Stranger in a Strange Land
by Robert A. Heinlein
Stranger in a Strange Land Theme of Identity
Identity gives us a sense of home (e.g. American, Californian, Timbuktian, etc.), allows us to form bonds with people of like-minded identity (bookworms, gamers, Twihards), and helps us make important decisions every day (who to vote for, where to buy stuff). When Mike first comes to Earth in Stranger in a Strange Land, he's an identity and demographic of one: the Man from Mars. Mike's journey throughout the novel helps him discover what it means to be human, but more specifically, what it means for him to be human, i.e., to find his identity. In the end, he finds it as the founder and teacher of the Martian language church/school/way of life, bringing together a group of like-minded people with whom he can finally identify.
Questions About Identity
- Stranger in a Strange Land is generally centered on Mike's search for identity. But could this also be a story of Jubal's identity or Jill's? What about Ben's? Do their identities change throughout the course of the novel or do they stay the same but with some new people to hang out with? Why or why not?
- As we discuss in the "Setting" section, a character's identity is linked with his or her home. How is Mike's Church of All Worlds linked to his identity? What parts of the church did Mike borrow from other places, and what does this say about how that place informed his identity?
- Mike begins the novel as a Martian in a man's body. By the end of the novel, is Mike's identity Martian, human, or something in-between? What about his disciples'?
- Do any characters in the novel lose their identity? If no, then explain why not. Is yes, then explain how and why it happens.
Chew on This
The race of a character is rarely given in the novel, suggesting that identity and race are distinct from one another in Heinlein's mind.
No Martian, other than Mike, is given an individual identity. They are only known as a collective.