Chapter XXXII

Ben tells Jubal that the hospitality of the Nest-members comforted him the first night he was there, but he soon became uneasy again. The narration then shifts to third person presentation of Ben's tale.

Ben wakes up after having spent the night in bed with Dawn. He leaves the bedroom and bumps into Duke making breakfast. Duke implores Ben to stay, and tells Ben that it had taken him a month to get up the courage to leave Jubal's employ and come to the temple. Duke explains about the manner by which people advance into higher circles in the church; those who, like Ben, became Mike's water-brothers without learning Martian are known as the "First-Called." Duke tells Ben that living with all of his water-brothers is like a marriage, but much more enriching and delightful than his actual former marriage was. A woman named Ruth, who with her husband Sam is in the ninth circle, tells Ben about how the church has rejuvenated her; she points out to Ben that their bathrooms are free of medicine, as no one in the church gets sick.

Ben goes to see Jill. She tells him that had wanted to spend the previous night with him, but she could sense jealousy in him, and had decided to quell it by having him sleep with Dawn. Jill demonstrates that she has learned some telekinetic powers. Mike enters and is thrilled to see Ben. Mike jokes around and tells Ben how hectic his schedule has become. Mike and Jill hang on each other and Ben finds himself embarrassed. Mike tells Ben that humans have a great gift that Martians do not: the bipolarity of the sexes.

Mike can grok that Ben is still jealous, and decides to delay the water-sharing ceremony that the ninth circle have been planning to hold in Ben's honor that night. Jill does not want to let Ben leave without experiencing the ceremony. She implores Ben to stop worrying—she initiates a kiss. Mike has his arm around Ben, and he grips tighter. Jill cries out for Ben and Mike to share water, and Ben sees that Mike has vanished his own clothing.

Chapter XXXIII

Ben tells Jubal that, terrified that Jill and Mike were trying to engage him in group sex, he had grabbed his clothes and run out of the temple. Jubal suggests that Ben was rude to reject the rules and boundaries of Mike's temple while he was a guest there. Jubal chides Ben for not at least being polite about extracting himself from the situation. Ben concedes to Jubal that he was overwhelmed, and claims that it was his love for Jill that made him unable to be levelheaded. Jubal insists that it was not love but jealousy that overwhelmed Ben. Jubal suggests that Mike and Jill's non-monogamous practices are only possible to maintain because they have a perfect inner morality which Ben and Jubal lack.

Jubal does not suggest that he himself would have the stomach to accept Mike's sexual mores as his own, but he lauds Mike for having the courage to challenge the prevailing Judeo-Christian ethic. Jubal tells Ben that he would join Mike's church himself if he were younger. Ben tells Jubal that Mike claims that the truths he teaches are derived from the Martian Old Ones. Jubal does not necessarily believe in the Old Ones but he still finds Mike's religion to be as valid and potentially accurate as any. Jubal points out that many religions in history have endorsed odd sexual practices.

Jubal advises Ben to return to the Nest, and predicts he will be welcomed back with open arms. Jubal says that there are more important things to worry about than Ben's petty jealousy—such as the worry that Mike may meet an end similar to Christ's. Ben leaves, and a week later sends Jubal word that he is with Mike, studying Martian.


Ben's proprietary feelings for Jill in these chapters are at odds with the notions of love and relationships that have been presented throughout the novel. There has been much talk of love, and many characters have professed love for each other, but we have seen almost no traditional couples. The only marriage that has been portrayed is that of Joseph and Agnes Douglas, and their relationship clearly has more to do with professionalism than affection. Ben's marriage proposals to Jill seem out of date in a story where the most stable family consists of a celibate old man and his three secretaries. Ben's longing for Jill represents a classical romantic notion of a monogamous love between two people, but Heinlein seems to reject this approach to happiness, equating it with selfishness. The introduction of Ruth and Sam, the married couple within the ninth circle, implies that a marriage need not be sexually exclusive to survive. Jubal backs this point up, accusing Ben of being driven more by jealousy than love regarding his discomfort at the thought of Jill with Mike. The impulse toward a monogamous love, it is implied, is understandable but ultimately misguided.

Mike's relationship to the general populace at this point is not discussed explicitly, but some inferences can be made that suggest a coming conflict. We know that Mike retains influence in society because of his tremendous wealth and fame, and we have not yet seen indications that he has lost his mass popularity as a celebrity. We also know that he has alienated a number of institutions, including the army and all of the churches with which he would now seem to be in competition. The Fosterites, we have seen, have also been known to upset competing institutions, and have adopted a strategy of wielding the influence that they accumulate as a weapon, threatening those who would oppose them to maintain their stability. Mike's philosophies are anti-oppression, so he could not adopt precisely the same strategy as the Fosterites. But the fact that even a relatively open-minded friend, like Ben, could have such a fearful reaction to Mike's church certainly suggests that the general public may soon be inclined to align with their institutions to destroy Mike.

At the end of Chapter XXXIII, Jubal makes explicit a connection that has been implicit since the beginning of the book: if Mike is indeed a Jesus figure, as has been suggested as early as the title of Part One, "His Maculate Conception," then there is every reason to expect he will meet an end as gruesome as the crucifixion. Neither Mike nor his followers have put him forth as specifically parallel to Jesus—he is more often compared to the less glamorous Foster. Mike's unusual origins, and his insistence on telling his version of the truth in defiance of the Earth's corrupt institutions, obviously reflects Christian mythology. Although Stranger in a Strange Land can certainly be read as a recasting of Jesus' story, the novel's concerns are far too sprawling and its satirical targets too broad for it to be pigeonholed as just a Jesus metaphor. The direction of the narrative at this point implies a crucifixion- like ending, but we cannot be certain that the narrative will not dodge the seemingly inevitable. Thus Heinlein creates a postmodern kind of suspense, where we wonder whether the author will write the ending for which he seems to be heading.