Study Guide

Minor Characters in Stranger in a Strange Land

By Robert A. Heinlein

Minor Characters

Alice Douglas

Alice (sometimes called Agnes) is Joe Douglas's wife and, in truth, the one in charge of his cabinet and assistants. She practically runs Joe's office for him, and when stumped, she calls Madame Alexandra Vesant to have her fortune read in the stars. (We're glad politicians don't actually function this way—we hope.) Thanks to a fortune she received from Vesant, Agnes gets her husband in contact with Jubal and is able to minimize the damage done to Joe's image. She loves her husband, in her own way.

Assemblyman Kung

Kung is the head of the Eastern Coalition and Douglas's political opposition. He attends the conference between Mars and Earth, and he has an awesome name.

Becky Vesant

Becky works as an astrologer for the rich and powerful. Although she doesn't necessarily believe the cards can tell the future, she puts on a good show and does take the time to do her job right. In a way, her astrology is just another form of the fiction stories that Jubal writes. Oh, and she also uses the information given to her by her high class clients, like Agnes Douglas, to make insider trades on the stock market. Sneaky lady.

Plot-wise, Madame Vesant is instrumental in getting Jubal in contact with Douglas, thanks to her contact with Agnes. She (and the rest of the world) later joins Mike's Church of All Worlds.

Captain Heinrich and Major C.D. Bloch

These two are leaders of two squads of S.S. troops. Captain Heinrich originally intercepts Jubal's phone calls to Joe Douglas. He is also the first to mount a raid on Jubal's house, but Mike isn't a fan of that plan, so he sends him and his men into nonexistence.

Major Bloch is sent to Jubal's house next to see what happened to Heinrich's men. Clearly these guys have never seen a horror movie—don't go back to the scene of the crime! He gets off easy, though. He is promptly told to leave, and he's later assigned to security duty at the conference, perhaps as punishment.

Captain van Tromp

We know what you're thinking, and no, Christopher Plummer never played this guy in a movie. No, van Tromp is the captain of the Champion and one of Mike's water brothers. He is the first to explain to Joe Douglas that while Mike may look human, he is in fact a Martian. Douglas heeds the warning, initially at least.

At the conference, van Tromp reunites with Mike. Later—surprise, surprise—he becomes a member of the Church of All Worlds.

Crew of the Envoy

In no particular order: Captain Brant, Dr. Coburn, Mr. Francis X, Dr. Olga Kovalic Seeney, Dr. Ward Smith, Dr. Mary Jane Lyle Smith, Mr. Sergei Rimsky, and Mrs. Eleanora Alvarez Rimsky.

We don't know much about the crew of the Envoy except that they were exceptionally talented in their fields (some of them multiple fields), they held lucrative patents, and they all died—horribly, we'd guess. As Ben informs Jill, Captain Brant had an affair with Mary Jane Smith, and her husband killed Brant and himself in a jealous rage, condemning the rest of crew in the process.

Oh, one important thing: Mary Smith died giving birth to Mike. So yeah, Mike has a mom. Don't forget it.

Dawn Ardent

Dawn is a famous erotic dancer and devoted Fosterite. She first is introduced at the Fosterite worship service, where she is tasked with helping convert Mike to Fosterism. We know how that turns out. But still, she takes the assignment with moxie.

Later, she earns the title of High Priestess in the Church of All Worlds. She and Jill share the responsibilities and support Mike. At the end of the novel, she seduces Jubal, an act that might signify Jubal's acceptance of Mike's religion; to a point—it is Jubal after all.


Mike's doctors—Dr. Thaddeus, Dr. Archer Frame, and Dr. Brush—have quite a task for themselves. Unlike Dr. Nelson, these guys understand very little about Martian psychology or physiology, so they blunder their way through treating Mike. Thaddeus and Brush both fail to keep Jill from seeing Mike during his quarantine, and we all know how that one ends.

Dr. Mahmoud

This guy is a perfect example of how Heinlein really fleshes out his story from all angles. He's a minor character, but there's a lot to him. We'll give it to you bullet-style:

  • Dr. Mahmoud is linguistics officer of the Champion. Whatever that means.
  • He is water brother to Mike (along with everyone else in the book, pretty much).
  • Mahmoud is the first human to begin learning Martian, and he uses this knowledge to talk to Jubal about how Martians view the universe. (Aha, that's what "linguistics officer" means.)
  • As a Muslim, Mahmoud initially has a poor opinion of Jubal and the way his secretaries act around men. But he eventually admires and enjoys the company of the ladies, even marrying Miriam. 
  • At first he thinks the phrase "Thou Art God" is blasphemous, but he joins the Church of All Worlds after realizing the phrase, and Mike's beliefs in general, do not contend with his Islamic faith. Can we call that a conversion?
  • At the end, he helps Mike create the first Martian dictionary. We'd like to see that—we're just sayin'.

