Study Guide

Stranger in a Strange Land Chapter 3

By Robert A. Heinlein

Chapter 3

  • Captain van Tromp has a discussion with the high ministers of Science, Peace and Security, and Public Information as well as Secretary-General Joseph Douglas (of the World Federation). This sounds like official business.
  • The ministers want Michael Valentine Smith, the human born on Mars, to be released to the public to further their own political agendas, but van Tromp insists that Smith be kept in isolation. 
  • He argues that even though Mike is physically human, mentally he is a Martian—that means Earth will be a wholly alien place for him. The Captain's argument wins out.
  • Mike lies in a futuristic waterbed trying to adjust to the Earth's powerful gravitation field. He uses a Martian technique to control his bodily functions beyond what any human could imagine. After all, who would want to be a human-Martian hybrid and not have at least a couple awesome powers?
  • Science Snack (it is science fiction after all): Crunch a few numbers and you'll see that Mars's gravity is only 38% that of Earth's. That means if you weighed 150 pounds on Mars you would weigh 207 pounds on Earth. Imagine gaining 57 extra pounds all at once, and you can understand just some of the physical stress Mike is under. Of course, if you're 207 pounds on Earth, then you'd only be 150 on Mars. The future of dieting is clear. (Source.)
  • Back to the story: Meechum has a cigarette break with the guards and talks about how the Man from Mars isn't allowed to have women visitors. He's not sure why, but those are the facts.
  • Now Mike Smith gets a visitor: a doctor who asks him if he feels like breakfast. Poor Mike misinterprets this to mean "do you feel like being the food served at breakfast?"
  • In Martian culture, being eaten for breakfast would be a great honor, so Smith might have said yes and made this a much shorter story. But thankfully, Dr. Nelson saves him from any more social faux pas.
  • One of Smith's nurses turns out to be an agent for a publishing house. He tries to get Smith to sign a contract, but another doctor comes in and shoos the agent away.