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Chapter 1 Study

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

Chapter 1 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 30 Jan 2006, 13:12

Chapter 1 of "Out of the Silent Planet" begins with a lone protaginist hiking along the English countryside. His name is Dr. Elwin Ransom and he has just been turned down at an Inn in Nadderby so he must continue on another six miles to Sterk. But before he arrives there Ransom finds himself running an errand for a local woman who's simpleton son is late arriving home. When the woman explains that her son works for a professor at "The Rise", Ransom is eager to help. But it's not just the well being of the old woman's son that make's Ransom accept the errand. He also hopes that the professor will allow him to stay the night.

After taking a detour Ransom finds The Rise and has to sneak his way past the locked gate through the hedges. "The last thing Ransom wanted was an Adventure" notes Lewis as Ransom waits on the porch of the mysterious manor. Then the adventure begins as Ransom hear a scuffle going on in the back.

As Ransom arrives he gets a quick glimpse of some odd buildings, including something he mistakes for a small observatory. He has no time to take in the weird surroundings because there in front of him is the old woman's son, Harry. And holding him against his will are the two villains of the story Devine and Weston.

They appear almost commical, a sort of villainous odd couple. Weston is thick and arrogant while Devine is thin and easy going. And by "happy" coincidence, Devine remembers Ransom from their college days. Ransom though is not so happy to remember Devine. But he accepts Devine's hospitality. Weston is unimpressed by Ransom's credentials as a philologist, saying that research money should be spent on more important things.

Interestingly in the movie "Forbidden Planet" the antagonist, Dr. Morbius is a philologist which is an extant study in our far future. While on the other hand psychiatry has become extinct. Odd how reality and fantasy diverge. Philology is of couse the sudy of literature accross cultural lines.

Weston reluctantly agrees with Devine that Harry should be released but not before telling him "And in a properly governed country I'd know how to deal with you". This makes Weston's preference for despotism obvious.

Also, Weston makes the offhand comment that "We ought to have a dog", to keep intruders like Ransom out. Devine replies, "You mean we should have a dog if you hadn't insisted on using Tartar for an experiment". It makes you wonder what sort of experiments the two have been conducting as well as what kind of cold hearted tyrant Weston really is.

The four of them go into the manor house for refreshments and to talk things over.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 1 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 02 Feb 2006, 00:43

The Big Sleep J had this to say:
Slightly less disorganized thoughts.

Not that much happen in the first chapter that could be described in depth if you ask me, but Weston and Devine get a good introduction. Both are summed up well in there first appearances. Weston especially; his remark that philology is something of a waste of money means he's a very practical person in the sense that he only reads science books and no fiction because the latter is a waste of time. Calling Weston practical in the bad sense reminds me of Lewis use the word practical in, either "Silver Chair" or "Dawn Treader". In one of these books (I think it's about Eustace's parents) he uses the word practical as if it's an insult.

If I'm not mistaken in the early chapters (I don't have the book with me) Weston argues with Devine wether they should take Ransom instead, because Weston acknowledges that Ransom is a valuable member of society. This is interesting considering his distaste for philology and its brother subjects.

I Replied about Ransom's ransom:
I think that the value Devine and Weston put on Ransom's life is based more apon economic value rather than on what Weston admires. In the cold, calculating mind of Weston, Ransom is of more value than Harry simply because of his inteligence. Of course Weston belives classical studies to be a waste of such inteligence.

Monica had this to add to TBSJ's comments:
Excellent point, J. about Lewis using the word 'practical' as an insult. I sometimes wonder if Lewis is a little harsh on the practical people. They don't all use their practical skills for evil. (Look at Paxton.) Perhaps the fact that Lewis's thumb joints didn't bend, and that he found mathematics inscrutable, tended to skew him a little too far in favour of the imaginative intellectuals.

Carly questioned Monica about this though:
What's wrong the scepticism about practical people? After all, they don't give much leeway to the imaginative types...

Bringing in another of Lewis' books, in That Hideous Strength he describes England as "a nation of shopkeepers and a nation of poets" (that may not be a direct quote). I always liked that...but it is important to remember that he viewed the "poets", "Logres", as a heavenly influence always trying to break through, which would make the shopkeepers somewhat less than heavenly.

