Study Guide

Wyoming Knotts, a.k.a. Wyoh in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

By Robert Heinlein

Wyoming Knotts, a.k.a. Wyoh

If we focus on the first half of the novel, Wyoming is a major revolutionary player, part of the key decisions and present for the big events. But if we focus on the second half of the novel, we get a character whose opinions are no longer valued, and who gets sidelined for every major play of the revolution. What brings these two seemingly incompatible halves together? The fact that Wyoh is a woman.

We should qualify the conversation that follows by pointing out that the entire novel takes place from Mannie's perspective. As such, how Wyoh is seen is colored from his point of view of her as a person.

With that said, there are two major aspects of Wyoh's character that Mannie focuses on all the time: her emotions and her looks.

I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar

The qualities that Mannie spends a lot of time discussing when it comes to Wyoh are her emotions. If Prof is the intelligence of the revolution and Mannie the doer, then Wyoh represents the passion that leads them to take up the cause.

It's interesting that Wyoh's reason for becoming a revolutionary is the only personal one in the core group. For Mike, it's a game; for Mannie, it's a practical manner; and for Prof, it's simply what he does. But Wyoh has suffered personally at the hands of the Authority and knows that their style of mismanagement has to go.

As she tells it, her family was traveling to Luna when warning of a solar storm came. The transport managed to make it to the Moon's surface, but the travelers couldn't disembark due to Authority red tape. The dose of radiation she was hit with damaged one of her eggs, and years later, she notes, "I wasn't too young later to figure out that I had birthed a monster because the Authority doesn't care what happens to us outcasts" (3.97). Yikes.

Wyoh's story is the only personal one we have from a main character that provides us, the readers, with reason to distrust the Authority and support revolution. Mannie and Prof both have their reasons for wanting to overthrow the Authority on Luna, but theirs are more philosophical or practical in nature.

As such, Wyoh's passion and her history not only invest Mannie and Prof in the revolution, but the reader as well. Without her personal tale, the story would simply be two hypothetical ideals battling it out—Wyoh brings much needed humanity to the conflict.

I Am Woman; Hear Me Snore

Yet the same passion that gathers the revolutionaries together suddenly has no place once Wyoh marries into Mannie's family. At this point, she slowly fades into the background of the story.

This is especially evident when Mannie is trying to decide whether to continue Operation Hard Rock. Looking over the War Cabinet, he wonders whose opinion to ask for and thinks:

Ask Wyoh's opinion? Nobody knew Wyoh's virtues better than I… but she oscillated between fierceness and too-human compassion—and I had learned already that a "head of state," even an acting one, must have neither. (28.64)

Remember that it is empathy that makes Wyoh worthy of meeting Mike in the first place, but here, suddenly her passion is considered so unnecessary to the effort that Mannie won't even let it be voiced.

She is basically silenced for the remainder of the novel, and the only role she has left to play is wife to Mannie, packing his luggage for him (27.106) and collecting the arms Mannie needs to do his job and save the day (28.87).

At the beginning of the revolution, Wyoh's voice and opinions re an important part of building the movement—even if those opinions aren't always used. But once the fighting and politics of the revolution get underway, it seems there is no place left for Wyoh.

Through a Man's Eyes

Wyoh is a bombshell blonde babe, and if you forget that fact, don't worry—you will be reminded of this all the time. In fact, whenever a male character bumps into Wyoh, his first remark is about how attractive she is.

For example, when Prof meets her in the hotel, he "look[s] [her] up and down, sucked air kimono style, and whistled" (5.68). Sure, one could argue that Luna has a different customary way of appreciating beauty than we do, and these men are simply exhibiting good (Luna) manners. But what's interesting is that there is no counter-custom for men on Luna. In fact, not a single man is described in terms of attractiveness or physical looks in the entire novel. The only exception to this is the description of Prof's ugly man disguise.

Also, Mannie constantly connects Wyoh's other qualities to her beauty. In one telling quote, he notes, "Wyoming, if you were smart like you are beautiful" (4.52). From this, we can clearly see which of Wyoh's qualities is the most valued by Mannie.

And there are several other times when Wyoh's intelligence is questioned by Mannie. He notes she relies on gallantry over logic to get by (11.4), and when he introduces her to Mike as a not-stupid, he states that it is her empathy, not her intelligence, that qualifies her as such (3.141).

All of this leads us to the male gaze. The concept of the male gaze suggests that images in art—especially the visual arts—are framed around what a straight, male wants to see. Remember Megan Fox from Transformers? Michael Bay is a master of the male gaze.

The novel also puts Wyoh under the lens of the male gaze. It focuses on her beauty and compares her other qualities to her beauty. The novel—or at the very least its narrator—feels this is where we'll find the value in her, and so it's rarely out of sight or out of mind.

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