Bester & Heinlein

Discuss each of these questions and write down your responses to turn in as a group.

  1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau writes in The Social Contract (1764) that “a man thinks he is the master of others, whereas he is actually more of a slave than they”; in a letter written around the same time, he argues that “he who is a master cannot be free.” How do Rousseau’s ideas apply to Bester’s story? Why would the M.A. android declare that “Sometimes it is a good thing to be property” (294)? And why does the narrator begin by saying, “You must own nothing but yourself”? Which of these ideas about ownership and mastery do you agree with?
  2. Who’s the hero of Bester’s story? Are there any heroes? Does a science-fiction story have to have a hero?
  3. What does the title of Heinlein’s story mean? Who is being addressed in it (and at the end of the story)? What do the story’s title and ending imply about the relationship between the self and the rest of the world?
  4. What attitudes about gender does Heinlein’s story reveal? What attitudes about gender does it question or complicate, and how so? Is this story progressive or conservative in terms of gendered expectations of the time?

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