Stranger in a Strange Land

by: Robert A. Heinlein

Chapters XXXII–XXXIII

Summary Chapters XXXII–XXXIII

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.

Analysis

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 Ben's marriage proposals to Jill seem out of date in a story where the most stable family consists of a celibate old man and his three secretaries.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.