Study Guide

Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis, a.k.a. Mannie and Man in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

By Robert Heinlein

Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis, a.k.a. Mannie and Man

Mannie is the protagonist of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and this guy is sporting a shiny suit of plot armor. We know Mannie will make it through the events of the story because he's recounting it from the future, making him about as vulnerable as Superman. This guy is guaranteed to survive and triumph over seemingly impossible odds like a straight up superhero.

So, we're going to call it: Mannie is a superhero. But any character analysis can't end in one word, even if that's the word. Like any superhero character analysis, be it Spider-Man or Batman, we need to look for two things to analyze this character: (1) what his superpowers are, and (2) what inspires him to fight.

By the Power of Generality

Mannie doesn't have superpowers like x-ray vision or the ability to hulk out, but he does have a vast amount of general knowledge. This might be more useful than classic superpowers because x-ray vision only comes in handy when you need to look through a wall, and hulking out is only practical when you want to hulk smash something, but knowledge is the Swiss Army knife of superpowers.

When we are first introduced to Mannie, he tells us a little bit about himself:

But I knew more about all these than a specialist knows—I'm a general specialist. Could relieve a cook and keep orders coming or field-repair your suit and get you back to airlock still breathing. Machines like me and I have something specialists don't have: my left arm. (1.22)

Of course, Mannie's left arm is robotic, allowing him to attach various unique tools to it to complete different jobs. Which just makes the whole Swiss Army reference even more appropriate.

The power of having vast amounts of general knowledge means that Mannie can prove useful in a variety of circumstances, and we see this several times during the revolution, too. He patches phone lines, programs computers, creates a covert cell system of communication, battles to protect Luna from invaders, and plays diplomat on Earth.

Mannie is useful to the revolution not because of a certain skill, then, but because he can perform a bunch of different tasks equally well. In other words, he specializes in general awesomeness instead of one particular skill set.

Man of Action

If Wyoh is the fervor of the revolution and Prof its brains (be sure to read up on each of them elsewhere in this section), then Mannie is the doer of the revolution. Whether that do is daring or just some farming, Mannie acts, and in acting he succeeds.

To balance this, he is also a practical man and needs a reason to act first. To this end, initially, Mannie doesn't want to join the revolution, saying he's not a "lost-cause martyr" (5.164). But then Mike drops a prophetic bombshell on him when he notes: "Twenty-eighty-two is the year I expect food riots. Cannibalism should not occur for at least two years thereafter" (6.209). Deciding he's not down with cannibalism, Mannie joins the revolution.

And once he's in, he's all in. As we mention earlier in our analysis, Mannie is the revolution's go-to guy for getting stuff done—but in key moments, he's also the one to lead the charge. When the revolt against the Warden starts, Mannie is eager to join the fray, but Prof warns him he's too valuable to risk being hurt. "Not now," he advises, "Mannie, slide over there and watch it. But stay out of it and stick close to a phone" (13.29). They can't afford to lose our main man.

Although Mannie doesn't get his hands dirty this go-around, he is the only main character to join the fighting when the Federated Nations invade L-City. Mannie notes, "Saw [enemy soldiers], burned them. They were sliding softly along floor before realized what I'd done" (44). This quote provides us a glimpse of just how quick to action he can be.

Another example is during the voyage to Earth. While contemplating the potential of dying by gee force, Mannie decides to "experience [his last minutes]. Bad as they would be, they were my very own and I would not give them up" (16.19). In other words, he would rather be active and experience a harsh reality rather than go through his final moments in painless passivity.

But perhaps the best example of Mannie as a man of action comes during Operation Hard Rock. When Howard Wright questions his actions, Mannie yells, "Tired of this nonsense! Was told to do job, did it. Get this yammerhead off my back!" (26.160). Clearly Mannie sees the time for discussion as over, and the use of "yammerhead" as an insult suggests he's much more in his element when doing and not talking.

Ultimately, the novel rewards Mannie as a man of action. When the question arises about whether to back off of Operation Hard Rock, Mannie decides to continue the bombardment. This proves to be the correct decision and leads directly to the Federated Nations accepting Luna as a free state. Mission accomplished.

Everyman Man

Okay, so Everyman Man doesn't inspire the same awe as a name like Batman, but that doesn't mean Mannie is the most boring superhero ever. Instead, there's some unnoticed potential here.

Mannie as the everyman is hinted at in Mike's nickname for him, which is simply "Man." In other words, Mike views Mannie as having the qualities of the quintessential man, representing men in general for Mike. It's also hinted at in Mannie's full name, which combines heritage from Spanish, Irish, English, and Hebrew lines of descent. Like Luna society, Manuel's lineage doesn't lay claim to a single origin or ethnicity, but is rather a melting pot.

The everyman label means that Mannie is supposed to be a stand-in for the reader. Readers can put themselves in his place and feel his feelings. This is one of the reasons he is the narrator of the story, so we can get an insider perspective of how he views events. And if Mannie is everyman, he is also the everyman who struggles for every man, even if he doesn't say it like that.

Prof asks if there is a time the state may place its welfare above a citizen's. To this, Mannie answers, "Prof, as I see, are no circumstances under which State is justified in placing its welfare ahead of mine" (6.19). Wyoh calls him out for being self-centered, but hold on a second—if Mannie believes this about himself, and he is the everyman character, then what he says goes for every man (and woman, too). Mannie joins the revolution to remove the Authority and create a system where this is true for him—and as such, true for everyone on Luna.

Best Policy

Finally, let's consider this quote from Heinlein's "This I Believe" speech:

I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones. (Source)

We'd like to suggest that this holds true of Mannie as well. He's not a boss but a workman—he may not build structures, but he helps build the Luna free state. He's also honest, often taking issue with Prof and Mike's more manipulative plans (9.168).

Superhero he may be, but we feel this quote shows the other side of Mannie, the Clark Kent and Peter Parker of his character. When it boils down to it, the guy's just one of us.

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