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Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein

Chapters XIV–XVI

Chapters XII–XIII

Chapters XVII–XIX

Summary

Chapter XIV

The narrator writes that the Martians have no concept of "hurry." The rush of human existence, the narrator argues, is a result of our sexual bipolarity. Then the narration turns to Earth customs, and an overview of the difficulty throughout history of establishing lines of communication between a populace and their leaders.

Jubal realizes that he needs to speak to Douglas directly to help Ben. While he is on hold with one of Douglas's assistants, Jubal notices Mike watching a religious service on the stereovision, by an organization called the Fosterites. Jubal gets through to a high-ranking police officer and harasses him.

Anne tells Jubal that Duke has left the compound. Mike asks to discuss religion with Jubal, but he is confused but compelled by it. Mike wants to learn who are the Earth equivalents of the Martian "Old Ones," the dead spirits who pass down wisdom. Jubal is chagrined at Mike's particular interest in the Fosterites, who strike Jubal as an especially ignorant and distasteful sect. Jubal is agnostic, equally unconvinced by evidence for or against the existence of any higher power.

Jubal attempts to explain the basic concepts of religion to Mike. Jubal also explains that Earthlings have many different religions, all of which claim to have the only correct interpretation of God's truth—Mike cannot see how these conflicting views are possible. Mike inquires about the nature of man, and the best explanation Jubal can muster is that man "is the animal who laughs." Mike notes that he does not laugh.

Mike realizes a connection between his Martian concept of grokking and the Earth concept of God. In a revelatory moment, he exclaims to Jubal, "Thou art God!" All living creatures, he thinks, are God. Jubal is horrified that his explanations have led to this outburst.

The police arrive. Jubal instructs Mike to hide at the bottom of the pool. The officers emerge from their squad car and Jubal immediately begins quoting chapter and verse of the law to them, outlining all of the grounds he will have upon which to sue them.

Chapter XV

Mike waits in the pool and tries to understand why Jubal had been upset by their discussion. Sensing that his friends are in trouble, Mike is able to remove his spirit from his body and watch the proceedings above water. When one of the officers points a gun at Jill, and he makes the man disappear. As the other officers pull out their guns, he makes them disappear as well. Mike returns to his body and his contemplation. Eventually Jill dives into the water to retrieve him and, underwater, he kisses her.

Chapter XVI

Inside the house, frantically trying to figure out his next move, Jubal receives a phone call from Thomas Mackenzie, a friend at a television network. Jubal assumes that the cameras he had set up would have beamed the action that just occurred to Mackenzie's network, but there has been a transmission failure. Jubal asks Larry to fix the problem, though Larry is uncertain if he is up to it, since the technical work had always been Duke's expertise.

Jubal gets Mackenzie back on the phone. He asks him what he would do if he had to get through to Douglas directly in the next ten minutes. Mackenzie tells Jubal of Agnes Douglas's reliance on Madame Vesant's astrology. Jubal calls Vesant, and recognizes her—he had known her long ago, by her real name, Becky Vesey. Jubal tells her that he is in deep trouble involving the Man from Mars and needs her help getting through to Douglas. Vesant calls Agnes and, lying, improvises a horoscope that suggests that Agnes needs to get her husband to call Jubal, immediately. Having done her duty, Vesant happily turns her attention back to her stock portfolio.

Analysis

These chapters offer a return to the suspense pacing of Part One, while simultaneously deepening the philosophical themes of the story, using Mike's sudden interest in religion. Jubal knows that something needs to be done to help Ben, who is still missing, but by trying to get through to Douglas, he reveals to the authorities that he is somehow connected to Ben, Jill, and Mike. This ensures that his house will no longer be a safe haven, causing immediate danger. The last few chapters have all passed with very little in the way of suspense; Jill guiltily longs to help Ben, but seems to spend her days, as the others, frolicking in the pool and taking in Jubal's lectures. Heinlein tucks in a major story development—Mike's newfound interest in religion—between Jubal's decision to arouse the authorities and their arrival. As our attention is drawn back to the adventure elements of the narrative, a philosophical twist sneaks into the story.

Mike's interest in religion stems from his need to comprehend the Earth and the human way of life. For all of the powers he has, he knows that his upbringing has also left him lacking much of what his Earth brothers have. Mike is unable to understand what the purpose or the proper application of laughter is, but he is enthralled by it. Similarly, as so many humans seem to look to religion to find meaning in their lives, Mike desires to understand that practice. Jubal is horrified that a silly and boorish cult like the Fosterites ends up being Mike's primary exposure to religion, but Mike does not differentiate between one religious sect and another. Herein lies one of the great divides between Mike and Jubal: Jubal, a lifelong Earthling, has learned to ignore the people and institutions that bore or disappoint him. Mike, on the other hand, seeks a total understanding of his race, and finds all credos to be equally worthy and beautiful. As an outsider to Earth culture, Mike does not see his faults or his fears reflected in others, so he can accept and love their worst qualities.

The revelatory moment Mike has in conversation with Jubal, in which he stumbles on the phrase "Thou art God!," marks the beginning of his ability to link his Martian past with his Earthling future. Mike's Martian way of thinking has been revealed to us only obtusely, with the narrator explaining and implying that it would be pointless to try to explain Martian concepts to us, as we do not have the capacity to understand them. However, we do know that the word "grok" is central and hugely significant to Mike's way of seeing the world. Sometimes "grok" seems to mean an abstract understanding, as when Mike endeavors to grok concepts in the dictionary, and other times it suggests something like a psychic bond, as when Mike groks that grass likes to be walked upon. In all cases there is a suggestion that "grokking" something is far stronger than just "knowing" it—he who groks is connected with all others who grok, and with that which is grokked. In this connectivity, Mike finds a parallel with the Earth concept of God: just as God is a life force that flows through everything in the universe, so is grokking. Just as all people grok, Mike realizes, all people are God. This belief will found the cornerstone of the message that he promotes throughout the rest of the book.

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Apollo =/= Mars

by Brags753, July 10, 2013

The summary incorrectly states that Apollo is the Greek "word" for Mars. Actually, Ares is the Greek name for the god known as Mars in Latin.

Apollo is one of the few classical gods known by nearly the same name in Greek and Latin. In English, he is called Apollo in both contexts.

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