Answer TWO of the following:
Q1: The doctor at the recruiting station bristles when the narrator assumes he’s in the military: “Me?...No offence, but military service is for ants. Believe me, I seem ‘em go, I see ‘em comb back—when they do come back. I see what it’s done to them” (29). How does this society of the future view the military and its role in protecting society? Why does the narrator enlist despite these warnings and the strict disapproval of his parents? Does it resemble anything we’ve read in the WWI poets?
Q2: By the first chapter, the narrator is already a battle-weary veteran, survivor of many battles and wars. What is his understanding and philosophy of the military? Is he like Owen, someone cynical of the business of war but willing to take his place in the ranks? Or is he more like Brooke, romantic about the sacrifice to preserve an eternal “
”? You might also consider whether or not he’s
satirizing the military or trying to defend it. England
Q3: In the future, war is even more technologically advanced and impersonal than it is today. Indeed, one of the soldiers, seeing the futility of his role in a world of nuclear weaponry and computers, asks, “What’s the point of a whole lot of men risking their lives with obsolete weapons when one professor type can do so much more by pushing a button?” (51). Given that Heinlein actually served in the Navy, how does he seem to understand the role of a single, well-trained soldier in the ranks of a futuristic battlezone? Are soldiers mere cannon fodder, or do they serve a more useful—and perhaps, critical—role in a world of professors and robots?
Q4: Despite initial fears that the military was run by cruel, sadistic bullies, the narrator later admits that “It was too scheduled, too intellectual, to efficiently and impersonally organized to be cruelty for the sick pleasure of cruelty” (45). What is the purpose of their relentless training and seeming hazing exercises, and why do you think the author spends so much time documenting it? Do you think this is specific to the space troopers of the book, or might it apply even to the soldiers of today—or of Heinlein’s time?