Study Guide

Stranger in a Strange Land Chapter 29

By Robert A. Heinlein

Chapter 29

  • After Patricia leaves, Mike and Jill decide it's time to bolt as well. Next stop, Las Vegas.
  • Mike takes up gambling. Although, to be fair, it's not really gambling since he can make the game turn out however he wants.
  • He tries to grok the concept of gambling on the human psyche, and he finds that the gambling drive is sexual in nature but with a wrongness to it.
  • Jill gets a job at a theater-restaurant as a showgirl. She finds that her mentality has changed toward exhibitionism. So it seems. Before, she would have found the "lecherous old wolves" (29.39) distasteful, but now she doesn't mind their lustful stares.
  • What's caused this complete 180? As they discuss it, Mike is confused that Jill would have ever disliked being looked at to begin with.
  • The conversation turns toward Duke's collection of naughty pictures. Mike can't understand why they are called naughty, so Jill gives him a little demonstration on the different levels of naughty pictures. Well, then.
  • During Jill's next show, Mike helps her see herself through the eyes of the restaurant's patrons. She groks the voyeurism through a man's eyes and understands the goodness in it and in naughty pictures.
  • As you might imagine, this part of the novel can be one of the more controversial, so make sure to read the book before drawing your own conclusions.
  • Mike and Jill leave the Vegas Strip and head to Palo Alto (Heinlein was way ahead of the Silicon Valley curve, apparently). Mike consumes the library there and then it's off to San Francisco. 
  • Mike begins a systematic study of religion—everything from Fosterite doctrine to Hinduism to Crowley's Book of the Law.
  • He has a tough time grokking the multiplicity of religion in human culture, especially coming from the Martian race where the Old Ones simply tell you what to do and where there is no mystery as to what happens after death.
  • He disregards science and philosophy as possible answers. Science, he claims, can't answer the questions he is searching to answer, and philosophy is simply a bunch of guys answering questions with conclusions they had come to beforehand. (Anyone who's taken Philosophy 101 might agree.)
  • Mike decides he wants to go to the zoo and try to grok a camel that spit at him earlier. He wants to spit back and ask him what he's so sour about.
  • Man, how we wish we could do stuff like that.
  • At the Golden Gate Park Zoo, Mike watches a monkey beat up a smaller monkey for a peanut. The mistreated monkey is sore and goes and beats up an even smaller monkey. Oh, monkeys.
  • The incident instantly causes Mike to burst out laughing. Laughter!
  • Since laughter is so foreign to Mike, it consumes him, so much so that a zoo attendant thinks he's having a fit and calls them a cab.
  • Mike eventually calms down. At home, Mike proclaims that he finally groks people. This is a big deal, if you didn't notice.
  • He tells Jill that laughter is not simply laughing at something nice or funny. It's a distinctly human trait that allows us to be brave and share (like water brothers) a means to fight "pain and sorrow and defeat" (29.178). You know, kind of like how The Daily Show and The Colbert Report balance out the horror-drenched spectacle of the 24-hour news networks.
  • That night, Mike comes to the conclusion that he has not helped humanity enough. And with that, he asks Jill how to become ordained.

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