Tuesday, April 18, 2017

For Wednesday/Friday: Heinlein, Starship Troopers, Last Chapters (see note below)

Since I forgot to post these questions until late on Tuesday, I'll let you turn them in by Friday. Sorry! 

Answer TWO of the following: 

Q1: Is Heinlein’s world more of a male fantasy than an equal opportunity utopia? Though women serve in the military—they apparently make the best pilots—they are rarely in the book at all, and those who are sport shaved heads and are often merely ‘seen’ as voices, such as when the narrator tells us, “the last thing a trooper hears before a drop...is a woman’s voice, wishing him luck” (161). Why do the women take such a back seat in the future?

Q2: The narrator reminds us that “the M.I. is a free man; all that drives him comes from the inside—that self-respect and need for the respect of his mates and his pride in being one of them called moral, or esprit de corps” (164). By the end of the book, how “free” are we supposed to see the narrator? Does he truly have free will, or is this “esprit de corps” its own kind of prison?

Q3: One of the most interesting innovations of the future army is that everyone fights, and that the “soft” jobs are always given to civilians. As the narrator explains, “many armies in the past commissioned 10 percent of their number [to be officers], or even 15 percent—and sometimes a preposterous 20 percent!...What kind of army has more “officers” than corporals?...An army organized to lose wars—if history means anything” (166). What do you think Heinlein is criticizing here, and why would this cause armies to lose wars?

Q4: In distinguishing human civilization from the Bugs, the narrator concludes that “If a man gets lost in the mountains, hundreds will search and often two or three searchers are killed. But the next time somebody gets lost just as many volunteers turn out” (176). While this is very true, do you think Rico’s civilization is losing this mark of humanity? Is this the inevitable evolution of human beings—to become more like ‘bugs’ or robots to survive? Does Heinlein seem to take a stance on this? 


  1. 1. If this is a male fantasy wish-fulfillment, it's a pretty shitty one. Every time a woman appears it's like they're seeing a mirage or a siren of old. Guard duty near female quarters is considered a reward despite effectively being a piece of furniture. There's the fantasy. But besides these fleeting moments, women are almost nonexistent. So much so that the men are convinced they don't exist in boot camp. It's not really equal opportunity if the only thing a woman can do is drive a ship, which is apparently preferred since, for some reason, they can handle the G-force better. No real reason is given as to why women are so... barely there. But it certainly seems to encourage the soldiers to do better when in close proximity, if only for the fact that they haven't seen a woman in months.

    4. I think they're passively phasing out this empathetic instinct to help other soldiers on the battle field. Near the end, they mention that such actions can get you 'ribbons' but act as though actively pursuing it is shameful. Associating the act, less with helping fellow man, but with what they seem to view as the equivalent of a 'participation trophy'. Worthless and really sad to aim for. They don't even give him any reward for going after his captain and saving his life. Maybe it's cause he was knocked out in the middle of it, but there certainly didn't seem to be any fanfare for what should have been a heroic thing. The military is making it necessary to become more like 'bugs' since it's the only advantage the bugs have. Not even caring for the long lasting effects of such a thing. Whatever wins this war until they go to the next one, i guess.

    Kenia Starry

  2. Q1: I think part of it may just be the time period that Heinlein is from and when the book was written: the 1950s. I don’t know much about Heinlein’s views but maybe he was only intending the book to be geared to a more male demographic and thought if women were featured prominently then boys and men would read it. Or perhaps he didn’t know how to successfully write female characters to fit in the world he was creating for the story. It is strange that they take such a back seat in the novel even though (I’m assuming) the female sex still makes up half the human population. I suppose Starship Troopers just falls into that pop culture trap as a story that doesn’t feature any women characters like 12 Angry Men or the Great Escape (which shouldn’t deter you from watching these, they’re amazing!).

    Q2: No, I don’t think Rico and his fellow soldiers are free. He lives in a society ruled by a government that considers military service a prerequisite for citizenship, making the society not care about actually being citizens, which creates an unhealthy divide between the government and the people. The only people able to vote are the ones that serve their four years in the military, and the military (just like in our world) tends to attract a certain type of person. On the surface this society is a utopia. In no way is it actually a utopia. Johnnie thinks his entire life is to be a soldier. Even when his mother dies, his father joins the military (after previously denouncing it) because he feels like he has no other purpose. The troopers don’t believe so, but the reality is that these men are fodder in the never-ending war against the bugs. In fact, the bugs are almost certainly more free than the humans are.

