I Will Fear No Evil Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

The publication of this novel ended the four-year hiatus that followed The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966). I Will Fear No Evil marked a turning point for Robert A. Heinlein’s fiction. In it and in many subsequent novels, Heinlein concentrated on the interior lives of his characters and their relationships in small, self-defined communities.

Most of the story is told through dialogue, including much between Johann and Eunice. Most of the dialogue is conversational in style and tone, containing wisecracking humor and mock gruffness as well as many expressions of affection.

Almost all the scenes are set in small interior spaces” offices, suites, and, most of all, the inside of Johanns head. These settings convey the isolation felt by Johann prior to the transplant, an isolation imposed by his tremendous wealth and his poor health. He uses his second chance at life primarily to escape his loneliness, to love and be loved.

There is an explicit comparison made between Johann and the state of human society. Both are played out, with their best days behind them. Humanity has established a thriving colony on the Moon, however, and Johann, as Joan, manages to bear a child there. Johann believes that life has meaning and purpose. The novel demonstrates that the purpose of life is not to perpetuate itself but to bring new life into being, full of new hope. An interesting sidelight to the novel is that Heinlein had a rare blood type and used the book to publicize the National Rare Blood Club, an organization of volunteer donors that later saved his life when he required a transfusion.

Heinlein told commentator Richard E. Geis that he was careful to leave the novel open to many interpretations, including that Eunice’s resurrection is only imagined by Johann, as “psychotic adjustment” that allows him to cope with the intolerable situation of being transplanted into his beloved secretary’s body. Heinlein believed that the book was one of his “poorest” in technique because ill health prevented him from giving it a final “polish and cutting.”

The book was not viewed favorably by critics. James Blish wrote that it was a “bore,” full of uninteresting conversation. P. Schuyler Miller called it a major “disappointment,” containing large segments of undeveloped story material. The book nevertheless sold well and remained in print.