Study Guide

Stranger in a Strange Land Chapter 14

By Robert A. Heinlein

Chapter 14

  • The chapter opens with an omniscient narrator discussing the Laputian society from Gulliver's Travels (see the Literature Snack below). Laputian society has something called a "flapper"—a man paid to speak for his masters by actually moving his master's mouth.
  • Apparently, flappers exist within human society in the form of executive assistants, receptionists, lobbyists, and golf buddies. We (we of the future, that is) have these jobs because we are always in such a hurry and can't talk to all the people we need to in a day.
  • In contrast, the Martians don't have concepts like "executive assistant" or even "hurry." Sure, they understand velocity and speed, but only in terms of mathematics, not in terms of life choices.
  • Literature Snack: Laputa is a floating island found in the third part of Gulliver's Travels, a satirical adventure by Jonathan Swift. The Laputians who live in Laputa are great intellectuals that have lost all common sense. For example, they are great mathematicians and astronomers, but they can hardly make their own clothes.
  • Okay, back to the story. Jubal tries to get in touch with Secretary-General Douglas but is kept at bay by an elaborate network of flappers. He eventually asks to speak to Gilbert Berquist (remember, he now knows of Berquist's disappearance ) and gets put on hold.
  • While on hold, Jubal asks Mike what he' watching on the stereovision. Mike doesn't know and shows Jubal a Fosterite program—two Fosterites are proclaimed to be going to heaven on Thursday morning. Jubal asks Mike to talk to him about it later.
  • Captain Heinrich comes on the line and demands to know why Jubal wants to get a hold of Berquist and the Secretary-General. Jubal refuses to answer—he's not caving that easily.
  • Heinrich promises that he'll keep intercepting Jubal's calls until the answers are given. We'll see about that, Heinrich.
  • So that plain failed. Next? Jubal and the household go relax by the pool and wait for something to happen.
  • Jubal notices that Duke isn't with them. He worries Mike might have done something, but it turns out Duke just went into town. NBD.
  • Meanwhile, Mike talks with Jubal about the Fosterite service. Jubal realizes that the Martians have no concept of religion. Religion, philosophy, and science are all rolled into one as "'learnings' from the 'Old Ones'" (14.104). They are all indistinguishable from each other.
  • Jubal reveals himself to be an agnostic He believes all religions are equally prone to having found the truth, but he feels more inclined to like some more than others based on his emotions and pride. Quick example: he's not a big fan of the Fosterites.
  • And…more discussion. When asked who Martians think made the universe, Mike says that the question isn't really a question. He responds, "World is. World was. World shall be. Now." (14.125). 
  • Sounds deep.
  • Just like his issue with fiction and nonfiction, Mike can't tell the difference between truths and falsehoods since lies are not a concept on Mars.
  • Man, oh man, more discussion. Now the subject has changed to what is a "man," in its broadest sense—i.e., human being. They come to the conclusion a man is someone who laughs. Circle that passage. It'll be important later. (Plus it's just a nice thought.)
  • While we're circling passages, let's put some graphite around "Thou art God" (14.180), Mike's reply to what the word God means.
  • Two air cars approach. Jubal has Mike hide in the body of the pool—still filled with murky water—and tells Anne to get into her Fair Witness robes. Mike is instructed to come out of the pool only when Jill comes down to get him.
  • They sure had a plan.
  • Heinrich lands his air car right in Jubal's rose garden. Jubal goes into lawyer-mode, but the Captain produces four warrants of arrest: one each for Gilbert Berquist, Jill, Mike, and Jubal.
  • Not good.

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