Study Guide

Mort the Wart and Juan Alvarez in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

By Robert Heinlein

Mort the Wart and Juan Alvarez

Senator Mortimer Hobart is an all around unfortunate chap. Not only has he been shackled with the unfortunate nickname Mort the Wart, but he also finds himself in the position of Protector of Luna during a time when the Loonies don't feel the need for much protecting. In fact, they think of Morty Boy as a warden, not so much protecting them as confining their lives and livelihoods to the stifling rules and regulations of the Lunar Authority.

Juan Alvarez doesn't have it much easier than Mort, but at least he's nickname free. Luna's Security Chief, he gets little support from the Lunar Authority to assist him in laying down their laws. Mannie feels that Alvarez must be the "most frightened and loneliest man in The Rock" (9.9), since his job requires him to police people who don't want to be policed. Can't make friends easily doing that, right?

When Alvarez finally does get help, in the form of the Peace Dragoons, his life goes from unfortunate to worse. When the Peace Dragoons rape and murder a Luna woman, Alvarez wants to have the six perpetrators publically executed, but the wretched act rallies the Loonies to rebel against Mort and him. Both men lose their lives in the ensuing revolts.

Basically, Mort and Alvarez symbolize the yoke of Earth government on Luna and personify the Authority and its rules for the people of Luna. Mannie himself says as much when he notes: "Trouble with Mort the Wart was that he was not a bad egg, nothing to hate about him other than the fact he was symbol of Authority" (12.1). Oops. As such, their defeat represents the first necessary step for the Luna freedom, and they become the targets of the revolution early on.

The Sound of Silence

Unfortunately, we can't say too much more about their characters beyond how they serve the plot. The reason for this is because we never really get to know these two.

Sure, we read a lot about them, but every bit of information we receive comes from Mannie's point of view. In fact, only three lines of direct dialogue are delivered between the two characters. As such, Mort and Alvarez never get to speak for themselves, and their opinions, actions, and incompetence are all provided courtesy of Mannie and his mind.

This can be said that about the entire story—Mannie is the narrator after all—but since he never meets these two face-to-face, it's especially noticeable with them. So we have to ask ourselves this question: Do we get to know Mort and Alvarez as they really are, or are we being manipulated by Mannie in the same way Mike and Prof manipulate information for the rest of Luna? Over to you, Shmoopers.

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