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Perelandra Chap. 3

An archived study of the second book of Lewis' theological science fiction Space Trilogy.

Perelandra Chap. 3

Postby Kanakaberaka » 02 Nov 2004, 06:46

Synopsis - Ransom gives vague hints about his trip through outer space in the casket provided by the Oyarsa. Then it becomes vivid with his splashdown in the Perlandran ocean. After a thrilling swim he makes in onto a floating isand where he finds food and rest.
----------------------------------------------------
Ransom's trip out of the Earth's atmosphere appears to be not simply a voyage into the heavens but a sojourn in Heaven itself. Or at least the spirit realm. Lewis mentions an Anthroposophist who makes Ransom open up to his impressions about "seeing life". I thought at first that Anthroposophy was some sort of science. But apparently it is a sort of religious organization (which some might consider a cult) founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) after he broke off from Theosophy. He belived in the evolution of the soul as well as the body. And oddly enough placed importance in The Incarnation of Jesus as well as reincarnation. Our favorite sceptic McPhee also makes a cameo appearence to challenge Lewis on his belief in the Resurrection of the body. Ransom comes to Lewis' aid with some unusual first hand experiences about transcending the need for food and sex.
Apon Ransom's splashdown into the planet wide ocean of Venus things become more understandable. Lewis once again discribes the sensations Ransom feels as he descends into the atmosphere and eventualy the water of Perelandra. It is left up to us to figure out what is going on. One thing that had me puzzled was how Ransom was able to see through his blindfold before his limbs were able to move. A "golden or coppery" colour mentioned as Ransom's casket made it's descent before hitting the water. Also of interest is the way the casket dissolves after it's use is over.
I remember reading something about an old theory that the planet Venus may have been covered with carbonated water. This might have been the inspiration for Lewis' Perelandra. The golden sky remeniscent of medieval paintings was another nice touch to illustrate Ransom's state of mind. The floating islands are as realistic as any imaginary world I can remember reading about in science fiction. Lewis takes the time to discribe all the feelings Ransom had while attempting to adjust to walking on such unusual floating landscapes. And many of these feelings are unusualy lighthearted for such an alien world.
It's Ransom's encounter with the balloon fruit which illustrates his becoming a new man. He enjoys the incomparable taste of this fruit to the fullest. And yet he eats just enough to satisfy his hunger and no more. He knows somehow what is right for this new world.
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 3

Postby Guest » 02 Nov 2004, 15:49

[From K:]
>>Our favorite sceptic McPhee also makes a cameo appearance.

A pre-cameo apperance, I guess, because he's not famous yet. :-)


>>Ransom comes to Lewis' aid with some unusual first-hand experiences about transcending the need for food and sex.

I wish Lewis had told us more about this discussion. Lewis's ideas of heaven as 'more-not-less' and as 'trans-reality' not a 'substandard reality' are developed in several places, including "Letters to Malcolm" but I always want more.

(I suppose in heaven, fat will become 'trans-fat?' )

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Re: Perelandra Chap. 3

Postby a_hnau » 02 Nov 2004, 20:16

Hi again, all. My usual random thoughts on this chapter;

- "since he was not the only philologist present, that diverted the conversation into different channels" - a personal anecdote, if I may; I was once on a linguistics course, and my wife had tagged along. One evening we all went to the pub, and my wife (who was the only one there who was not a professional linguist) remarks to this day on how animated the conversation was and how much in my element I appeared (which is unusual for me!)
- "the golden roof of that world.... the queen of those seas views herself continually in the celestial mirror" - looks forward to the Un-man's attempt to teach Tinidril vanity - it is right for Perelandra the planet to contemplate her own reflection in an unfallen state (see also THS, the passage Jane reads in the unnamed book at St. Anne's about 'the beauty of the female' - I wish I knew where this was quoted from)
- the physical impact, the sheer unfallen boisterousness, vigour of the environment in which Ransom finds himself - I'm reminded of The Great Divorce where the visitor is told that he will gradually become accustomed to the nature of things, so that the grass itself will no longer hurt his feet
- again, "hungry and thirsty" reminds me of Jane's hunger and thirst, desire for sensory and aesthetic experiences in music and poetry she feels after seeing Ransom in THS
- Ransom's reluctance to overindulge in the fruit; I'm reminded of Lewis's saying that 'encore' is perhaps the only prayer God never answers
- "the day was burning to death" - echoes "the remains of the day" (I only know this as a film with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, but I'm sure it must have a literary reference?)
- the sudden onset of darkness reminds me of the way night falls at the Equator on Earth - again, Lewis captures perfectly the physical sensation on the eyeballs of absolute blackness
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 3

