Stranger in a Strange Land | Study Guide

Robert A. Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land | Part 3, Chapters 24–25 : His Eccentric Education | Summary



Part 3, Chapter 24

On the way back to Jubal's house, Jubal asks Smith what the bishop said to him. Smith hesitates and then replies: "My brother Jubal, I need to ponder until grokking is." Jill and Jubal discuss the Fosterite religion, and whether Bishop Digby is a saint or a scoundrel. Ben and Dr. Mahmoud are at Jubal's home when they arrive. Everyone there has been discussing religion, too. But Smith is not interested in socializing or eating. He goes to his room, curls up, and meditates. He considers the action he took. He decides although Jill forbade it, he was the one who, at the moment of decision, had to make a choice. He accepts his choice. Then he meditates on the entire morning's experience. He thinks especially about the word "church." He also thinks about the phrase "Thou art God." It is an "inevitability" in Martian but still seems lacking full meaning in English.

Later that night he emerges from his meditative trance, goes into the hall, and finds one of his female water brothers. They get a snack and sit by the pool, looking up at the stars and talking. Presently, they kiss and make love.

Part 3, Chapter 25

On Mars, the Old Ones watch the humans build habitations for new arrivals. On Earth, the Fosterites announce Supreme Bishop Digby has been taken bodily to heaven. In heaven, Digby rails against his "promotion" and the "punk" who promoted him: Smith. On Earth, Jubal hears about the disappearance of Digby, has a momentary concern, and then dismisses it.

For the better part of the week, Smith meditates. Then late Thursday he wakes, cheerful and full of self-confidence. One morning, Smith announces he is leaving. Jill goes with him. The two promise to come back soon to "share water." Jubal wishes them good luck.


Chapter 23 ends with an uncomfortable situation. Bishop Digby is apparently disappeared by Smith for reasons that go unexplained, even when the reader is given a look into Smith's thoughts. The room in which he and Digby had been alone was a room of "terrible wrongness," yet no explanation of what actually happened is offered.

The theme of culture and morality is a main focus of Chapter 24. Jubal sums up Fosterite religion as "If you like to drink and gamble and dance and wench—come to church and do it under holy auspices." Both Jill and Jubal find Fosterism to be something of a con. Jubal has objections on aesthetic grounds—he just doesn't like it—while Jill finds it morally objectionable. Of course, Jill's disdain offers Jubal a chance to opine on the hypocrisy of her position. After all, he points out, people play bingo at church, why not slot machines? Even if he doesn't care for it himself, Jubal finds the honest, forthright consumerism of Fosterism refreshing.

Chapter 24 is a turning point in Smith's coming of age story as a human. With Jill and Jubal disagreeing on Fosterism, he must arrive at his own understanding of its moral place in human culture. As he meditates on his decision regarding Digby, he realizes he must accept responsibility for himself. He is the one who came to the moment of decision and took action. As he accepts that he disobeyed his parent-figure Jill, he emerges into a new stage of growth. As if to complete this transition to adulthood, Smith has his first sexual experience. Not long after, he is ready to "leave the nest."

Only one thing is still missing. Jubal notices that Smith still does not laugh, despite his more confident and cheerful personality. Considering Jubal once stated, "Man is the animal who laughs" (Chapter 14), this is a significant lack in Smith's humanity. This lack will be a main driver of the next stage of Smith's education.

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