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Perelandra Chap. 9

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

Perelandra Chap. 9

Postby Kanakaberaka » 18 Jan 2005, 03:58

Synopsis : Ransom awakes on the floating island and is horrified to discover a mangled creature. After putting it out of it's misery he finds dozens more of the frog-like creatures mutilated in the same manner. Ransom follows the bloody trail where he finds the possesed Weston gleefully torturing them for no good reason. Ransom faints at the sight of the evil spirit behind Weston's actions. When he awakes he searches for and finds Weston and the Green Lady in conversation once again. Ransom can barely get a word in, mainly because the Green Lady is not used to talking to more than one person at a time. But when he finaly does, the battle against the temptation of the Green Lady begins. The evil spirit thinks he has pulled his trump card when he asks Ransom if it was a good thing that came from Eve's disobedience because Maleldil became human to save us. Ransom feels stumped. Untill he thinks of the only truthfull comeback. Ransom asks the demon if he was happy with the incarnation of Maleldil. All Weston can do is howl like a wolf as the Green Lady takes a snooze. The demon's only recourse is to taunt Ransom by repeatedly calling his name and saying "nothing" to Ransom's response.

All those mutilated Perelandran frogs gave us a glimpse into the mind of the demon controling Weston. But Ransom was not confronted with all of them at once. He notices only one unfortunate creature at first and takes pity on it. Lewis provides much detail about the sad condition of the animal. This reminds me of the saying that "One death is a tragedy, a thousands deaths is a statistic". By focusing on the torment of one creature at first we are shown the full seriousness of the demon's actions.
Of course this is just an introduction to the state of Weston's possesed mind. In it we see pure evil without appologies. There is no rationalization for it's hienous acts. Just an empty evil smile on it's face. This chapter is one of the reasons I enjoyed "Perelandra" so much. The notion that the very face of the Devil would inflame as much despair as the face of God would inspire unimaginable Joy is something Lewis illustrates so well.

Ransom's pivotal role in the three way debate seems hopeless when the demon brings up Maleldil's becoming man. Ransom remembers the doctrine of "Felix Peccatum Adne" - O happy sin of Adam. It is the idea that God makes things well in spite of human sin so that a better good than the original happens. How can Ransom refute such truth? Yet Ransom does think of one thing the demon is reluctant to talk about. Ransom asks him, "Do you rejoice that Maleldil became man? Tell her your joys, and of what profit you had when you made Maleldil and death acquaninted." Weston's demon looses all rationality and can only howl like a wounded animal at Ransom's answer. This is such a wonderful illustration of how shallow the polished arguments of the Devil really are.
As night settles in all this fallen spirit can do is annoy Ransom by calling out his name to keep him awake. This seems to me like a diabolical version of the old "Are we there yet?" inquiry made by children on long car trips.
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 9

Postby Guest » 21 Jan 2005, 01:10

[From K:] Ransom remembers the doctrine of "Felix Peccatum Adne" - O happy sin of Adam. It is the idea that God makes things well in spite of human sin so that a better good than the original happens.

Or Milton's "Felix Culpa" -- the idea of the fortunate fall. This ties back to Stanley's comments on the last chapter about how things that came about as a result of the fall are ultimately not eliminated, but glorified, by God.

[From K:]
The diabolical "are we there yet".

Again, yes, like the Chinese water torture its pain is in its repetition, not in any inherent violence. Like this chapter itself, one of the tools of the Devil must be sheer frustration.
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Perelandra Chap. 9 -- Stanley's comments

Postby Stanley Anderson » 24 Jan 2005, 17:15

Here is another attempt to sift through the myriad comments I would like to make and mention only a few (very frustrating at times:-)

When Ransom finds the mutilated frog, he thinks, about the beautiful aspects of Perelandra – “all these had become, in one instant, merely the illuminated margin of a book whose text was the struggling little horror at his feet”. What a striking (and yet similar in imagery) contrast to that wonderful ending to The Last Battle where all that had come before was but the title page. Here is the hellish companion to that imagery.

Ransom is physically ill at the process of completely killing the frog. Lewis writes, “It seems odd to say this of a man who had been on the Somme: but the architects tell us that nothing is great or small save by position.” This is another restatement of the section I have quoted before from The Discarded Image about the difference between the medieval classical view and the modern romantic view of the world. That it was the immense but finite (and “structured”) classical view that made the world seem even smaller in comparison to the universe to medieval man than it does to modern man with his “infinitely” larger, but romantically “structure-less” view of the universe where comparisons disappear into the fog of distance.

