Stranger in a Strange Land
by Robert A. Heinlein
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Sure, Shmoop loves literature, but come on, we're cultured people—we have an appreciation for fine arts, too. So let's take a look at the many sculptures in Strange in a Strange Land and see what we can come up with.
- Rodin's "Caryatid Who Has Fallen under Her Stone" shows a woman twisted under the weight of a heavy stone. Hmmm, someone burdened by a heavy weight? Doesn't Mike take it upon himself to serve and enlighten humanity? We'd call that a heavy weight.
- "La Belle Heaulmière" shows what at first appears to be the destructive power of aging, but as the oh-so-wise Jubal points out to Ben, an artist can see the different stages of life within the frozen state of the statue. Who in the book goes through various stages of life. Mike, maybe? His transformation from naïve youth to troubled adult is pretty striking if you ask us.
- Finally, there is the "Little Mermaid." Jubal wants to buy the statue and place it as a memorial to Mike, because like the statue, Mike too gave up a way of life to become human. (Wonder if Disney has picked up the rights to Stranger…)
But not so fast. There is usually more than one way to interpret a symbol, right? So what if we link the Rodin statues symbolically to Jubal as well. Jubal shrugged off the burden of Caryatid, or to put it in his own words, "Then I discovered that humanity does not want to be served; on the contrary it resents any attempt to serve it. So now I do what pleases Jubal Harshaw" (10.95). And he also knows the pains of growing old like the "La Belle Heaulmière." Just a thought.
Can you find any other symbolic meaning in these statues? We're good, we know, but there's always more to say.