Stranger in a Strange Land
Here at last is the complete, uncut version of Heinlein's all-time masterpiece, the brilliant novel that grew from a cult favorite to a bestseller to a classic in a few short years. It is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, the man from Mars who taught humankind grokking and water-sharing. And love.
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Which literary technique is used in the highlighted text to convey these crucial story developments?
As of now, we have not completed a manned mission to Mars. However, NASA is preparing for the eventuality of such a mission in the near future. Check out the HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) website to see what kinds of things they are preparing for. (This annotation contains a link)
What is Smith's attitude to all of the changes he is faced with?
What can you glean about this society based on their reaction to the Man from Mars? Would our current society react in a similar manner?
What do you think is the importance of water to Smith? What does it mean to him when Jill offers him water?
Heinlein wrote this book in the 1950s, but he was spot on in predicting this food trend. Read this brief article on how synthetic food is the wave of the future. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the "stereovision"?
Pay particular attention to the portrayal of women in this novel. The book may be set in the future, but the portrayal of gender is grounded in the 1950s. Career prospects for women at this time were pretty limited, and the women we meet in this novel fit into those expected professions (secretary and nurse). In fact, nurses like Jill were very popular characters in pulp stories in the 1950s and 1960s. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Smith set to inherit?
At the time this novel was written, there was a major cultural fascination with Mars that coincided with the rise of science fiction as well as the Space Race.
Describe the dynamic between Jill and Ben. Does this seem like a realistic relationship to you?
The description of the Martians (and their language as spoken by Smith) is pretty vague. What do you think the Martians look like? (Pictured: A Martian from "The Twilight Zone" S2Ep28, 'Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?') (This annotation contains an image)
What did the Secretary General try to get Smith to sign?
This seems an odd phrase for Ben to say. The tone is aptly dismissive, but the phrasing is reminiscent of an elderly Victorian gentleman. (This annotation contains an image)
Ben's (misquoted) reference to a line from Hamlet here is an example of
Heinlein uses other names, or euphemisms, for a lot of the technology used in the book. Use context clues to help you figure out what he actually is describing. What do you think a "Peeping Tom" is?
Ben's approach to the scenario is to make a spectacle. Was this a wise decision? What do you think he should have done instead, if anything?
Even though the book is set in the future, this "Man from Mars" actor sounds a lot like a teenager from the 1950s. (This annotation contains an image)
In Ben's line of work, what does he rely on for protection?
This is just one of the many examples of male condescension that Jill (and other females in the novel) have to deal with. Can you recall some of Ben's patronizing nicknames for Jill?
What does the highlighted text reveal about Martians?
Smith often speaks in metaphors. Can you find an example of a metaphor in this section? Watch the video below to learn more about figurative language. (This annotation contains a video)
This is not the first time that Jill thinks of Smith as an "infant." What does this reveal about her character and her motivation for helping him?
Possums play dead as a defense mechanism. To "play possum" has come to mean remaining still or quiet so as to escape detection.
What new trait of Smith's is revealed in this chapter?
Mrs. Douglas is portrayed as being an emasculating woman and a scold of a wife. Consider how she compares to Jill, the only other female character that has been introduced so far.
What does Agnes's reliance on astrology reveal about her character?
"Yokels" is a fairly derogatory term for unsophisticated/uneducated people from rural areas. This shows just how these politicians view their base demographics. (This annotation contains an image)
How is Agnes's plan to tarnish Berquist's reputation an example of dramatic irony?
Jubal's story about the kitten further proves the point that, no matter the time period (the 1950s, the future, etc.), people love cat stuff. (This annotation contains an image)
What is odd or off-putting about Jubal and his living/work situation? How would you react if you were in Jill's place?
Kipling's 'Just So Stories' was a collection of origin stories published in 1902. What do you think is the significance of Jill reading this particular book (or spool)? (This annotation contains an image)
How does Jubal view the people he surrounds himself with?
In this chapter, the reader finally gets some information about Martians and their worldview. Pay attention to what is said about what Martians believe, as well as some of their customs.
How would describe the tone of Jubal's thoughts?
Jubal's treatment of his secretaries (one blonde, one brunette, and one red head, of course) is quite unsavory by today's standards. In 2014, Jubal would have been slapped with a sexual harassment suit in a heartbeat. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think is the purpose of a "Fair Witness"? Why might Jubal keep one on staff?