Postby Sven » 02 Nov 2004, 21:00

Kanakaberaka wrote: Lewis mentions an Anthroposophist who makes Ransom open up to his impressions about "seeing life". I thought at first that Anthroposophy was some sort of science. But apparently it is a sort of religious organization (which some might consider a cult) founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) after he broke off from Theosophy. He belived in the evolution of the soul as well as the body. And oddly enough placed importance in The Incarnation of Jesus as well as reincarnation.


Anthroposophy was the belief system of Lewis' close and long time friend Owen Barfield. The arguement over it between them, which lasted from around 1923 to sometime before Lewis became a Christian in 1931, was called by them "The Great War". Neither man ever convinced the other that he was in religious error, but Lewis did come to agree with Barfield on the error of chronological snobbery as part of the debate. In Surprised by Joy Lewis said that Barfield was "the wisest and best of my unofficial teachers". Lewis considered Anthroposophy to be overly concerned with the occult, but liked that it still held up the truth of Christianity and was too 'Germanically dull' to entice very many followers.

Selah,
Sven
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 3

Postby hey now, a hnau :-) » 02 Nov 2004, 22:39

A hnau:

I've been posting on these forums for 7 years but the past several months have seen such sweeping changes that I can no longer easily navigate my way. I didn't notice until now your response from last week to my post. Thanks so much.


[From a hnau]
"the golden roof of that world.... the queen of those seas views herself continually in the celestial mirror" - looks forward to the Un-man's attempt to teach Tinidril vanity - it is right for Perelandra the planet to contemplate her own reflection in an unfallen state."

Wonderful observation! It hints in a reverse way of Orual, and possibly even Joy Davidman, who did not count mirrors as friends -- at least not mirrors on our planet.
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 3

Postby langweilig » 02 Nov 2004, 22:44

[From Sven]:
>>Anthroposophy ....was too 'Germanically dull' to entice very many followers.

Thank heavens the same wasn't true of Lutheranism. :-)
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 3

Postby a_hnau » 03 Nov 2004, 07:14

You're welcome :) I had not made the link with Orual and with Joy, so thanks in exchange.
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Perelandra Chap. 3 -- overload

Postby Stanley Anderson » 03 Nov 2004, 18:23

The first thing I wanted to say about this chapter is something I’m not yet sure of. Ransom’s arrival on Perelandra is for him a riot of colours and overwhelming senses and confused thoughts and intense emotions. It almost reminds me of a sort of “boot camp” initialization where the will of the initiates needs to be broken down in a way that they may be built back up to have the kind of strength needed for future tasks. Ransom can’t be sure of anything he sees and it is all so overwhelming that he can only sort of receive it in without being able to react intellectually (although there is plenty here about his thoughts during the process). It sort of wears him down mentally so that he effectively is simply ready to "give in" to the role he will be playing in the book as advocate for Maleldil. In a corrupt, dark, worldly way, this is the sort of thing that various cults can often engage in in order to "brainwash" their inductees. But of course that "dark side" is not Lewis' intent here.

It is also, I think a sort of rapid “bringing up to speed” of the very Perelandrian nature that he is going to be encountering where the unfallen creature must simply submit to the will of Maleldil – embrace the wave that comes, as it will be described later in the book, without longing or trying to preserve what has passed. There is too much to take in ahead to take time to look behind. And the continual change in point-of-view helps effect this – something that is brought out continually in a physical way as the very landscape of the islands changes moment to moment from hillsides to valleys to flat lands.

On this last point I am reminded (again!:-) very much of The Discarded Image where Lewis talks much about models as ways of seeing reality. In Perelandra, he writes, “[the floating islands] are dry and fruitful like land but their only shape is the inconstant shape of the water beneath them. Yet the land-like appearance proved hard to resist.”