To which Jo mentioned:
I believe it was Napoleon who described us as a nation of shopkeepers first tho I may be wrong

And Steve claiified:
The Phrase Finder website says Napoleon was third in line:

"Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, 1776, wrote 'To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers, may at first sight appear a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation that is governed by shopkeepers. Napoleon I, who was familiar with Smith's work, is reported as later using the phrase. Josiah Tucker, the Dean of Gloucester, preceded them both by referring to England as a shopkeeping nation."

And Monica replied to Carly:
[From Carly]:
///What's wrong the scepticism about practical people? After
all, they don't give much leeway to the imaginative types..////

Ah, thank you. You bring up another point. I wonder if some of Lewis's attitude toward 'practicality' isn't a kind of subtle way of getting back at all those proper-thumbed, sensible, athletic bullies of his childhood. But just because practical people don't give leeway to imaginative types is really no reason for imaginative types to take revenge. :-)

Actually, see my post to Stanley for the main reason for my comments. I don't actually take much issue with Lewis's comments about practicality. I'm not all that practical myself.

Then Stanley Anderson offered this practical observation:
I think Lewis had great respect for practical people. I really think that if Lewis used the word "practical" in a derogatory way, it was about educated or "high-minded" people who actually knew very little about "practical" matters but bent things to their will and ways that might be called "practical" in a cynical way.

Consider Lewis' comments in THS about how the intelligentsia are the ones who are easily swayed by the media (and that Fairy and Mark set about with their propaganda news articles to influence), but that it was the practical "common" person that was hard to reach in that corrupt way.


To which Monica replied:
I expected such an answer forthcoming from you, Stanley. And I agree with it. I think of Lewis's satisfaction that he came, at least down one ancestral line, from farming stock. It was the one thing that kept his feet on the ground, he said.

Mostly, in my post, I was making the point that that one can find things to 'put down' Lewis with, while remaining a devoutly loyal fan -- hence not really 'putting him down' at all.

Grasping at strawberries...:-)

Steve offered this observation about chapter 1:
"Yet it was perfectly clear that he would have to get in, and since one cannot crawl through a hedge with a pack on, he slipped his pack off and flung it over the gate. The moment he had done so, it seemed to him that he had not till now fully made up his mind -- now that he must break into the garden if only in order to recover the pack."

This is the kind of thing Lewis excels in -- the moment by moment process of deciding or not deciding to do something, and the transient thoughts that come in each moment of the process. Considering the whole story, this is just a small part (getting Ransom to meet with Weston and Devine) but Lewis is describing all the details.

And I replied to Steve:
Yes Steve, CSL did well by letting us in on the thoughts behind the actions of his charaters. I simple and practical thing like tossing one's backpack over a fence becomes "crossing the Rubicon".

Thanks for expanding on my outline.

Stanley Wrote:
When I first considered the possibility of leading a bit-by-bit study (in my TDI fashion), I actually fantasized about drawing and scanning a small, quick and rough sketch of a scene or image from each little section or paragraph as a sort of visual treat to go along with my comments. I even began a first rough sketch of a bent-over trudging figure with hat setting out on the road from under a nearby tree in the rain with the spire of Much Nadderby in the hills behind.

But of course that was wildly ridiculous for me to even consider, as I quickly discovered in that first drawing attempt, realizing how much time it would take no matter how "quick" and "rough" I tried to make the sketches.

But I might still occasionally resort to my bit-by-bit method within K's main threads just because I seem to work best that way. I'll try to keep them within a main sub-thread (eg, like this one) in each of K's chapter threads. I'm sure I'll vary from chapter to chapter though as time dictates.

This would lead to my attempt at illustrating a few characters. More on that later.

Stanley then went on to write about much of a muchness:
My first thought is actually a question for any of you Brits out there. In the first paragraph, Lewis mentions the spire of Much Nadderby. I love the sound of this little town and wonder if "Much" means anything -- it seems an odd word to be in a town name. I notice later that Devine later mentions "Nadderby" without the "Much" included, so it makes me think it is some kind of adjective like "town" or "village". Anyone know?

I especially like this opening paragraph. It really evokes an English countryside walking tour feel to me (which is so wonderfully mythopoeic to this very Californian boy who would LOVE to go on a walking tour in England!:-) Even the weariness that the Pedestrian feels about the rain makes me want to be there in the rain with him. I know that Lewis himself was very fond of walking -- wouldn't it have been grand to have been able to go on a walking tour with him and Tolkien?!:-)


To which TBSJ replied:
>>> I know that Lewis himself was very fond of walking -- wouldn't it have been grand to have been able to go on a walking tour with him and Tolkien?!:-)

And here I am, again wishing for a time machine...

