Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

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 hospital complex near Washington, D.C. With the help of newfound human friends, however, he escapes from the clutches of the Federation and begins an odyssey of self-discovery and self-education in the nature of the human condition. He eventually uses his new awareness and Martian powers to develop and propagate a religious philosophy that combines Martian wisdom with sexual ecstasy and openness, as well as a revelation of the universal “Godhood” and individual responsibility of all creatures who “grok” the cosmos.

Ben Caxton

Ben Caxton, a well-known free-lance investigative reporter....

(The entire section is 854 words.)

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Stranger in a Strange Land offers two views of human society, each inextricably linked to a main character in the story. Valentine...

(The entire section is 641 words.)