Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 445
Glory Road is typical of heroic fantasy literature, with the hero called upon to perform impossible tasks. As such, it is part of a literary heritage that stretches from the Greek myths of Hercules; national epics such as the medieval Chanson de Roland (Song of Roland), Beowulf (c. 1000), and Pierre Cornielles El Cid (1636); and Thomas Malorys Le Morte dArthur (1485) to such modern tales as William Goldmans The Princess Bride (1973). Robert Heinleins work is unique, however, in that it is told from a first-person narrative point of view by a narrator unashamedly firm in his own beliefs. Rather than affirming a literary form or national self-definition, he demonstrates the affirmation of his own solid brand of commonsensical solutions to problems. Heinleins hero is critical of the dominant social institutions surrounding him, going as far as asserting that democracy is a quaint but outmoded system.
With such a character as Oscar, Glory Road fits firmly within the corpus of Heinleins work. It contains ample elements of his pragmatic, hard-nosed style of dialogue, as well as strong and superior yet incredibly gorgeous women, the likes of whom appear later in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985) and To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987). In addition, there is quite a bit of Heinleins moral-social-political philosophy, common in many of his novels, notably Starship Troopers (1959), Time Enough for Love (1973), To Sail Beyond the Sunset, and Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). In many of Heinleins worlds, and in Glory Roads Twenty Universes, Earth society is falling apart because of its looseness and lack of purpose. What is needed, Glory Road implies, is a good absolute monarch.
In Heinleins work, relationships between men and women and traditional sex roles are stood on end. Marriages and relationships in Glory Road are flexible and not entirely monogamous. This also is common in Heinleins work, as illustrated by Maureen Johnsons life in To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Leon Stover’s Robert A. Heinlein (1987) posits the category of sex and culture criticism for Heinleins work; Glory Road fits this category well. H. Bruce Franklin, in Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction (1980) states that Glory Road “says much about America in 1963” and calls the book an “escape from an intolerable world.”
Although Heinlein won no major awards for Glory Road, he did win the Hugo Award for best novel four times, for Starship Troopers, Double Star (1956), Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966). Glory Road is reminiscent enough of these classic science-fiction novels to be counted among Heinleins better works. It falls in the middle of the productive time in which he won these awards and when his social criticism was strongest.
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