And Carol replied to Stanley:
I think "Much" in a town name usually suggests there was more than one part of the village/town called [Nedderby]. Rather like Upper and Lower Riccarton, suburbs in our city. Or Greater and Little ...
Michel Delving in the Shire is another example.

(It's all in B.Bryson's book on England, you know, what ARE they teaching them in these schools?)

"Much" may have been the bigger of two neighbouring villages or small towns.

Erekose added:
This won't help much (no pun intended)

We have a place near to Telford called "Much Wenlock".

Although near to a place called Wenlock Edge (a geographical place not a habitat) there isn'rt any other portion of Wenlock nearby... just Much Wenlock itself.

However there is also a "Little Wenlock" which as far as I can determine has no geographical/economic/parishonal etc ties with its larger near namesake.

Carol replied to Erekose:
Since there is Wenlock Priory shown as a tourist stop on my AA map, I'd guess that Little Wenlock might have been a sort of satellite of the priory, maybe one of the grange-type farms that were owned by priories...?
Or alternatively, there is some other sort of historical link, based on someone's moving away from an original settlement

And Steve quiped:
Well, its pretty obvious that Wenlock Priory has to be the prior settlement, right?

Erekose replied:
That is certainly possible.

However around here there are a lot of similar sounding places...

In Telford alone we have.. hadley, Madeley, Dawley, Little Dawley, Lawley (no connection to The Lawley.. a hill near Church Stretton), Doseley, Langley, Priorslee, malinslee, Ketley. Stirchley, Malinslee, Cluddeley and Clotley

There is a Donnington in Telford, and a Donington near Albrighton (also in Shropshire).

An interesting point about Wenlock Priory... is that Buildwas Abbey would have been midway between Much Wenlock and Little Wenlock.

Erekose then provided this information from "The Domesday Book":

In PATTON Hundred

1: Earl Roger has made St. Miburga's Church into an Abbey.
The Church itself holds
2: (Much) WENLOCK; it held before 1066. 20 hides; 4 of them were exempt from tax in King Canute's time, the others paid tax.
In Lordship 9 1/2 ploughs;
9 villagers, 3 riders and 46 smallholders; between them they have 17 ploughs; another 17 would be possible there.
15 slaves.
2 mills which serve the monks. 1 fishery; woodland for fattening 300 pigs; 2 hedged enclosures.
VALUE BEFORE 1066 £15; NOW £12


4: MADELEY; etc

5: (Little) WENLOCK; it held before 1066. 1 hide which does not pay tax and 2 others which do pay tax. In lordship 1 plough;
4 villagers and 2 smallholders with 3 ploughs. 2 ploughmen.
Woodland for fattening 300 pigs, in which there 2 hedged enclosures and a hawk's eyrie.
Value before 1066, 70s; now 40s.

6: etc etc etcf.

The (much) and (little) are translaters brackets... both places were just called "Wenlock" in the original text and were given seperate entries in the "book" with other places between them.

Unfortunately it gives no info on wether the locations pre-date the church itself... so really sheds no light on wether there is a connection between the two

to which Carol commented:
Very interesting. I see that depreciation was current then too, and the Book Value of property reduced...

Pedestrian pointed out (refering to chapter1):
this is where i got my wardrobe nickname


Stanley posted When Harry met Sadness:
Poor Harry, the lady's son. Ransom sets out to send him home, but unless I am misremembering, the last we see of Harry is that he is enticed to sit on the porch with some kind of alcoholic drink. Do you suppose he ever got back to mum? I might guess he was murdered and dumped in a hole by Weston and Devine after they drugged Ransom to get rid of the evidence.


But I was not so sure about Harry being murdered:
But wouldn't the Police have been notified if both Ransom and Harry failed to return to Mom? I would rather think that Harry was sent home and told that Ransom had decided to stay and help "the professor".

Stanley mentions this about Ransom's name:
When Weston first asks who is interrupting their struggle with Harry, the Pedestrian says "My name is Ransom, if that is what you mean". I suppose Lewis didn't know what he was going to do in a sequel (ie Perelandra), but I find it interesting that Ransom's statement sort of pre-figures Maleldil's words to Ransom on Perelandra, "It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom". And in fact in this instance it will turn out that Ransom really is a sort of ransom for the boy (despite my comment above about not knowing what Harry's final fate is), since he is shipped to Malacandra in Harry's place.

