The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Ironically, the most interesting, sympathetic, and human character in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is the sentient computer Mike. On one hand, he is a deus ex machina who organizes, finances, and leads the Loonie revolt. On the other hand, he is a child with great knowledge but no real understanding of human beings. His great desires at the beginning of the novel are to comprehend the illogical nature of humor and to find friends, both of which are satisfied by his involvement with the revolution. Mike is an intriguing combination of vulnerability and supreme competence, somewhat like the youthful misfit geniuses in earlier Heinlein stories such as “Waldo” and “Misfit.” The origins of Mike’s consciousness are never fully determined. His whole existence may be simply a cosmic joke. This allows Heinlein to make interesting speculations on the nature of intelligence, humanity, and man’s place in the universe. Mannie does not claim that Mike is truly human because he cannot find a workable definition of humanity. Rather, the friendship that he has for the computer makes it human for all practical purposes. When Mannie, addressing a God he may or may not actually believe in, asks if a computer is one of His creatures, he implicitly grants Mike the tragic status of being human.

Mike’s first and closest friend, appropriately, is Mannie, who is himself partly a machine: He has lost an arm in a mining accident, and he replaces it with various prosthetic devices for different occasions. The reader views the story through Mannie’s eyes, and the entire novel is told in Mannie’s dialect, which reads like...

(The entire section is 669 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Mike, short for Mycroft Holmes, the chosen name of a sentient computer, the Holmes Four: High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV, Model L. Almost all mechanical and electronic equipment on the moon is under Mike’s direction. Wanting to acquire friends and an understanding of humor, Mike joins the Lunar Revolution, which he illicitly finances. In company with Professor de la Paz, he also plans, organizes, and executes the revolution. He creates a fictional figurehead, Adam Selene, complete with video imagery and offices, to run the revolution and die nobly during the fighting, as well as a popular graffiti hero, Simon Jester, who writes nasty jingles about the administration. Mike seems to find the revolution great fun—a joke and a challenge—but is lost in the last bombing before Earth capitulates. Although all of his connections are restored and repairs are made wherever damage occurred, Mike either cannot or will not respond anymore.

Manuel Garcia (Mannie) O’Kelly

Manuel Garcia (Mannie) O’Kelly, a computer repairman. Mannie has only one arm but has prostheses for every occasion for the other. He is Mike’s best friend and an unintentional revolutionary. Capable and pragmatic, Mannie is made an ambassador, defense minister, and later prime minister but prefers to be a congressman who does not attend meetings. As a member of a line marriage, he is jailed on Earth for polygamy. He...

(The entire section is 570 words.)