, high-level bureaucrats were often conected to the Warden's private phone line when they attempted to call an emergency number. This and Mike's other pranks served to keep the Authority off balance and made it more likely to take rash, revolt-causing action. Mike's ability to forsee the consequences of actions far better and quicker than a human allowed the protagonists to lay plans that had the best chance of success. Mike's membership in the revolution also made possible the organizational systems described earlier. Other examples of the theme in the text include the "free" food given out to the poor to provide "freedom from hunger" on Earth. This food is free to the recipients, but it mismanaged for political reasons and its production causes the conditions leading to Luna's revolt. This theme is also demonstrated by Prof, who often gives direct speeches against taxation and other forms of government coertion, claiming they reduce freedom and have hiden costs. Prof proposes alternate systems of government, appearing to act as a mouthpeice for the author's views, but his proposals are rejected. Thesis The Moon is a Harsh Mistress illustrates the theme that nothing in life is truly free through the words and actions of its characters. "That we were slaves I had known all my life — and nothing could be done about it. True, we weren't bought and sold — but as long as Authority held monopoly over what we had to have and what we could sell to buy it, we were slaves." - Page 31 "Seems to be a deep instinct in human beings for making everything compulsory that isn't forbidden." "Comrades, I beg of you — do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him." - Prof Works Cited File:Buzz Salutes the U.S. Flag.jpg. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons, Moon. Web. 8 Mar. 2012. <>.
Heinlein, Robert A. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. New York: Orb, 1997. Print.
Revera, Gregory H. File:FullMoon2010.jpg. 2012. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia. 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2012. <>.
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