Stranger in a Strange Land | Study Guide

Robert A. Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land | Part 5, Chapters 36–37 : His Happy Destiny | Summary



Part 5, Chapter 36

The next morning, Jill reveals that Smith's powers made it possible for everyone to "share" in the sex between Jubal and Dawn. She also tells Jubal she is pregnant. Jubal enjoys breakfast, meets Captain van Tromp's wife, and chats with his old friend Madame Vesant (Becky Vesey). As Jubal eats, Smith enters and greets him, saying he wants to talk to Jubal privately. They find an unoccupied room. Smith tells Jubal he recently learned he was sent as a spy for the Old Ones. He is worried that the Old Ones will decide to either destroy or control Earth. As they talk, sky cars of police begin to arrive, and Smith vanishes them as soon as they begin landing.

Smith continues with his confession, saying he thinks he has misled the "brothers." They believe, as he once did, "that it is just a matter of time until the whole human race" will benefit from the discipline. Everyone will live together in peace. However, now he worries that human progress depends on violence and strife. But Jubal advises him not to worry. The future will have time enough to find some new way for humans to progress. Jubal ends his advice with "If you've got the truth you can demonstrate it. Talking doesn't prove it. Show people." After the conversation Smith meditates for a short time and then wakes and says he is ready to show them now.

Part 5, Chapter 37

An unruly crowd has gathered outside. Smith dresses and goes down to talk to them. He preaches his message of "Thou art God," but the crowd is hostile. They throw stones. Though he preaches as he is hit over and over, he eventually discorporates.


Since arriving, Jubal has been uncomfortable with his status as patron saint of Smith's church. Yet he seems quite at home when Smith treats him not only like his personal "father" but also as a priestly father. Jubal can take Smith's confession, and perhaps absolve him from his sin.

It is interesting to note that this may be the first time Smith has felt he did something wrong. In the past, when he makes difficult moral choices, he has come to the conclusion his choice was inevitable. Therefore, it does not weigh on his conscience. But here, he feels as if he may have made an error in judgment that cannot be remedied. That error in judgment is a result of a cultural difference between humans and Martians. On Mars, the species is "weeded" by the practice of allowing nymphs to face the elements. The majority die. Humans have no similar practice. Smith worries, "this [human] race must be split up, hating each other, fighting ... simply to have that weeding out that every race must have." Despite the best of intentions, he may have caused harm. Jubal's reassurance underscores that intention is more important than the actual actions. Do your best, he says, and let the future take care of itself.

The theme of humanity is developed as Smith struggles through this moral dilemma. He concludes that perhaps strife and conflict have an evolutionary purpose. He is also concerned that Martians will want to take away what makes humans unique. Jubal notes that it seems Smith has been trying to make humans conform to Martian culture. Smith admits he did start out that way. But now he understands male-female sexual union is a unique gift of humanity, which should be preserved.

Given that Smith has enormous power, his martyrdom must be seen as an intentional move. To what purpose does he allow himself to be publicly killed, or orchestrate his own murder? It is a direct response to Jubal's advice to "show people." He ends his life in a spectacular manner, while incorporating miracles into his "act." It is an event meant to rival the crucifixion in symbolic power. It is flawless in its execution. It calls on all of the sophistication Smith has developed since the carnival owner told him he had no understanding of "chumps."

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