In any case, I feel like the intense displacement and disorientation for Ransom is meant to serve some kind of literary or theological purpose besides simple pure excitement and fascination for the reader. I touch on the possible theological purposes above (although I also feel like there is something more that I can’t put my finger on yet), but the literary purposes may also to help put the reader into similar state of pure wonderment like Ransom, so that they will be ready to absorb the rather intellectual discourse to come later in the book.

In any case, the evidence that this overwhelming of Ransom’s senses is taking effect is shown by that beautiful last lines of the chapter (that I quoted some time ago on these forums) – “Night covered him like a blanket and kept all loneliness from him. The blackness might have been his own room. Sleep came like a fruit which falls into the hand almost before you have touched the stem.” In advance of the next chapter’s comments, I’ll just say how magically this leads into the opening sentence of chapter 4 – “At Ransom’s waking something happened to him which perhaps never happens to a man until he is out of his own world: he saw reality, and thought it was a dream.” (and of course the wonderful images that follow).

Other notes on the chapter -- The encore prohibition that Ransom feels is a sort of prefiguring of the prohibition of staying on the fixed land (a point that is made explicitly near the end of the book by the Green Lady herself after Ransom’s “resurrection”)

I notice that Lewis’ characters often seem very concerned about losing their sanity. Lewis the walker wonders several times whether or not he is on the verge of madness, and here in this chapter we read, “If he [Ransom] had any fear now, it was a faint apprehension that his reason might be in danger. There was something on Perelandra that might overload a human brain.” With the intensity of the images and descriptions I also wonder if the reader isn’t in danger of overload too:-)

But the mention of Ransom’s “reason” brings me to another TDI connection. In the description of Ransom’s reluctance to repeat the pleasure of eating from the gourd, Lewis writes, “His reason, or what we commonly take to be reason in our own world…”. This is probably too in depth to get into here, but this is almost a direct reference to the change in the meaning of “reason” from the medieval mindset to later meanings. He writes in some detail about this idea in pages 158-162 in my edition of TDI. He writes later in the Perelandra paragraph ‘Yet something seemed opposed to this “reason” ‘. Lewis puts quotes around “reason” here because the modern meaning of reason has been narrowed down from the medieval sense to include only a sort of logical deduction. But as he explains in TDI, it’s medieval sense was that reason was the “organ or morality”. In this section of Perelandra Lewis is pointing out that Ransom’s more encompassing “medieval reason” was acting in opposition to his merely modern narrow sense of reason as a simple “I like it – I want more of it – therefore I should simply take more” sort of logical deduction.

I’ll mention as a personal note that re-reading his description of tasting the gourd always reminds me of my experience of tasting a wonderful passion-fruit drink for the first time on our honeymoon in Hawaii (I’ve searched for and tried numerous passion fruit juices and drinks in the years since here in California, and though I like them, nothing matches the heavenly taste of that fresh island drink I had for the first time – not sure if it was a real difference in flavour or the elevated feeling being on a honeymoon, or simply my memory building it up more than it actually was. I do know that the fresh pineapple was definitely better there than those we get here.)

Another perhaps rather obscure connection in my mind is the rapid descent of night on Perelandra into absolute blackness with no real twilight, and the sudden change between night and day in Samuel Beckett’s very bleak (and yet one of my favourites by any writer) play “Happy Days” (not connected in any way with the TV series about Richie and ‘The Fonz’). And just bringing that play to mind makes me think of interesting contrasts between Perelandra and Happy Days. They both have similar “turning on and off” of day and night, but in one the world everything is barren and bleak (a woman is buried up to her waist in the ground and ponders very bleak surrounding with exclamations of “Oh what a happy day this is!” when she is able to squeeze the tiniest bit of toothpaste out of a tube, for example), while in the other a woman (the Green Lady) exists in a world of overwhelming beauty and plenty. (I’m suddenly remembering a scene in the play too where a passer-by wonders whether the woman is wearing anything underneath the dirt she is buried in – an odd connection to the Green Lady’s state perhaps? The play might make for an interesting paper in comparing it to Perelandra)

Oh, and I meant to mention at some point about Lewis’ extensive use of “water and water surface” images. Of course the whole planet is covered in water and his first experience there is to be immersed in it, but in several places (not just in Perelandra) he uses these sorts of images as primarily images of joy and beauty. In this chapter mentions some bushes coloured like sea anemones and efforts at walking like “walking on water”. Not much support in those isolated images, but later on in the book we will see “forests” with ocean-like leaves blowing in the wind and such. And there is much in OSP of these sorts of images as well as in Narnia. I get the impression that Lewis was very fond of this sort of “floating in water” or the surface of water dividing two worlds above and beneath as inspiring feelings of Joy.

