Study Questions for A.E. van Vogt's "The Weapon Shop" [1942]

Although a 1942 story, van Vogt's "The Weapon Shop" might continue to resonate with contemporary readers because of its implicit libertarian values and its address to owning firearms and defending one's rights. The story, however, as it promotes individual rights against those of an Imperial empress and corporate power, still requires its protagonist to rely on a bureaucratic structure for support against an oppressive government. Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. The story opens with a pastoral description of the village of Glay as seen through the eyes of Fara Clark, the protagonist. What attitudes toward the Empress Innelda Isher govern Clark's perspective and his view of the village and society?
  2. Like a number of our SF authors, who drop us in the middle of things without providing detailed exposition, van Vogt withholds information from us early in the story. By story's end, what do we realize about Lan Harris--"the most despised man in town" (719)--Mayor Mel Dale, and Creel's mother?
  3. We learn relatively early in the story that Creel's father presumably ran away with another woman, a telestat actress (732). What actually happened to Creel's father?
  4. How does the weapon shop evoke issues regarding gun ownership that remain current today? van Vogt's story ostensibly is about the unrestricted right to defend oneself against oppression. However, is this right modified in any way that connects to current debates about gun ownership? Is van Vogt clear on this right or does the story contain some contradictions? See especially the weapons shop rules (723) and the silver-haired man's comments on 743 and 745.
  5. What social criticism does van vogt ultimately enact? That is, what values are upheld by the story and what forces in culture are seen as Fara's and the villagers' actual antagonist?