Saturday, June 7, 2014

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Title: Stranger in a Strange Land
Author:  Robert Heinlein
Original Publication Date: 1961
Pages: 528 (Abridged); 756 (Original)

“Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s at least partly her own fault.” (511)

Perhaps this is the single most quoted statement from this work, and also the statement by which Heinlein is critiqued and berated, the same statement by which this philosophically charged work is sullied by 1-star ratings. Whether by inadvertent straying into a faulty conception and erroneous application of intentional fallacy or the failure to recognize that Heinlein sought this work to stand as historicization of the prevailing attitudes at the time of writing juxtaposed with those of the future, as represented by the Man from Mars, the loss of substance predicated upon such mistakes are saddening.

Most reviews needlessly nitpick this book by implacably quoting sexist remarks offered to us by a cantankerous Jubal, who symbolized the attitude of a bigoted past, but that is missing the big picture, and missing the very idea this book seeks to impart. That is the point, to present homophobic, sexist, resistant-to-change personas that stand for the past, because in the end, we see that Jubal, is opened up to a new philosophy, divested of all improprieties and finds himself realigning his beliefs, a belief which is open to change.

By doing so, Heinlein, through Jubal and the Man from Mars, asks the reader, by extension, to reexamine beliefs and conventions. To disregard this by literally focusing on the sexism is to lose the quintessential aspect of the book.

See beyond the literal. Challenge the conventions.

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