Stranger in a Strange Land | Study Guide

Robert A. Heinlein

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Stranger in a Strange Land | Part 5, Chapters 38–39 : His Happy Destiny | Summary

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Summary

Part 5, Chapter 38

Back in the hotel, Jubal and the others have watched the entire "blow-off" on stereovision. But no one but Jubal is upset. Rather, they are all impressed with how well it ended. Jill explains, "How can he be dead when no one can be killed?" Jubal is not comforted. He blames himself for encouraging Smith to take action. Going to his room, he takes several pills and waits to die. But Smith appears. He leads Jubal to the bathroom, where Jubal "let his head be held while he threw up."

Jubal emerges from his room and joins the others. They make plans to go back to Jubal's estate. Duke is stirring a broth made of Smith's remains. He offers some to Jubal, who accepts. The others have already shared it, Duke tells him.

Jubal gives orders to buy the spot where Smith was stoned. They will bury the rest of Smith's remains there, and place a statue as a marker. He also tells them they are the heirs of Smith's multimillion-dollar fortune. He agrees to learn Martian.

Part 5, Chapter 39

The Old Ones of Mars, "[g]rokking by their own local values," will undoubtedly decide Earth should be hated and destroyed. However, it will take a long time to occur in Earth years. In heaven, Foster introduces Digby to his new boss, Archangel Michael. "Thou art God," Michael greets Digby. "Thou art God," Digby responds. Foster adds, impatiently, "Certainly 'Thou art God'—but who isn't?" Then they all get back to work.

Analysis

Immediately following Smith's death, Jubal is undone. He is consumed by grief and gives in to his emotions in a way that is uncharacteristic. This show of vulnerability is the culmination of Jubal's character progression from hardened, invulnerable individualist to full human. His cry of "My son, oh my son! Would that I had died for thee!" is a quote of David's lament for his son Absalom in 2 Samuel 18:33.

This is not the only biblical reference, of course. The final events of the novel bring home the message that Smith's story is a religious story. One event is the communal sharing of Smith's body in a cannibalistic ritual. Another event is the revelation of the new boss as the Archangel Michael. While the novel itself moves through science fiction and satire, the last few chapters make it clear Smith's story is at least in part parallel to the story of Jesus. After Jesus's crucifixion, his followers share in his body and blood during Eucharist. Smith's followers make soup.

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