Stranger in a Strange Land | Study Guide

Robert A. Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land | Part 3, Chapters 26–27 : His Eccentric Education | Summary



Part 3, Chapter 26

Jill and a disguised Smith find work as a magician and assistant with a carnival. The carnival boasts a tattooed lady, Mrs. Patricia Paiwonski. She is covered in pictures including the entire life of Archangel Foster. She gets coverage of sensitive areas from a boa constrictor named "Honey Bun" during her act. But she reveals the full "sacred history" in happiness meetings at whatever Fosterite church is nearby. Patty becomes friends with Smith and Jill.

However, Smith's magic act lacks engaging patter, and the carnival owner lets them go. He tells Smith, "You don't have any feeling for what makes a chump a chump." As they leave, Smith and Jill invite Patty to join them for drinks that evening.

Smith slows his time sense to drive efficiently to a hotel. Jill thinks about life with the carnival they are leaving behind. She also thinks about the other jobs they took before that, as Smith learned more and more about humanity. She recalls a funny memory and begins to communicate her amusement to Smith, telepathically. (As a result of Jill's learning Martian, she and Smith have begun to share a telepathic bond.) But she has to wait until later to share because Martian has no word for "funny." So later, as the two share a bath at the hotel, she brings up the funny memory. Smith still doesn't understand what funny is.

After their bath, Patty arrives.

Part 3, Chapter 27

Patty expresses her sadness that their act was cut from the carnival. She offers to let them look at her pictures of the life and ministry of Reverend Foster, hoping they will get saved. But Smith has plans of his own. As she prepares to show off the tattoos, he vanishes her clothing. He no longer feels something has to be a "wrongness" to cause it to disappear. He also makes Jill's clothing and his own vanish. Then Smith reveals he is the Man from Mars, though Patty maintains he is a holy man who can do miracles. He then levitates Patty and initiates a water-sharing ceremony with her, followed by a "sharing" of a different kind. Smith, capable of miracles, is capable of them in bed, as well. Both women are satisfied.

Afterward, Patty explains her understanding of the Fosterite theology. She says, "If you feel like a drink or six, among friends who have seen the light, and it makes you want to dance and give thanks to the Lord. God made alcohol and God made feet. You could put 'em together and be Happy!" She shows Smith and Jill a place where Foster had kissed her, just above her heart. The kiss mark has been tattooed. The next morning Smith kisses her on the chest and leaves a mirror-image kiss on her skin.


These chapters introduce Patricia Paiwonski (Patty). They continue to explore the ways that Smith has grown in understanding and ways he is still lacking understanding. He is far more sophisticated now regarding sex. It has become as much a part of being "water brothers" as sharing a cup of water. Jill notes how Smith has blended the human "sharing" of sexual intercourse with the Martian "sharing" of sharing water. It is significant Smith is not becoming fully human in his understanding of sex. He is blending his two cultures and, in doing so, creating something new.

Smith's miraculous abilities continue to expand in their new, larger context. For example, he can drive perfectly using his control over his time sense. He can also levitate far more than an ashtray without fuss, and communicate telepathically with Jill. He has grown out of his "childhood" sense of right and wrong. Now he does not feel the need to grok a "wrongness" to make something disappear, as he once did. That limitation now seems like a restriction. It was meant to make sure a young "nestling" did no harm before reaching an age where actions and consequences could be comprehended.

However, Smith is missing some key piece of what it means to be human. This lack manifests in two main ways. Even though he can do actual miracles without trickery, he cannot sustain the interest of the crowd at his magic show. The carnival owner makes it clear the real skill of a magician isn't in the tricks, it is in the patter. He exhorts Smith on "what a chump wants." A chump, or "mark," is what the carnies call a person who goes to the carnival. He says a chump "wants to think the world is a romantic place when it damn well ain't." The second way is his persistent lack of humor. This lack is tied to a fundamental way Smith is still more Martian than human. When Jill thinks about a memory she finds funny, she realizes she cannot communicate about it in Martian. Martian has no word for "funny." And as the novel has repeatedly pointed out, language reflects its originating culture. Martians do not have humor because they are one with the universe: they are incapable of sensing contradiction, which is the essence of humor.

The introduction of Patty also brings about an evolution in how other people relate to Smith. Jubal, Jill, Ben, and other characters have been primarily in the roles of protectors and teachers. Of these, only Jill has adjusted her role slightly to be both teacher and student, as she has been learning Martian. But Patty enters the story and quickly becomes a worshiper. At first, she intends to help bring Smith and Jill "to the light." But she ends her stay with them at the hotel, believing Smith is a holy man. Her sexual willingness is wrapped up in a religious ecstasy that foreshadows things to come.

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