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Starship Troopers Essay

1416 words - 6 pages

The Novum presented in Starship Troopers is the rule of the Veterans and the resulting primacy of the military. This Novum sets the novel up as a utopic pandering to a readership demographic that the author himself is a member of. This is a normative sci-fi construction. Starship Troopers deviates in that the true target readership is the young man who has not yet been given a chance to join up. He is meant to gain a favorable understanding of the military man by sharing in his dream. The dream then - the world created – is the persuasive device.
Heinlein begins by claiming historical inevitability for his Novum. Once our decadent civilization falls, the veterans; as the faction best equipped to counter anarchy, will simply take over police and then government functions. Further, “those [early] veterans, since they were finding it necessary to hang some veterans, decided that, if they had to do this, they weren't going to let any "bleedin'… unprintable" civilians have any say about it.” (198). Which is to say that the distinction between soldier and civilian was built on the soldier’s resentment of their task. This implies that the soldiers blame the societal collapse on the decadence of the civilians. This is partially countered when veterans are stated to be just as likely to commit a crime as non-veterans (199) but more fully reaffirmed when it is stated that “[democracy] failed because the people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted”(76). Regardless, this is where Heinlein introduces his system of franchise, and it too is conceptualized as an organic and obvious development. These two classes are essential as the book is a bildungsroman and its action is of comparison between the two classes and of the protagonist’s ascension from the lower class to the military class. The class conflict inherent in this system is, we are told, much reduced in the protagonist’s age.
The fight in Vancouver comes as a surprise then. The Merchant Marines and civilians who jump Rico and his friends from the Mobile Infantry do so unprovoked. Perhaps they shared in Rico’s father’s opinion of the Military as a way for “inferior people to live… at public expense” (23) but I think the case of the Merchant Marines at least is simultaneously more clear cut and more symbolic. These sailors are emblematic of the soldiers who wash out in that they are presumably lacking in virtue and unwilling to sacrifice having chosen the individualist and likely more profitable path instead of military service. “Their guilds have tried and tried to get their trade classed as equivalent to Federal Service, without success” (101). These men are both the “aggressive ones” (146) and the “terror” (90), two groups supposedly extinct, they are the best fighting force that the civilian class can muster. In their sound defeat is the reassure not only of the impossibility of revolution (146) but indeed in the impossibility of resistance at all....

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