Stranger in a Strange Land | Study Guide

Robert A. Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land | Part 2, Chapters 9–10 : His Preposterous Heritage | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 9

Joseph Douglas, Secretary General of the World Federation of Free States, reads the news. He confesses to his wife Agnes his people have "lost sight" of Smith. Since they have made the substitute Man from Mars so public, they can't launch a high-profile effort to find the real one. Agnes helps him consider the political ramifications of this development. Agnes proposes sticking to their substitute as the "real" Man from Mars. Douglas suggests scientists will be able to tell the difference between real and fake. Agnes tells him that "the only true science is astrology." She leaves to consult her astrologer, Madame Alexandra Vesant, on the issue.

Alexandra Vesant calculates horoscopes for Secretary General Douglas, Agnes, and Smith. She advises Agnes to "take no drastic action" but to be a source of "calm wisdom and restraint" for her husband. Agnes makes inquiries about Gil Berquist, who seems to be missing. She decides to initiate a campaign to ruin Berquist's reputation (just in case he has betrayed their trust). She makes public the news that the Man from Mars is going on a retreat in the Andes.

Part 2, Chapter 10

Meanwhile, Jubal Harshaw sits by his pool watching his three secretaries (Anne, Miriam, and Dorcas) swim. He is an author, among other things, so he occasionally interrupts the swimming and has one of the women record a new story. In the midst of this leisurely yet profitable activity, Jill arrives with the corpselike Smith. She wakes Smith and introduces him to the surprised household.

Smith and Jill rest while Larry, one of Jubal's employees, gets rid of the car in which Jill and Smith had arrived. At dinner time, Jill wakes to find a dress laid out for her. When she comes downstairs Jubal hands her a cocktail and gives her information on how he runs his household. He says, "This is Freedom Hall, my dear. Everyone does as he pleases ... then if he does something I don't like, I kick him the hell out." She is at a loss for what to do next. Jubal says she and Smith may stay as his guests.

Later, Jubal mulls over his decision to help Jill and Smith. In the middle of the night, he decides to "stop being sensible." He calls for the stereovision to be hooked up and turned on so he can watch the news. Once up to date on the situation, he makes some calls and prepares to take on the planetary government.

Analysis

Some chapters, like Chapter 9, begin with snippets of the current events on "the third planet from Sol," that is, Earth. These news snippets give some insight into the political and cultural context of the story, and they sometimes give clues to later events or characters. For example, in Chapter 9 readers learn about a religion that will become very important to the story later: Church of the New Revelation. It is named Fosterism after its founder. The religion claims an unusually strong heavenly connection: "The Reverend Doctor Daniel Digby, Supreme Bishop ... announced that he had nominated the Angel Azreel to guide Federation Senator Thomas Boone and that he expected heavenly confirmation later today."

The remainder of Chapter 9 introduces two women, Agnes (who is sometimes called "Alice" or "Allie") Douglas and her astrologer, Madame Alexandra Vesant. The two women have many similarities. Both are behind-the-scenes powerhouses. Secretary General Douglas thinks of her as "the boss" and a "bully" and takes her advice on political matters. Madame Vesant uses her intuitively created horoscopes to influence her wealthy and influential clients. In addition, both are ruthless strategic thinkers when it comes to protecting their own interests. Agnes proactively plans to ruin Gil Berquist's career in case he's betrayed them, without knowing if he's guilty or not. Madame Vesant contacts her stockbroker based on her inside knowledge of political matters.

Chapter 10 introduces Jubal Harshaw. Jubal has strong opinions on many topics and is a thinly veiled stand-in for Heinlein himself. He is a doctor, lawyer, "bon vivant, gourmet, sybarite, popular author extraordinary, and neo-pessimist philosopher." He runs an estate in the Poconos that resembles a benevolent dictatorship and funds this self-indulgent lifestyle with his regularly published popular writing. Like Ben Caxton, Jubal displays sexist attitudes some readers may find jarring. For example, he calls Jill "little girl." He instructs his secretary to "Get your fanny indoors and take care of it before I change my mind." He has three secretaries who are all beautiful as well as accomplished in secretarial arts. Jubal has hired them because "the principle of least action required that utility and beauty be combined." While the women are extremely intelligent, they are also extremely feminine. They are described as follows: "Anne was blonde, Miriam red-headed, and Dorcas dark; they ranged, respectively, from pleasantly plump to deliciously slender." They take turns cooking, taking dictation, and bringing Jubal drinks, all while looking fantastic by the pool.

Jubal is authoritarian, insisting his word is law and visitors can obey or leave. He is also anarchist, despising government intrusions. In addition, he is an isolationist, disliking engagement with the outside world via stereovision or telephone.

Despite his patriarchal views and his extreme political positions, Jubal can be perceived as an engaging and endearing character. He doesn't hesitate too long before deciding to help Jill and Smith. He shows humanitarian instincts despite his curmudgeonly exterior.

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