Stranger in a Strange Land | Study Guide

Robert A. Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land | Part 3, Chapters 22–23 : His Eccentric Education | Summary

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Summary

Part 3, Chapter 22

The Old Ones of Mars continue to discuss the "exciting ... esthetic problems concerning the new epic woven around the death of the Fifth Planet." They also keep watch on Smith.

On Earth, the Man from Mars is in the news. Smith's fame and fortune has meant a significant increase in mail. The household develops ways to sort the large volume of mail and handle dangerous packages. First-class mail ranges from letters from friends from the Champion to sketchy business proposals. They also include "[p]roposals of marriage and propositions less formal." When a pornographic photo arrives, Jill is inclined to censor it. But Jubal advises "pass it along in the stack, answer [Smith's] questions—and try not to blush." Then, he says, give it to Duke, who collects such photos.

Smith also begins to learn about money and buying and selling. He learns this both from the letters and from Jubal, who encourages him to buy gifts for friends. Smith buys gifts with enthusiasm, though he has a hard time choosing one for Jubal. With help from the others, he decides on a full-size replica of Rodin's She Who Used to Be the Beautiful Heaulmière.

Senator Boone reminds Smith of his promise to visit a Fosterite service. The next Sunday, a cab arrives to take Jubal, Jill, and Smith to the Archangel Foster Tabernacle of the Church of the New Revelation.

Part 3, Chapter 23

On the way to the church, Jubal tries to warn Smith that he will be pressured to convert. Once there, they are met by Senator Boone, who gives them a tour. He points to a row of slot machines. Boone notes that "the bursar's cage is back past the bar ... plenty of opportunity there to make love offerings for charity and other good works."

Jubal (politely) plays the slot machines three times and wins three times. The wins are thanks to Smith's curiosity about the word "jackpot." Then the three are ushered to the bar for drinks. They go into a room where dance music is playing for the assembled crowd and where Archangel Foster's body is preserved and displayed. Smith does not like the preserved body. He tells Jill—in Martian—he does not "grok an Old One" but he does "grok wrongness." Jill warns Smith against doing anything drastic. They are next introduced to a woman named Dawn Ardent, a stripper, whom Boone says can "help lead the Man from Mars to the light." He also explains Dawn "teaches the Young Men's Happiness Class and attendance has tripled since she took over."

After the service, Jubal tries to leave quickly and quietly. But Boone insists Smith visit Supreme Bishop Digby. Digby turns on the charm, plies them with food and drink, and manages to get Smith alone. After an uncomfortably long time, Smith comes out of the Bishop's private audience room. But the Bishop is not inside.

Analysis

Smith's "education" develops the theme of human morals and culture, focused on money and sex, cultural elements absent on Mars. Jubal actively teaches Smith about money—how to write checks, how to buy things. Smith has no understanding of financial transactions and he will need to have these practical skills. Through learning these skills, however, Smith also begins to understand the concept of money as an abstract, not concrete, thing. "These pretty pictures and bright medallions ... were symbols for an idea which spread through these people. But things were not money, any more than water shared was growing-closer. Money ... was a great structured symbol for balancing and healing and growing closer."

Jubal doesn't seek out sex education for Smith, but he encourages Jill to stop protecting Smith from pornography and sexual propositions. He tells Jill, "If you don't want Mike's feet kicked out from under him by the first five hundred women who get him alone, then don't intercept his mail. Letters like that may put him on guard." Despite Jill's explanation, however, Smith has a hard time understanding the idea of sex, but "He was eager to grok it." If Smith seemed childlike when he first arrived at Jubal's, his curiosity about sex suggests he is in an adolescent stage of development now. He is moving quickly through the stages of human development.

The theme of beauty and art is developed by Smith's gift to Jubal, Rodin's La Belle Heaulmière. The sculpture depicts a very old woman, who can hardly be called beautiful in the ordinary sense. Smith immediately declares that it is beautiful: "It is beauty ... She has her own face. I grok." Likewise, Smith sees Jubal, a middle-aged balding man, as having "the most beautiful face ... distinctly his own." This theme is also developed, oddly enough, as Smith learns about money. Chapter 22 notes Smith "was dazzled with the magnificent beauty of money" because it was a way of thinking about and organizing an entire world.

Speaking of money, Chapter 23 focuses on the distinctly capitalist Fosterite religion. The description of the church has a satirical flavor. The details seem hyperbolic and could be interpreted as poking fun both at over-the-top and flamboyant television ministries and at capitalism as an ideal form of society. The church includes slot machines and a bar where purchased drinks are served with a blessing. Advertisements and commercial sponsors are part of the worship service. Fosterites are encouraged to spend money at Fosterite-run businesses. Smith learns that "Our first hymn ... is sponsored by Manna Bakeries, makers of Angel Bread, the loaf of love with our Supreme Bishop's smiling face on every wrapper." The description is an obvious equivocation of bread—like water, the staff of life—with a supreme being that must be appeased through advertisements and donations.

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