This post is about the second chapter, titled "Four Women", of this novel. Novel page gives overall background, links to other chapters, & gives very short chapter overviews.
I'm splitting this ch 2 post into 2 because there is some material here worth commenting on. Contents that went into my 2 parts are actually intermingled in the novel text. This is the first part - story of two couples: Norman Grant & Elinor Stidham, & John Pope & Penny Hardesty. All except Elinor were introduced in ch 1. Second part is here.
This chapter advances the story on one crucial front: the promise that Grant will get involved in legislative affairs that will eventually affect space travel.
Story summary.Norman Grant will be elected to US Senate from Fremont, an imaginary state in western US, in 1946. USP of his electoral campaign will be his war-hero role.
He will bring to Washington two key characters who ran his election campaign: Tim Finnerty & Penny Hardesty. Penny will be the cause of Norman's friction with his jealous wife Elinor. This will ensure she moves from Senator Norman's office to Senator Glancey's.
Penny, a lawyer, will be married to John Pope, just qualified as a Navy aviation man, by the end of this chapter. That's about 1950.
By the end of this chapter, Norman will get advise on choosing a specialty in the Senate if he wants to make a mark - getting involved in the just emerging fields of "advanced aviation and rockets and what they're calling space".
- "an election between honest men is like a battle between sovereign nations. You better win."
- "Norman has a fighting chance to be a fine senator, but I expect he’ll turn out to be only average. Never a distinction, never a scandal."
I once saw a comparison between Heinlein & Poul Anderson using very similar words. Both started about the same time, & were equally prolific; yet Heinlein is considered a different class. Probably applies to all sorts of professions.
- On the career of a US Senator: "When a freshman comes in here, he's wise to keep his mouth shut. Norman's done that. But he's also wise to start chopping out a niche for himself. And you haven't done that, Norman.
... men seem to attain stature in this body not by attending to the issues that please the people in their home state. We're all obliged to do that. What counts is the way a man tackles the big issues, the ones that affect us all."
- "Can you keep getting him elected?"
"There's not a cloud on the horizon."
"There's always a cloud on the horizon... It's just that sometimes we don't recognize it."
- Details of US electoral system: it's sufficiently different from India that substantial parts went over my head. Basics of getting elected & running the campaign, of course, are the same.
- For Indian readers: Parts of Grant's election campaign sounded like a variation of the fantastic Hindi movie "Aaandhi" that was based on a hypothetical election campaign of a fictionalized Indira Gandhi. I personally prefer "Aaandhi" because it was more colorful & comprehensible.
- I noticed a funny thing about the US election system - a Senator can be there for life, if he can keep on getting elected! And many apparently do. This is the case in India too, & is sometimes considered one of the major flaws of our system.