Study Guide

Unwise Child

by Randall Garrett

Unwise Child Themes

Themes

In Unwise Child the human mind is contrasted in an action-adventure setting with two alternative kinds of mentalities — the robot mind and the criminal mind. Although both alternatives have their short-term superiorities, by the end of the novel they are demonstrated to be childish in competition with the reasoning power of the mature human mind. The novel's major theme is wisdom; its minor themes are love and justice. The novel's hero, Michael Gabriel, is wise, and therefore able to love appropriately. Its heroine, Dr. Leda Crannon, is able to do likewise but only at the end of the novel. Its two villains, the robot "Snookums" and the criminal Ensign Vaneski, are incapable of wisdom or real love.

The robot mind is logical and experimental, but cannot comprehend emotionally loaded issues as the wise mind can. The robot brain, governed by Asimov's famous "three laws" of robotics (a sort of simple statement of ethical behavior for machine-minds), is in constant danger of freezing up if it is pushed too far into realms beyond straightforward research. When "Snookums" is maliciously fed a particularly potent book on theology he descends first into hysteria, then into permanent catatonia.

The criminal mind can be both clever and emotional; but, unlike the wise mind, it lacks true empathy. Vaneski is incapable of reconciling his feelings and the logic of which human minds are capable because he sees no need to do so. Being so selfish, his...

(The entire section is 516 words.)