Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Valentine Michael (Mike) Smith
Valentine Michael (Mike) Smith, the protagonist, who was born on Mars of two human scientists but was reared by Martians. “Rescued” and taken to Earth in his mid-twenties, he appears weak and underdeveloped, but his grave eyes reveal his intense curiosity and desire to behave “rightly.” Trained by the Martian “Old Ones,” he is, at least mentally, more Martian than human and has alien concepts of social and moral relationships. Because water is so scarce on Mars, for example, to share it with another creates an unbreakable bond of trust and mutual responsibility with one’s “water brothers.” Death, sex, property, lying, guilt, jealousy, and money are all unknown to Martians, whose sole purpose appears to be to “grok” (Martian for “to totally comprehend”) everything in the universe. Smith’s Martian heritage thus makes him appear extremely innocent to other humans, but, in fact, he has many superhuman powers. These allow him to manipulate, or even separate himself from, his body, to levitate or destroy objects simply through the power of his mind, and to retain and digest immense amounts of information. As the sole survivor of the first, ill-fated expedition to Mars, Smith is both heir to fabulous wealth and the legal “owner” of the entire planet Mars. This makes him a political hot potato for the world government of the Federation, which attempts to keep him incommunicado at the Bethesda...
(The entire section is 854 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Stranger in a Strange Land Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Themes and Characters
Stranger in a Strange Land offers two views of human society, each inextricably linked to a main character in the story. Valentine Michael Smith is "the man from Mars." He is enormously powerful, educated in a fundamentally different way from humans, and generally innocent of the complexities of life on Earth. He provides the outsider's view of human society. He approaches every experience with no preconceived notions or attitudes.
Jubal Harshaw, "bon vivant, gourmet, sybarite, popular author extraordinary, and neo-pessimist philosopher," offers the insider's view. Jubal is a character that seems to have done everything and has found almost everything unfulfilling. He is the ultimate curmudgeon with a heart of gold, the quintessential skeptic and pessimist who can still take advantage of society's weaknesses by writing fiction that appeals to the most tawdry emotional desires. Jubal has seen a great deal of human society and has very little hope for its future. Mike has seen very little of humanity and has an infinite capacity to see the potential in humans.
The first part of the book establishes this opposition and puts these views in conflict. Mike, with the help of Jill and Ben, escapes from a hospital where he is being held and goes into hiding with Jubal. There he finds protection and the time to acclimate to his new earthly society.
In an astounding fashion, the seeming opposite personalities of Jubal and Mike find...
(The entire section is 641 words.)