This is an interesting simile. Jubal sure likes cats. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Jubal initially upset with Jill?
Smith does not know the difference between fact or fiction. But, is it possible for fiction to be a reality? Watch this video on how fiction 'exists' to the 2:34 mark. What is your position? (This annotation contains a video)
What sort of plans does Jubal have for Mike's power?
Mike's talents are pretty impressive. Even Marvin the Martian needed a weapon to make things disappear (as shown in this Looney Tunes clip); he could not do it using only his mind! (This annotation contains a video)
Jill has now joined Anne, Miriam, and Dorcas in Jubal's employment. Do you think this is a good idea?
How is Mike's offer of eating Jubal after he dies actually a compliment? What does this reveal about how Martians view death?
Coral snakes are highly venomous, but there are not many recorded bites because this type of snake is pretty reclusive. (This annotation contains an image)
Which one of these examples is a literary allusion in this section?
Jubal claims that taboos like cannibalism are culturally contrived, whereas Duke asserts that they are inherently understood. What do you think?
What attitude does the narrative point of view take concerning Jubal?
Can you identify the dramatic irony in this situation? (This annotation contains a video)
Why do you think Jubal is so concerned about Duke's whereabouts? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
Religion will be a major theme as the story progresses. Pay attention to how the Fosterites, and even Mike and his "water brothers," are portrayed as cult-like.
Pontius Pilate's washing of his hands is famously symbolic of
Jubal might be covering his ears because of the volume of Mike's laugh, but he could also be repulsed by the laugh. A fake laugh can be patronizing (as in this movie clip) as well as disturbing. (This annotation contains a video)
What gives Jubal authority here?
Can you unpack this simile? What is Mike trying to describe here during his meditation?
If Mike is physically human, how is it possible that he can achieve these superhuman acts? If Mike is able to do these things, what's the implication for other humans?
What is the main factor for Mike in determining when to act?
What literary device is utilized here?
The word "geek" in this context means a "a carnival performer who performs wild or disgusting acts." Essentially, Jubal claims that if the government gets ahold of Mike they will turn him into some kind of sideshow act. The irony of his concern will be revealed later. (This annotation contains an image)
Is Jubal really acting for the Man from Mars? In what ways is Jubal really only acting for himself?
Jubal knows very well why these men are so hard to find -- Mike made them disappear! (This annotation contains an image)
What does this description of Ben suggest about his character?
How is Jubal a contradictory character? Do you trust him as implicitly as Jill?
What effect does Mike's kiss have on the women?
A "smorgasbord" is a Swedish buffet consisting of a wide variety of dishes. It has also come to be used to describe a wide variety of anything. (This annotation contains an image)
Douglas makes sure that he emphasizes which aspect of Ben's character?
There is so much emphasis here on Mike and his kissing prowess. Why do you think this is? How does this give Mike power and agency (just as with Rhett Butler in this clip from 'Gone With the Wind')? (This annotation contains a video)
Ending the chapter like this creates an atmosphere of tension and suspense. The stakes are pretty high, and the reader is not privy to the details of Jubal's plan. (This annotation contains a video)
In perhaps the most famous episode of "The Twilight Zone," a child possesses a similar power to Mike's -- he can make people and things disappear/change using only his mind. As you will see in this short video, this makes people very wary and frightened of him. Do you think Mike is capable of turning into such a tyrant? (This annotation contains a video)
What does this description reveal about how Dr. Mahmoud speaks Martian?
This is a line from the Quran. Mahmoud says this, but is also disturbed by his mingling of religious rites.
Why does Jubal insist on having a flag and anthem of Mars represented at the meeting?
Occasionally the author will include an aside like this one. What is the effect of this device (that is normally used in drama, and not prose)?
Explain what Jubal's role is in all of this. What is his motivation?
Here is the "Mars, Bringer of War" movement from Gustav Holst's "The Nine Planets Symphony." This is the song that represented the Martian national anthem. What impression does it give? (Start watching the video at the 1 minute mark.) (This annotation contains a video)
By this estimation, Smith stands in ______ of the Ancient Ones.
Muslims abstain from eating pork and drinking alcohol. According to Mahmoud, the religious ban on pork has been lifted in this future setting due to the "needs of the time." Recall Jill and Ben's special meal of "real" steak. How might this be connected? (This annotation contains an image)
"Grok" has several meanings, but for these meanings to be true, one must have
Now that you know what "grok" means, can you use it in a sentence? (This annotation contains an image)
What motivates Douglas, according to Jubal?