That's a lot of detail for a guy who doesn't even get his own character page, don't you think?

Dr. Sven Nelson

The resident doctor aboard the Champion, Dr. Nelson is one of Mike's first water brothers (awww), and he looks after Mike at Bethesda. When Joe Douglas disregards his medical advice, Nelson quits in anger.

And now for something completely different: he, too, joins the Church of All Worlds. (Do we sound like a broken record yet?)

George Paiwonski

George is Pat's deceased husband. He is responsible for many of her tattoos, including the mural tattoo depicting the life and death of Foster, which is Pat's pride and joy.

Gil Berquist and Detective Johnson

Gil Berquist is an assistant to Secretary-General Douglas. He intercepts Ben at Bethesda hospital and prevents him from seeing the real Man from Mars. Thwarted!

Once Mike escapes, Berquist teams up with Detective Johnson to get him back. They track Mike and Jill to Ben's apartment, but when Johnson gets violent with Jill, Mike sends him to nonexistence. Berquist freaks and pulls a gun. Bad move. It goes without saying that Berquist is never heard from again.

Take that, bad guys.

James Cavendish

Cavendish is a well-known Fair Witness that Ben hires to help get Mike out of Bethesda hospital. In fact, Ben's having hired Cavendish lets Jubal know how serious Ben must have been in his quest to free Mike.

Members of the Inner Circle

The ninth circle—sounds Hellish, don't you think? But there are plenty of members.

Sam is a professor of Oriental languages studying Martian at the church, and Ruth is a jealous housewife who comes to keep an eye on him. Both are chosen by Mike and rapidly rise through the ranks of membership.

Sam and Ruth are particularly optimistic about the church and the discipline of the Martian language. Ruth sees it as helping her appreciate her femininity more fully, and Sam believes it will change the world by altering humanity's perception, needs, and desires, which will in turn alter every industry and institution from clothes manufacturing to education. You can never have too much hope, right?

Bottom line: these two show us how and why so many people were swayed by the Church of All Worlds—it's a pretty attractive place.

Tony, Saul, and Allie get little mention: Saul is Sam's cousin; he and Allie make killings on the stock market that would make Gordon Gekko weep. Tony cooks spaghetti. The end.

Molly Wheelwright

A gossipy dietician who offhandedly comments how Mrs. Bankerson shouldn't be in room K-12, Molly unknowingly gives Jill one more clue to the big government cover-up. Oops.

Mrs. Bankerson

Mrs. B is the woman who supposedly occupies room K-12 after Mike's departure from the hospital. He's actually still in room K-12, though; God only knows where she is.

Osbert Kilgallen

Mr. Best Name Ever is Ben's researcher and office chief. When Douglas's people apprehend Ben, they feed Osbert false information, supposedly coming from Ben himself. Osbert relays the information to Jill, seeing nothing shady about the whole affair, and becomes one more link in Douglas's chain of power.

Senator Tom Boone

Senator Boone is a high ranking Fosterite and American senator who is loud and boisterous in just about everything he does. He invites Mike to a Fosterite service and attempts to convert Mike to Fosterism—that clearly doesn't work, but it definitely gets the ball rolling on some other plot points. While at the tabernacle, Senator Boone is tour guide to Mike, Jubal, and Jill, explaining to them (and us) the hows and the whys of the Fosterite religion.

Thomas Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a reporter for the New World Networks. He helps Jubal get out of a tight spot by getting him in contact with Vesant, who gets Jubal in contact with Agnes, who gets him in contact with Douglas, who gets him in touch with Kevin Bacon. Oh wait, not that last one. Anyway, as a way to say thank you, Jubal offers Mackenzie an interview with the Man from Mars.


The carnival owner is known simply as Tim. He drops Mike's act from the carnival lineup, but not before giving Mike an important lesson on how to work a mark and have the audience feel thankful for the opportunity. Lesson learned. Mike eventually incorporates this nugget into the make-up of his Church of All Worlds, particularly in the first circle.

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