When Ransom faints at the face of evil, Lewis describes that horror and its effect. Though he doesn’t mention it by name, it is very Medusa-like, in its effect of causing trauma simply by looking at it. I wonder if the Green Lady was not susceptible to it because she had not yet gained the knowledge of good and evil and so could not recognize it in the face of the UnMan?

Later the UnMan, talking about “stories” to the Green Lady says, “It is a great branching out…This making of story or poetry about things that might be but are not. If you shrink back from it, are you not drawing back from the fruit that is offered you?” I can’t help but think of Aslan’s comment to the children at various points of the Narnia stories that they are not to know “what would have happened”. Here the Un-Man is trying to entice the Green Lady into considering this knowledge. I like the Green Lady’s response: “But if I try to make the story about living on the Fixed island I do not know how to make it about Maleldil”. I wonder if this might be a good way to decide if certain art is worth its creation or not – “can we make it about God?” Not sure where that thought leads in the great debate about “what is art?”.

It was curious about how discussion was difficult because the Lady was not accustomed to conversation between more than two. This strikes me as how male “linear” thought is often described, and it is the Green Lady amongst two males that is having the problem. Curious. (I’m just mentioning it out of curious observation -- not sure what to make of it)

“And will you teach us Death?” said the Lady to Westons’s shape, where it stood above her. “Yes,” it said, “it is for this that I came here, that you may have Death in abundance”. Brr-rr-rr-r-r what a chilling line as a corruption of the real line. It underscores Lewis’ comment that evil cannot create of it’s own, but only corrupt or mock what goodness is already there. The UnMan calls Ransom “bad” and the Green Lady can only accept it for she knows neither what “bad” or “lies” are.

One of the things I am so impressed with in Perelandra is how Lewis (as he mentions in TDI about a quality that medieval writers strove for in their characters’ dialogues) does not waver in giving the UnMan’s arguments. They are as strong as he can make them – there is no ominous music in the background to let the reader know that this is not to be listened to. It must be dealt with and Lewis pulls no punches.

I find a bit of the Unman’s inconsistency interesting: After talking about how much older he is than Ransom, he says “Look at him – consider how white his cheeks have turned and how his forehead is wet. You have not seen such things before; you will see them more often hereafter. It is what happens – it is the beginning of what happens – to little creatures when they set themselves against great ones.” However the Unman doesn’t seem to let this dissuasion toward disobedience to great ones enter into his arguments to the Green Lady to get her to disobey her “great one” Maleldil.

It is interesting how all three, Ransom, Weston, and the Green Lady, say suddenly at some point, the line “I will go to sleep now”. It seems to be a sort of cut off – very much like how night descends on Perelandra, not gradually with an extended twilight as on earth, but very suddenly and with little warning (I’ve mentioned before how reminiscent this is to me of Samuel Beckett’s play “Happy Days”).

When the Green Lady says “I think I will go to sleep now”, the Unman says “not yet, there is more”. And she listens for a little while longer to his distortions and lies. I can’t help but think of the contrast here with Screwtape’s opposite advice where he convinces the “patient” not to engage in more philosophical “debate” --- something like “yes, much too important to discuss in your state” or something to that effect.

When Ransom is confronted by the Unman’s claims of advancement in buildings and civilization as a result of the fall, he is momentarily hypnotized by the seeming glory of those worldly things. But at the Green Lady’s words, “the spell was broken”. Similarly, it is this breaking of the spell that Lewis also achieves in his address, “The Weight of Glory” where he talks about civilizations and such as being mere “mortal” things that will die and disappear, unlike the immortal souls of oneself and one’s neighbors.

While Ransom watches the Unman sit down Lewis writes, “It was impossible to point to any particular motion which was definitely non-human. Ransom had the sense of watching an imitation of living motions which had been very well studied and was technically correct; but somehow it lacked the master touch.” My immediate thought upon reading this was “computer animation! How did Lewis predict so accurately!:-)

“Hours later the Unman began to speak. It did not even look in Ransom’s direction; slowly and cumbrously, as if by some machinery that needed oiling, it made it mouth and lips pronounce his name.”