  3. Q1: To me it doesn't really seem like a male fantasy more like a reflection of his experience, during his time in the service he probably rarely saw women in the military. Even now in this age of the most freedoms bestowed in a single country the percentage of women in active duty is around 15% and many being in administrative duties, so is it really that far fetched for Heinlein to write this story with little female participation? And for the shaved heads and adopted male behaviors, what do people do when they join a new group? They try to be one of them, they use their slang, adopt their style, and take part in their mannerisms. And especially if you are a minority in that group (back to that stat on female involvement) you will try to assimilate yourself as quick as possible. Is Heinlein trying to keep women down by using the patriarchy, I don't think so. He's just writing from his own experience.

    Q3: This passage reminds me of a saying when you have too many people trying to be the boss at the same time "there's too many chiefs and not enough indians". When you have up to a fifth of your fighting force not fighting then that puts you at a disadvantage. When you have so many officers you will eventually have a disconnect, especially if those officers are civilians. When there's a disconnect between the officers and the combat soldiers then the ones in charge will make decisions that ultimately won't be good for the soldiers. When there's no connection between the officers and the soldiers then there's no trust and when there's no trust things hit the fan real quick.

  4. Q1. It’s the minimization of female contribution that makes me feel like the Buggers and the humans are two sides of the same coin. It’s kind of like the absence of art—without it, what is the point? Even Rico, our gung-ho military narrator, seems to recognize this—he is constantly yearning for female contact, just as he says the band music makes it easier for him to get through the day.
    Q4. Interestingly, though, when an ant is killed it releases a chemical called oleic acid. This immediately draws other ants—either to attack, or, if it happens within the hive, to remove the body. That’s why you can kill one ant and notice two more, kill those and see four. Heinlein’s narrator says the Buggers don’t do this, but I’m wondering how certain he is, since all the enemy looks the same to them. Even if going back for one’s fellow soldiers is something unique to humans, they don’t seem particularly upset when they fail.

  5. Q1: In the future women are viewed as the weaker sex verses men. The bug society/civilization is built around the females, why? In certain aspects the bugs are better because they understand the roles that females have, where the humans haven't just yet figured it out. Also the roles could be reversed were the humans are right and the bugs are wrong. I think the society they live in don't understand what women's roles are so they don't know how to approach the idea of them.

    Q4: In life no one likes to get left behind and in war its the same. If one of your men in your unit goes down more than likely someone will try to save them even if it means they could die too. Being human we have emotions which tend to get in the way of our decisions and cloud our judgement. The quote "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" (or "the one") is saying that society is more important then the individual. But saving one life could in the end save mankind. If we live by this logic, philosophy or whatever you want to call it, I believe you won't lose your humanity.

    Bailey Copeland

  6. Q1 the problem with women in this book has a lot to do with the time that it was written. At that time women were not as involved in military and were seen as stay at home figure to keep the house while the man went to war. These outdated ideals are shown throughout the book as women are basically only used for encouragement before going into a battle.

    Q3 Fighting the war at the point of time the book portrays in ingrained into society from birth. Men are expected to go to fight the ongoing war and that's the only thing that can give them respect and dignity. The problem with taking civilians and making them officers is that the spread of power becomes too great as too many people are giving orders. This leads to disconnection writhin the soldiers and ultimately the failure of fighting the war due to lack of organization

  7. Q1. Women are more emotional making killing and death in war more difficult of a task for them. Men are more physical and are able to get done what has to be done in war to win.

    Q4. Most people in general will try to help other when in danger. In war I believe it's even more so as they have all joined as brothers more of a family tie because of the way they train them. Making them feel as if they are not an individual.

  8. Q1: It seems to me that Heinlein's utopia is void of beauty (and art) because these things are seen as unnecessary or even harmful to survival. If it does not aid in the war against the bugs, if it is does not create better soldiers, then what is the point? Women have represented beauty for centuries and have been the focal point for some of the greatest art ever created. Perhaps this natural connection with beauty and art places them in the "fuzzy" category, according to the book. They are reduced to their most masculine traits in an attempt to make them "stronger." Once again, this makes for a very pleasureless, hopeless world where the most elemental aspects of humanity are boiled down and reduced to basic survival instincts.
    Q4: Rico's civilization is redefining what it means to be human, and they are realizing that they must evolve to survive. I think this might be an assessment of human emotion. Human emotion is often ridiculed and seen as weak or dangerous. If we rescue someone who is lost because of our pity, empathy, or love, we might end up losing several others in the process. I think that this civilization might become more and more like the bugs in order to survive, but they would have to sacrifice some of the most essential elements of human nature to do so. However, they were the ones who failed to prevent the war in the beginning, they could have tried to interact with the bugs in other ways, and now they must continue to fight or be eliminated. Maybe it is also a narrative on the pervasive discrimination which takes place within our own species. If we weren't so quick to judge and hate those who look different than we do, maybe we wouldn't have to go to war at all.