One little side note: in my paperback on page 41 four lines down is this sentence – “It took him several hours to get a hundred years away from the edge, or coast, of the floating island”. I think the word “years” must surly have been meant to be “yards”. Does anyone else’s copy have this typo? Perhaps mine is just an old copy:-)

Well, enough for now.

--Stanley
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 3 -- overload

Postby Sven » 03 Nov 2004, 20:41

Stanley Anderson wrote:One little side note: in my paperback on page 41 four lines down is this sentence – “It took him several hours to get a hundred years away from the edge, or coast, of the floating island”. I think the word “years” must surly have been meant to be “yards”. Does anyone else’s copy have this typo? Perhaps mine is just an old copy:-)

--Stanley


heh, never noticed that before, mine has the same thing. I have the Collier paperback, the 40th printing. Would have thought they would have caught it by then :lol:
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Off topic

Postby Sven » 03 Nov 2004, 21:52

but of possible interest to gardeners, is this site Perelandra Garden

Image
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Off topic

Postby Sven » 03 Nov 2004, 21:59

I looked about to find why the owners of the garden named it such, and found this

When they first moved to the property, they found the damage done by improper logging more substantial than previously thought. Healing the land necessitated that they also heal themselves. Creating harmony and balance became an internal as well as external task. Since their personal struggles were so akin to the story of Perelandra, by C. S. Lewis, they chose the book's name for their land. Lewis's "Perelandra'' meant Venus, planet of perfection, and he used the conflict between two earthlings, one representing good, the other evil, to illustrate how the balance between the two is the real source of true perfection, the harmony of the whole. This story inspired both Machaelle and Clarence, and gave them courage.
May/June '88 NEW REALITIES Magazine


"...the balance between the two is the real source of true perfection, the harmony of the whole..."

Makes me wonder if they read the same book I did.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Off topic

Postby Stanley Anderson » 03 Nov 2004, 22:14

[from Sven]:
>"...the balance between the two is the real source of true perfection, the
>harmony of the whole..."

>Makes me wonder if they read the same book I did.

They were obviously referring to the fact that Ransom had to destroy the Unman and toss his body into the underground lava bed (or whatever it was). This symbolizes them burying the effects of the logging deep underground and perhaps using some of the remnants to fuel a compost pile.

Or maybe not:-) I'm as wonder-some as you.

--Stanley
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 3 -- overload

Postby a_hnau » 04 Nov 2004, 21:22

Stanley Anderson wrote:The first thing I wanted to say about this chapter is something I’m not yet sure of. Ransom’s arrival on Perelandra is for him a riot of colours and overwhelming senses and confused thoughts and intense emotions.


Reading this line I was instantly reminded of what we're told the world is like to a newborn baby - 'a booming, buzzing confusion'. Surely this resonates with Ransom's experience of arriving in Perelandra, a kind of birth.
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This is NOT an allegory, right?

Postby Ebbingkneeser » 23 Jan 2005, 04:42

Ransom, apparently the first human on the planet, reaching up to pick fruit, I couldn't help but think of the Garden of Eden. Only, apparently the fruit is not forbidden, and there is no automatic link of pleasure and guilt on this planet.
"Life is the increasingly rarefied experience of the beautiful."
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Allegory, what allegory?

Postby Kanakaberaka » 23 Jan 2005, 12:23

Greetings Ebbingkneeser -
C.S. Lewis stuck to a very narrow, concise definition of the word "allegory". If I remember correctly, Lewis said that every character in an allegory personifies a line of thought or doctrine. The idea, I suppose is to have ideas interact with one another in the form of fictional characters. If you ask me though, "Perelandra" comes very close to doing just that. Maybe Lewis wanted us to enjoy this story for what it is rather than attempting to decipher hidden meanings as would be the case of full blown allegory.
so it goes...
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