Jubal is most likely referring to the famous Shakespeare quote from Henry IV. (This annotation contains an image)
In light of this information, the fact that the planet Mars is named after the Roman god of war is an example of
What do Nelson, Mahmoud, and van Tromp fear?
So-called 'designer babies' are a reality. Read this article and think about some of the ethical issues behind this scientific development. (This annotation contains a link)
What else might account for Jill's outrage over this woman's picture? In general, what do these writers want from Mike?
In what way is Mike a dynamic character? (This annotation contains a video)
What does Mike find beautiful in humans?
This is a reference to a patent medicine from the 19th century (the heyday of "cure-all" patent medicines). These medicines claimed to do a lot of things, but were actually probably more harmful than useful. How does this relate to Jubal's view of religion? (This annotation contains an image)
What is a key component in Fosterism, as evidenced by the badges and different levels?
To Mike, an "Old One" refers more to wisdom and "rightness" than age. This mummy of Foster is definitely old, but lacks rightness.
How would you describe Mike and Jill's relationship at this point in the novel? How has their relationship changed since their first meeting in that hospital room?
The Fosterite meeting seems to be a combination of an old-fashioned revival meeting, infomercial, and variety act. Overall, it is a high energy spectacle. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Jubal's reaction to Digby's private audience with Mike?
With so many choices available, Jubal asserts that it makes sense that a system of belief like Fosterism is popular. People can simply pick what religion best fits their wants and needs.
What is Jubal implying in the highlighted sentence?
How might the highlighted text be and example of foreshadowing? Watch the video clip below for more information about this literary technique. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Mike 'grok' about his visit with the Fosterites?
Consider the title of Part 3, "His Eccentric Education." What has been Mike's learning process, and what makes it "eccentric"?
According to Jubal, how has Mike changed?
So, after leaving Jubal's house, Mike and Jill have joined the carnival circuit. Can you guess what their act might be? (This annotation contains an image)
What is "Smitty's" downfall as a carnival magician?
"Marks" are so named from the chalk mark carnival grifters placed on the back shoulder of a potential easy victim.
What does it mean when Jill says they will visit Jubal "when waiting is filled"? In what ways has Jill embraced Martian mentality?
The "tattooed lady" is a mainstay in carnival sideshows (as evidenced in this Muppets song). Patty's tattoos are not just for show, though; they have personal and religious significance. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Jill want for Patty?
What aspect of Fosterism has Patty most benefited from?
This section serves as the exposition, or the introduction of important background information within a story. The reader will now be told how Fosterism began.
Explain the three tiers on which the Fosterite church is built. Does this seem like a church or system of belief that you would want to be a part of?
Mike's ability to move things (and people) with his mind is getting easier for him. When Mike was first cultivating this skill it would make him very tired, but now he does so with little to no effort.
Where is this conversation taking place?
Mike's education is not complete yet. What else does he still have to learn? (This annotation contains an image)
What has Jill lost as a result of her time with Mike?
Outdated/unpopular opinion alert. Do you think Jill really believes this, or is Heinlein attempting to make a point about society?
Here is a picture of a Las Vegas showgirl circa the 1950s. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the main concept behind the statement "Thou art God"?
Sometimes once you start laughing, it can be difficult to stop (as seen in this clip of Anderson Cooper laughing uncontrollably on his show). The fact that Mike is laughing uncontrollably is significant because he has never genuinely laughed before. (This annotation contains a video)
What has Mike come to "grok" about humans? Does this complete his education?
Every so often, the author includes these news bulletins at the beginning of a chapter. What function do they serve? (This annotation contains an image)
What has Mike been up to lately?
You are probably familiar with the Disney version of "The Little Mermaid." The original Hans Christian Andersen tale does not have such a happy ending. (This annotation contains an image)
What has been happening in Jubal's household since we last saw them?
Jubal and Ben sound like two worried parents fretting about their misguided son. Do you think they have any chance of changing or helping Mike?
What does the highlighted sentence reveal about Jill's attitude toward Patty?
Pay attention to how Ben's visit to Mike's "church" compares to the visit Mike, Jubal, and Jill made to the Fosterite temple in the previous section.
