Study Guide

Stranger in a Strange Land Chapter 21

By Robert A. Heinlein

Chapter 21

  • Jubal, Mike, and the group plus the attending crew of the Champion head to a hotel room Jubal rented out. Duke and Larry are already there, having moved in the stuff ahead of time.
  • The men take their drinks in one room while the women prepare lunch in the other. And where would we get good info on Martians if not over drinks? So let's listen in.
  • Mahmoud discusses the Martian language. He says language is like a map one uses to get around the world. English and Arabic are two different maps; but in time, a native speaker of each could learn to use the other map effectively. However, the Martian map is so completely alien (pardon the pun) to human thought that a human could never learn to get around with it. Except, of course, given Mike's circumstances.
  • Our linguist also considers the word grok. The nearest literal translation is "to drink," but it also means a hundred different English words like love and hate. To grok means "to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes part of the observed" (21.79).
  • Aha.
  • Mike again uses his "Thou art God" phrase. Mahmoud thinks this is totally blasphemous, but that's the end of it.
  • Jubal explains that he brought his own food so that no one would poison Mike. Mike's wealth and infamous status make him dangerous (and a target), even if Mike doesn't know it.
  • Vesant calls to congratulate Jubal on his act. It was a pretty good show, after all.
  • Doctor Nelson now gives Mike an examination. Apparently Mike's muscles have formed to a level of someone who has been lifting weights for years, not swimming in a pool for a week. He has no idea how Mike does it. (Neither do we, but we'd love to find out.)
  • The talks continue and the theme shifts to money. Apparently, Jubal did what he did to keep Mike from the burden of being too wealthy, a life-shaping burden that would require him to protect his wealth for as long as he lives. 
  • And, of course, more Martian discussion. Captain van Tromp, Mahmoud, and Dr. Nelson share with the group their belief that the Martians are more dangerous than most people think. 
  • To prove their point, they tell the story of a Champion crewman named Agnew. Something tells us this one doesn't have a happy ending.
  • Here's the story: Agnew did not like the Martians and so he traveled the planet armed. One day, a Martian took Agnew out of existence just like Mike did to the S.S. soldiers. Wah wah.
  • With that story in mind, these three guys think that the Martians could have sent Mike less as an ambassador and more as an invasion force.
  • Bradley shows up with the papers for Mike to sign to make Douglas's new position official. 
  • The papers are signed. It's done. Onward to Part 3.

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