Did anyone else have in their mind, upon reading this line, the image of the Tin Man frozen by rust in the Wizard of Oz, with Dorothy and the Scarecrow using the oil can with its appealing “gluk, gluk, gluk” sound?:-)

In previous chapters, I had noted occasions where there was a parallel between Ransom’s and the Green Lady’s experiences. I think we see this again (though this example crosses over into the next chapter, I’m mentioning it here) when the Unman begins his “Ransom…Ransom…Ransom…nothing” bit. At the beginning of chapter 10 it describes the Unman telling story after story to the Green Lady. Lewis writes: “From the Lady’s replies it appeared that the stories contained much that she did not understand; but oddly enough the Un-man did not mind. If the questions aroused by anyone story proved at all difficult to answer, the speaker simply dropped that story and instantly began another.” And later, “some meaning for the words ‘Death’ and ‘Sorrow’ – though what kind of meaning Ransom could not even guess – was apparently being created in her mind by mere repetition.”

This strikes me as very similar to the way the Unman tries to break down Ransom by mere repetition and if Ransom says “what”, the Un-man says “nothing” and simply continues on, the way the Green Lady’s questions simply cause the Un-man to drop the story he is on and continue on with another. Curiously enough it is also reminiscent of the scene in Out of the Silent Planet (which comparison I mentioned at the time during the OSP study too) where the Sorns use a similar method of questioning Ransom about Earth. If he gets stuck on a particular line of questions, they drop it immediately and start on another line. Of course the Sorns are not doing this in a nefarious way, but the similarity to the Un-man’s methods of attack on both Ransom and the Green Lady fascinate me and make me wonder where the difference lies.

I also think the line about meaning (though hard to say what kind) being created in one’s mind by mere repetition is very revealing about a lot of things we ourselves “think” we know about ourselves and the world around us. “Time”, “consciousness”, “self-awareness”, even “life” itself, (and I think, even the concepts underlying “Evolution”) are all things (along with many more) that we think we understand, but upon reflection can’t really say anything much at all about – we simply have come to “know” them by mere repetition and don’t really understand them as we think we do.

Well, enough for now, I guess (although I have some comments to add about this chapter in the Perelandra film thread), but as with all the other chapters, I could go on and on, there is so much to see in these books.

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 9 -- Stanley's comments

Postby Steve » 25 Jan 2005, 12:33

The comment about Ransom being appalled by the mutilated frog and how odd this was for someone who had seen the Somme, reminds me of Lewis' comment in Surprised by Joy about why he wrote so much more about the hardships of boarding school than about the war. He says that yes the army/war was horrible, but nobody was told they had to like it.

Maybe Ransom is here horrified because up till now he believed he could like everything about Perelandra.
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 9 -- Stanley's comments

Postby Jofa » 30 Jan 2005, 16:22

I also think the line about meaning (though hard to say what kind) being created in one’s mind by mere repetition is very revealing about a lot of things we ourselves “think” we know about ourselves and the world around us. “Time”, “consciousness”, “self-awareness”, even “life” itself, (and I think, even the concepts underlying “Evolution”) are all things (along with many more) that we think we understand, but upon reflection can’t really say anything much at all about – we simply have come to “know” them by mere repetition and don’t really understand them as we think we do.


Nice and true thought, I agree. And actually I think this applies also to the being neither hot nor cold but just lukewarm of the Christians (meaning the fragment of the Book of Revelation, chptr 3)

The idea of repetition reminds me also of the 'how to cook a frog?' story -if you put a frog in a pot of boiling hot water it will jump out. But try to put it in cold water and slowly heat it up and the frog will cook. I think repetition sets us off guard and causes to accept more than we would if we were alert. Also makes us not ready/prepared for an attack. And I think this is what Weston is trying to do do 'cook' the Green Lady and not only tire Ransom out but also set him off guard, put his alertness to sleep. What do y'all think about that?
"Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 9

Postby Jofa » 30 Jan 2005, 16:32

I hope it was Ok that I just jumped into the reading group like this... I saw guest comments so I thought "ah, I'll just go for it!" ;) I love the idea and anyway might be writing a term-paper on Perelandra by the end of this term so I would love to join the P reading group. Hopefully I will be able to contribute as often as would like to.
:)
"Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 9

Postby loeee » 01 Feb 2005, 00:41

I think you join by just coming in and commenting. So you seem to have joined. :D

I don't have the book with me, so can't remember the exact quote, but I was struck by the un-man not really reasoning, but only using reason the way it was using Weston's body. Argument, annoyance, brain washing, it was all the same to it. Just tools to achieve an end.
"You can't go walking through Mordor in naught but your skin."
Put on the full armor of God.
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