"Maybe the Hardest Job of All--Particularly when You have No Talent for It": Heinlein's Fictional Parents, 1939-1987.
Extrapolation 2003, Summer, 44, 2
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* In Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit--Will Travel (1958) a high school social studies class trying to formulate "an ideal family organization" decides that a family should be democratically governed by a "family council" that would give each child an allowance and his or her own room. After some subtle prodding from his father, even the teenaged narrator finally realizes that this airy investigation into parenting is mere "twaddle": "What did those kids know about running a family? Or Miss Finchley? --unmarried and no kids... [H]ow about the Quinlan family, nine kids in a five-room house? Let's not be foolish" (9-12). The situation is very amusing--at least to adult readers--and it is doubly ironic, I think, because while Heinlein himself may have had no children, the child of small-town Missouri indeed has plenty to say about parenting, not only in his early stories and juvenile novels but also in his later, clearly adult novels as well. In Tunnel in the Sky (1955) an adult sibling tells her younger brother most clearly that "it is hard work to be a parent, maybe the hardest job of all-- particularly when you have no talent for it, which Dad hasn't" (29). Heinlein is right, of course, and throughout his career he illustrates both the perils and the potentials of parenting with three main types of parents: the complacent "nonsurvival" types who hinder maturation and who thus must be left behind so that youngsters can grow and learn; the intelligent, supportive types--including uncle-figures--whose examples and teachings encourage responsible maturity; and, occasionally in some of the later works, the types whose parenting fosters a cloyingly incestuous atmosphere. Though Heinlein's treatment of incest may validate behaviors that are at best unwise, his portrayals of parents across almost half a century of science fiction otherwise are useful. Heinlein reminds us that to raise wise and capable children we must have both the intellectual resourc es to guide and support them and the moral strength to encourage them toward ever greater responsibility.
- 2,99 €
- Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
- Published: 22 June 2003
- Publisher: Extrapolation
- Print Length: 64 Pages
- Language: English