Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The most obvious theme of the novel is its parallel with the American Revolution. The Lunar colonies’ fight for independence from the economic repression and regulation of the Federated Nations is an updating of the American colonies’ overthrow of British rule. The Loonies even adopt their own Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July, 2076. Yet if the comparison is accepted, it raises serious questions about the nature of the American experiment. For the Loonies have no sooner won their freedom then they begin to pass laws restricting it. Mannie suspects that there may be “a deep instinct in human beings for making everything compulsory that isn’t forbidden.” Heinlein seems to be saying that, just as the Loonies have discarded their freedom, so America is abandoning its liberties to become the bureaucratized, over-regulated, welfare state, represented in this novel by the North American Directorate. For Heinlein this failure stems from the nature of the democratic process. Prof says that the only times in history when a parliamentary body accomplished anything were when “a few strong men dominated the rest,” and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress bears this out. At no time is the revolution a popular, democratic movement. It is managed by a hierarchical organization, held together by the powerful intellects of Mike and Prof. When the revolutionaries become public they are bombarded by cranks, whom Prof has to put into the new Congress to...

(The entire section is 485 words.)