Stranger in a Strange Land | Study Guide

Robert A. Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land | Part 1, Chapters 7–8 : His Maculate Origin | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 7

Jill arranges to be on duty when Ben is supposed to arrive to see the Man from Mars. However, Ben doesn't show up on time. She is told the Man from Mars has been moved. An elderly patient is now in the room he previously occupied. Suspicious and worried, she calls Ben's office and is told he has left town.

Ben had, earlier in the day, retained a lawyer and a famous Fair Witness. He'd taken them to Bethesda hospital and demanded an interview with Valentine Michael Smith. Gilbert (Gil) Berquist, one of Douglas's "stooges," had intercepted them, but Ben had been persistent and eventually interviewed a "Man from Mars," who became agitated. Ben had left, still not knowing if the man he interviewed was the real Smith. Shortly after the interview, the taxi he was riding in unexpectedly landed in a courtyard, and Ben lost consciousness.

Part 1, Chapter 8

Jill is increasingly concerned about Ben. She discovers the room where Smith is hidden in the hospital and enters. He greets her enthusiastically: "You are here, my brother ... I drink deep of you." Thinking quickly, she obtains a nurse's uniform and smuggles him out of the hospital dressed as a nurse. He is compliant with her instructions in this endeavor because she is his "water brother." Not wanting to go home, Jill sets the taxi to arrive at Ben's apartment. Then Jill draws a bath for Smith, something he finds amazing: "This brother wanted him to place his whole body in the water of life!" he thinks. He is overcome with ecstasy and goes into a trance under the water (Jill is understandably panicked).

While Smith is still undressed, a police officer arrives with Gil Berquist to take them into custody. When the officer threatens Jill, Smith reaches toward him and he disappears. Berquist disappears in a similar manner. Jill screams, and Smith goes into a trance. Jill puts his nearly lifeless body into a large bag and lugs it out a service entrance onto the pavement outside.

Analysis

The final chapters of Part 1 escalate quickly as Ben disappears under mysterious circumstances. Motivated by fear and by Smith's endearing attachment to her, Jill takes action. Readers learn more about the Martian way of thinking as Smith grapples with his new environment. For example, Martians have a very different sense of time. When Smith is asked to wait, he goes into a trance. He is quite prepared to wait in that way for several years. And Martians evidently find cannibalism "proper," a connection explained in more detail later in the novel.

Smith's thoughts on the contrast between Earth ways and Martian ways are illuminating. His actions reveal even more differences. Two important incidents are Smith's reaction to taking a bath and the conflict that reveals his surprising ability to make people disappear.

Smith interprets his experience drinking water with Jill as a spiritual one in which their sharing of one of life's basic elements creates an unbreakable bond of communion between them, making them "water brothers." Jill unintentionally solidified the connection in Smith's mind by referring to him in slang terms as "brother." The bath she draws for him in this chapter is described from Smith's perspective as the religious ritual of baptism, in which a believer is immersed in holy waters to symbolize death and rebirth. In several of the gospels in the New Testament, John the Baptist is described as baptizing Jesus Christ in preparation for his ministry. Thus, Jill becomes not only Smith's blood brother but also the prophet birthing him as human and preparing him for his mission.

The confrontation with Gil Berquist and his partner at Ben's apartment reveals Smith's apparent ability to make people disappear, a plot twist that takes the reader into Part 2. Although it has been clear Smith has more than the usual amount of control over his own physical body, this is the first hint that he has a similar control over the external environment. Solving this mystery will be an important in Part 2.

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