Stranger in a Strange Land | Study Guide

Robert A. Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land | Part 2, Chapters 13–14 : His Preposterous Heritage | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 13

Duke, another of Jubal's employees, stays behind to help replay the camera footage of Smith's demonstrations. He remarks he finds Smith's attitude toward cannibalism disturbing and refuses to be around him or eat with him at the table. Jubal tells him if he takes that attitude, he can resign. Jubal also insists everyone in the household either become Smith's "water brother" or leave, just to make sure they are protected. After all, Smith is "prone to misinterpret things" and believes in immortality—based on his experience on Mars—so he is unpredictable.

Part 2, Chapter 14

Jubal calls the office of Secretary General Douglas, and, after being transferred endlessly, asks for Mr. Berquist. The stooge loses his composure momentarily, and Jubal presses his advantage. He is put on hold. Meanwhile, Smith is watching a Fosterite religious service on stereovision. Smith doesn't understand the rowdy religious service, but he is intrigued by the mention of a couple from the church "going to heaven" voluntarily. Jubal resignedly agrees to let Mike finish watching it.

The "on-hold" music stops and a police officer appears, identifying himself as Captain Heinrich. Heinrich says that Berquist is not available. Jubal hangs up, believing he has stirred the pot enough to get a response soon. He makes sure Anne has the "panic button." It is an "on" switch for the news cameras Jubal has had installed on his grounds in order to make public any police shenanigans. Then he revisits the Fosterite service in a discussion with Smith. Because Smith does not understand the human concepts of "religion" and "science," and because Jubal is agnostic, the discussion is frustrating. Jubal asks Smith who he thinks made the world. Smith answers, "Not 'putting.' Not 'mading.' A nowing, World is. World was. World shall be. Now." And later, Smith concludes that "That which groks" is God. He continues: "Anne is God. I am God. The happy grasses are God ... Jill is God."

In the midst of the religious discussion, Jubal sees two air cars approaching. He tells Smith to hide in the deepest part of the pool. The others dive in and climb out quickly to hide how many people are in it. The air cars land, and Captain Heinrich and two other Federation officers attempt to arrest Jubal, Jill, and Smith.

Analysis

The theme of morality's relation to culture is prominent in these chapters. It is developed in Chapter 13, by Duke's reaction to Smith's comfort with cannibalism. Modern Earth cultures have a strong cannibalism taboo, so Duke's reaction is visceral and perhaps understandable. Still, Jubal reacts immediately and absolutely. He argues Smith is a very moral person, but according to different rules: "Never mind what they think in Kansas; Mike uses values taught him on Mars." He tells Duke his aversion to cannibalism is ingrained because he "soaked it up from our culture." He brings up the Christian ritual of Eucharist in which believers consume the body and blood of Christ. He tells Duke it is a "symbolic cannibalism that plays so paramount a part in your church's rituals." To finalize his argument, he suggests humans have developed a cannibalism taboo because humans are violent and uncivilized. He says, "I regard our taboo against cannibalism as an excellent idea ... because we are not civilized." This suggests morality is, at least in part, a survival adaptation, necessary until, but only until, humans become civilized.

This theme is further developed by Jubal's concerns that Smith could present a danger to people even without a malicious motive. He worries that Smith doesn't have feelings of guilt over killing except for having wasted food. Smith believes in a life after physical death, and this affects his view of physical life's value. On top of this, Smith is extremely literal, so he may not understand something like playful fighting. He could "misinterpret" what is happening and vanish someone unexpectedly. All of this makes Smith rather dangerous, like giving "a dynamite cap to a baby." Smith could hurt or kill someone, and still be "innocent" of wrongdoing, because he is operating according to a different cultural understanding.

Hints about Smith's future as a religious leader continue to appear. Although Smith does not understand concepts of religion and science, he expresses ideas that humans consider religious. An incident occurs when Jubal quotes the Christian Doxology. The text reads: "As it was in the beginning, so it is now and ever shall be, World without end ...." Smith reacts positively as if this is a simple fact, not a religious concept: "You grok it!" The idea that matters of faith on Earth are matters of fact on Mars is a central conceit of the novel. It is the basis for Smith's later church/language school movement.

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