24 pages 48 minutes read

Robert A. Heinlein

All You Zombies

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1959

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Symbols & Motifs


The narrator, a time-traveling agent from the Temporal Bureau, kidnaps Jane’s infant daughter in 1945 and places it at an orphanage in Cleveland. It’s filled with loneliness, anxiety, and cruelty, and especially for a bright, sensitive kid: “you learn fast in an orphanage” (4). The child grows up to be Jane herself. Around age 18, she leaves to work as a “mother’s helper” while she attends night school. 

Pop’s Place

Pop’s Place is a small bar somewhere in New York City; the bartender-narrator works there while he waits for the Unmarried Mother to arrive for a drink in November 1970. During the story, the bar has only a few patrons served by a second barkeep; the narrator focuses his attention on the Unmarried Mother. The bartender is a time-traveling agent who’s real purpose is to meet and talk with the Unmarried Mother. The storeroom in back houses a small inner room that contains the narrator’s time machine. 

Temporal Bureau

Hidden in a bunker deep inside the Rocky Mountains, the Temporal Bureau—a military organization dedicated to protecting humanity from problems in the timeline of history—sends time agents to different years to correct temporal problems. The story’s hero must correct imbalances in his own timeline so that he, and the time-altering work he already has performed, can still exist.