Ben's experience at Mike's place is told
This is Latin for "I have sinned." Do Mike or the Martians have the concept of sin? Can it be said that if everyone is God, then no one is? (This annotation contains an image)
Jill's costumes are meant to represent
Is there something odd here in this exchange? What does a "blow-off" usually mean, and why does Patty quickly jump in to explain?
What is the significance of Jill and Dawn growing to look like each other?
Ben seems agitated and horrified when he is talking to Jubal about his experiences at the Church of All Worlds; however, he does not seem so concerned while he is there. Should we trust Ben's judgment? (This annotation contains an image)
Why is it especially surprising that Duke would be such a devotee of Mike?
All religions have a hierarchy, from Catholicism to Judaism to Islam to Mormonism to Scientology and so on. It is the secrecy behind how some religions are structured that can be suspect. (Pictured: the hierarchical structure of the Church of Scientology.) (This annotation contains an image)
What aspect of humanity does Mike value all the more for having been deprived of it on Mars?
Ben is taken aback by what he deems to be deviant sexual behavior. Personal and sexual freedom is at the crux of the Church of All Worlds belief system.
What is the real reason for Ben's distaste for what he saw at the Church of All Worlds?
Some characteristics of a charismatic cult leader include: "superficial charm, an exaggerated or grandiose view of self, lack of remorse and empathy, lack or little genuine emotion, manipulative, parasitic, pathological liar, sexual promiscuity." Does Mike fit into this profile? (Pictured: Jim Jones, the leader of the People's Temple and best known for the mass suicide of his followers by means in 1978.) (This annotation contains an image)
What is Jubal's argument regarding the validity of Mike's "church"?
Do you think these sections set in the afterlife lend credibility to the religious beliefs discussed in the book? Is Foster really a prophet? Does this then discredit other religions, like Mahmoud's belief in Islam? (This annotation contains an image)
How would you describe the tone of Jubal's literary work here?
How have the tables turned in the relationship between Anne and Jubal?
Who do you think set fire to the Temple? Who would have the motive to do so?
Mike is a very controversial figure at this point (Bishop Short even calls him the Antichrist), so Jubal is very clandestine in his plans to meet him. (This annotation contains an image)
In a somewhat ridiculous piece of plot detail, who is watching the children?
Read this article on the importance of dictionaries, and think about why Mike and his followers would want to create one. How does it legitimize and secure a language and culture? (This annotation contains a link)
Which Greek mythological figure does Ben compare Mike to?
Jubal's literary references are quite telling here. He is either speaking ironically in guessing that Jill is Beelzebub or Lady Macbeth because she is the exact opposite of these dastardly (even evil) characters; or, he is being serious but through thinly veiled sarcasm. (Pictured: Beelzebub, soldier and minion of Satan.) (This annotation contains an image)
How has Jubal's group of friends and acquaintances transformed since we first met them? Has Jubal changed?
"Illuminati" is the name given to groups (both real and fictitious) that are powerful and conspire to control world affairs. (This annotation contains an image)
Sam does not want to call their beliefs
Can you predict what is going to happen with Jubal next? Do you think he is going to join the church?
How does Jubal feel about his evening with Patty?
What does Mrs. van Tramp have in common with those women in nautical lore who "watched from the Widow's Walk"?
What is the significance of Mike calling his followers "marks"? What was his goal all along?
So Mike was a "sleeper agent" for the Martians all along. This confirms the earlier fears of Nelson, van Tromp, and Mahmoud regarding the Martians' intentions.
Why did Mike make the physical love between a man and a woman central to his "church"?
Messianic figures support a social, political, or religious cause or set of beliefs with great enthusiasm and energy. These figures are usually deemed "chosen ones." Do you consider Mike to be a messiah? Has Heinlein written him to be an archetypal Christ figure? (This annotation contains a video)
Mike's followers usually say "Until waiting is filled," so what does this statement imply?
How does the author develop tension here? (This annotation contains a video)
What is surprising about the inner circle's reaction to Mike's brutal death? Or, actually, should their reaction not be so shocking to the reader?
The religious imagery and comparison of Mike to Christ continues here. The eating of Mike is symbolic of the Christian Holy Communion when bread becomes the body of Christ, wine is transformed into his blood, and is then consumed.
What is proof that Mike's vision for humanity did not die with him?