Stranger in a Strange Land
Anne, a certified Fair Witness, dons her robe to observe the demonstration of Mike's powers that Jubal has requested. Jill enters Jubal's study and tells him that Mike will be up momentarily, when he is dressed. Jubal says that Mike need not get dressed for this demonstration, but Jill insists that Mike learn Earth customs. Jubal relents, deciding that knowledge of customs is a necessity, but Jubal insists that Mike be taught cynicism toward arbitrary morality and etiquette.
Jubal explains that he has had cameras set up in the room, which will broadcast signals to stereovision networks should anyone try to break in and harm them. Jubal turns on these cameras to record Mike's demonstration. Mike arrives and Jubal asks Jill and his secretaries if any of them have been sleeping with Mike, but none have. Mike tells Jubal about what he has learned from his reading. Mike is confused about the ending of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and he asks Jubal to ask Romeo personally to explain. Jubal explains that he cannot speak to Romeo, as Romeo is a fictional character. Mike does not understand the concept of "fiction," and he wonders if the Old Ones of Mars could grasp such an idea.
Jubal asks Mike about making Berquist and the officer disappear. Mike is unable to explain what he did, as there are not words in English for it. Jubal asks Mike to make a box disappear. Mike asks if the box is a "wrong thing," for he will only make wrong things disappear. Jubal asks Jill to throw the box at his head and Mike indeed makes it disappear in mid-air. Jubal asks Mike how close to something he needs to be to exercise this power. Mike explains that it is not a matter of distance but of knowledge of wrongness.
Jubal throws an ashtray up in the air over his own head. This time, Mike mentally halts the ash tray's fall, leaving it to hover. Mike expresses remorse for having made Berquist and the officer disappear and Mike calls his actions "wasting food." Jubal reassures him that he did the right thing. Jubal has Mike move the floating ashtray, and tests the limits of Mike's telekinesis.
Jubal asks Jill to try to learn the Martian language as to better communicate with Mike. Jubal instructs Mike to use his powers to protect Jill again if need be. Jubal asks for one more demonstration: to make a gun disappear from his hand. Before Jubal picks up the gun he makes it very clear that he does not want Mike to make him disappear, and Mike says that he would not waste Jubal as food. Rather, he looks forward to eating Jubal's corpse when he dies.
Duke, the man responsible for keeping all of the technology in Jubal's house in working order, privately expresses his discomfort with Mike to Jubal. Duke is offended by the cannibalism implicit in Mike's desire to eat Jubal's corpse when he dies. Duke says he will not eat at the same table as Mike anymore. Jubal is angered by Duke's provincialism and prejudice, and fires him.
Duke tells Jubal that he does not believe that Mike is dangerous. Jubal argues that Mike is neither as savage nor as harmless as Duke is reductively assuming him to be. Duke and Jubal watch the film of Mike's disappearing demonstration. In slow motion, they can see the box that Jill threw at Jubal seem to shrink and recede into the distance. They then watch footage from another angle and see the same thing: the box seems to recede into the distance. Theoretically it should be impossible, in three dimensions, for the box to recede in two directions at once. They realize that Mike has an ability to turn objects in a direction that is perpendicular to all three dimensions.
Jubal tells Duke that, so long as he eats with the rest of them, he can stay on working there. Jubal explains that cannibalism is common in many Earth cultures, and that Mike meant his comment as an honor. Jubal encourages Duke to, if he stays, become Mike's water-brother—but warns that Duke should not take the water-sharing ceremony lightly.
These two chapters, like most of Part Two, focus on Jubal Harshaw. His arguments with Jill and Duke are primarily a platform for him to expound on his libertarian beliefs. In both of these arguments, as in many exchanges with Jubal, the conversational partner does not produce counterpoints so much as they play devil's advocate for the conventional wisdom that Jubal proceeds to demolish. He is such a clever lecturer—a skill presumably honed by his years of law practice—that his companions hang on his every word. Jubal's speeches tend to concern the responsibility of the individual to make his or her own decisions and choose his or her own destiny. Jubal understands the necessity of organizations like government and the church, but he believes them to be inherently and irrevocably corrupt. His introduction into the narrative also represents a major shift in the pacing of the novel, from the adventure story suspense of Part One to the more philosophical, languid didacticism of Part Two. The gears of conspiracy are still turning, but they are no longer the focus of the narrative.
A prime example of Jubal's support of rugged individualism is the argument he has with Duke. As most members of Western society would be, Duke is unnerved by Mike's cannibalism. Though Jubal is not himself inclined or attracted to cannibalism, he refuses to judge Mike for it—the moral code that deems cannibalism to be wrong, Jubal understands, is an arbitrary societal construct. Duke is offended by Mike but not frightened of him and he has a notion of Mike as an innocent savage who has never been taught proper morals. Interestingly, even though this view would seem to be favorable toward Mike, Jubal argues against it—Jubal's point is that Duke's reduction of Mike to a noble innocent is just as inaccurate and useless as his reduction of him to an amoral flesh-eater. The cornerstone of Jubal's philosophy is that each man and woman is first and foremost a complex individual, and that any attempt to lump people together in groups is inevitably a dangerous oversimplification.
Mike's inability to understand the concept of fiction represents a major stumbling block that he will have to overcome in his journey to understand or to "grok"—his fellow humans. Fiction is, by definition, untruth, and the notion of willfully misleading another person and the notion that that person would agree and consent to being misled, is unthinkable to Mike, not because he finds it morally reprehensible but because he has no context to comprehend it. Martians have no use for fiction, so therefore Mike has never encountered it. He has no more ability to learn it than Jubal or Jill would have to easily learn his powers of making objects disappear. Although Mike may have lived his life as a Martian, he is in fact a human being born of Earthling parents, and he is theoretically capable of learning anything about Earth culture, just as Earthlings are capable of learning his powers. Without understanding the concept of fiction, Mike is necessarily oblivious to the tremendous amount of lying inherent to any Earth society. As Heinlein has implied in previous chapters, lies, deceit, and hypocrisy are widespread and ingrained in Earth's most powerful institutions.
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