Study Guide

Stranger in a Strange Land Chapter 4

By Robert A. Heinlein

Chapter 4

  • Gillian "Jill" Boardman hears the Man from Mars isn't allowed to see women. Naturally, she takes this as a challenge and sneaks in to see him.
  • Inside Smith's room, she offers him a glass of water, unknowingly becoming Smith's water brother, a sacred bond between Martians. Oops. (You can check out the "Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory" section for more on water and water brothers.)
  • Delicious shenanigans ensue. Smith asks what makes Jill a woman. Jill asks, rather sarcastically, if she needs to take her clothes off to show him.
  • Smith's imperfect grasp of the English language means the sarcasm goes right over his head, and Smith says yes. You know, it's that typical old tale of boy meets girl, boy treats girl like a specimen under a microscope, and girl wonders what's wrong with boy.
  • Jill leaves, and Smith tries to grok what just happened.
  • Don't worry, we don't know what grok means either at this point. Just grok with it.
  • Ben Caxton calls Jill to invite her to dinner. He sends an auto-taxi to the roof—of course it flies, since this is the future—but he isn't in it. He thinks it's better they aren't seen together.
  • The two have dinner and drinks—real food, not the synthetic stuff. Ben finds out that Jill has visited the Man from Mars and they get to talking.
  • Ben drops a few facts about Michael Smith. Apparently he was born from an affair between Dr. Mary Jane Smith and Captain Brant. When Mrs. Smith died in childbirth, Mr. Smith (Mary Smith's husband) promptly killed Captain Brant and then committed suicide. Remember that whole idea from Chapter 1 that married couples would be the best people to go to Mars? Yep, dandy.
  • In addition to his not-so-noble conception, Mike dominates the minds of Earth's politicians for two other reasons. First, he is the legitimate heir to the entire crew of the Envoy and owns their substantial assets and lucrative patents. Not too shabby.
  • Second, he is the sole owner of the planet Mars according to Earth law (!). That's the gist of it anyway. Even in the imaginary future, laws are overly complicated and ambiguous.

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