Stranger in a Strange Land

by: Robert A. Heinlein

Chapters XIV–XVI

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.