Study Guide

Stranger in a Strange Land Chapter 31

By Robert A. Heinlein

Chapter 31

  • Here's what went down at Mikes church (called the Church of All Worlds):
  • Patty meets Ben at the door, naked except for the tattoos, and gives him the full-on kiss of brotherhood.
  • Patty is Ben's naked tour guide of the facility. The tour includes her bedroom filled with snakes—venomous and not—left to roam around freely. Apparently, she groks them and understands that they will do no harm.
  • Ben says he prefers glass, and when it comes to those venomous ones, we're personally siding with Ben.
  • Ben notices two odd things in the church. One is a sign reading, "Did You Remember to Dress?" (31.14) and the other is a group of large bowls filled with money next to an exit.
  • The first makes sure the Nest's nudist tendencies don't accidently wander outside and into public. The second provides everyone with spending money. All commodities are shared in the Nest. All commodities, as we'll see.
  • We learn that Patty mostly teaches beginning classes in the Martian language while Jill and Dawn Ardent (remember her?) are the high priestesses of the church.
  • Patty and Dawn, being well-known Fosterites, help other Fosterites realize that Mike's church does not conflict with other religions. In fact, Jewish, Mormon, and Catholic followers have also joined the inner ranks.
  • Patty invites Ben to witness a service, and so he accepts. Hey, we'd be curious, too.
  • Back to the present!
  • Ben quickly drops the fact that Jubal is the patron saint of Mike's church, a fact Jubal takes with characteristic chagrin
  • Our informant now describes the service: it has an evangelical bent mixed with some magician flair. Mike, it seems, has learned to play to the audience.
  • Ben reveals that Mike's system is composed of nine circles, and Mike, during these first level services, picks out the people he wants to initiate deeper into the church.
  • Ben then describes a seventh circle ceremony. The mood has changed from the glitz and glamor of the first level service to something more solemn. The miracles have become more fabulous in these ceremonies and public affection more pronounced: kissing, making out, spin the bottle, basement party type stuff.
  • Okay, jump back to the past for more detail on the services.
  • Jill comes out on stage, and Mike refers to her by the names of various goddesses. Ben wants to stay and watch Jill (they were almost engaged at one point, remember?), but Patty beckons him to go with her. 
  • They pick up Honeybun, Patty's snake, and Ben sees more naked people. It's becoming pretty clear that the nudist aspect of Mike's church extends beyond Patty and her tattoos.
  • Ben meets up with Jill and Dawn. They talk, and Jill says the key to everything is the Martian language. Before they can help people to think in a more Martian way, they must learn the language; otherwise, it's impossible. 
  • In fact, some of the more advanced students are even starting to get Mike's powers. For example, Dawn and Jill are starting to look like each other and neither requires much sleep or food to sustain them.
  • Creepy. And cool.
  • The lack of clothes is pointed out to be a means to help people grok closer. Unfortunately, not everyone else on the planet agrees: they tell a story about how Mike went to a beach without clothes and started a riot. 
  • After that digression, Jill tells Dawn to go take care of Ben. And, yes, that's code for them sleeping together.