I wonder if this idea resonated (even if only subconsciously) with Lewis when he finally got to writing Perelandra. The name "Ransom" does seem an odd choice if he wasn't going to really use its meaning for something (as he seemed to do with other names)


Steve replied to Stanley:
I also thought Ransom's decision to go look for Harry as the woman was asking him to, prefigured his decision to attack Weston as tempter on Perelandra. I think the passage in question said something like the vague plan he had took more definite shape as something he was going to do. What I remember in Perelandra was something like the thought that at this time tomorrow, the deed would have been done.

Stanley liked that.

But Jo commented:
Ransom's name was NOT really Ransom tho...

Stanley replied:
You mean because it is derived from (as he thinks to himself on Perelandra) "Ranolf's son", or because Lewis as authour and participant in the story claims to have changed the names of the characters to hide their "real" identity?

If the latter, I would guess Lewis would simply reply that the "real" name was some other word that meant something similar and that he picked "Ransom" in order to still convey the meaning.


So Jo replied:
And I would guess that Lewis made a mistake It happens...

So TBSJ added:
Yes, I believe let that mistake go because, like all of us, he's only human.

Monica joined in:
Stanley's right on this. The man's name, which was changed of course, was really Reed Deem. Lewis changed it, but kept the meaning.

Which set Stanley off:
Thank you, Monica! I was trying to think of an example like that for my post but gave up:-) Seriously though, I disagree with Jo (and we'll never know who is right of course, because we can't ask Lewis himself). I think Lewis would have been very familiar with the idea of changing names to "protect the innocent", even under the guise of a literary device, and didn't "forget about it" later on in Perelandra. I mentioned earlier that I believe the "changed names" in the OSP (and the rest of ST, presumably) was an homage to H. Rider Haggard who used the same device and whose books Lewis especially enjoyed. (and the same "problem" occurs with any translation into another language -- I wonder how the pun on Ransom's name and his understanding that the name was a contraction of "Ranolf's son" is dealt with in, say Russian or Polish? Is there a word for "ransom" and "son" in other languages that they can make sound reasonably close to another name? I'm sure it must be a common "problem" any translator would run across and have to deal with regularly.)

In any case, Lewis was just too organized in thought to let something like that slip by as a simple mistake, I think. Which is also why, even though it may have the appearance of jumbled writing (to some:-), I believe THS was written that way intentionally by Lewis, and was not simply a momentary lapse (in his longest work, no less!:-) in his ability to put something down on paper the way he intended. One may disagree with his judgment in deciding to write the book in that fashion (I don't, obviously:-), but it was not a case of him getting himself into something he couldn't work out the way he wanted it to. (I suppose one might give as evidence an example where precisely this sort of thing DID apparently happen to him - ie, The Dark Tower. After all, he apparently chose not to pursue it after getting to a certain point, possibly because he could not work it out to his satisfaction? Of course I recognize that this evidence is called into question by some for other reasons:-)

Here is a portion from Clifford Morris' section in the collection of reminiscences "CS Lewis at the Breakfast Table". Morris was Lewis' chauffer and perhaps got to see more of Lewis' personal side than many of his other friends. They would stop and picnic together under trees or break for meals at pubs and talk during their many long journeys together (I'm SO jealous!:-). It is one of the most moving and personal sections in the book. Anyway, here is the part I want to quote:

There were occasions when Jack used me [Morris] as a kind of sounding board when he was trying out some new ideas or some new way of putting an old idea or some fresh outline or even, now and again, some striking phrase. As we might be sitting over a glass of beer, or as we were quietly driving along, he would suddenly say, "Friend Morris, listen to this, and tell me if it means anything to you," or, "How does this strike you?" And if I didn't "catch on" at once, I have known him to scrap the whole idea, phrase, sentence, or whatever it was, and then begin all over again from another angle or in another way. He took tremendous trouble to say, in plain words, just what he meant, and it was always an imperative duty with him to write good English, as concisely as possible, coherently, forthrightly, leaving no loose ends, evading no difficulties, dodging no awkward questions.


And Monica had to agree:
///In any case, Lewis was just too organized in thought to let something like that slip by as a simple mistake, I think. Which is also why, even though it may have the appearance of jumbled writing (to some:-), I believe THS was written that way intentionally by Lewis, and was not simply a momentary lapse.///

*Claps hands together* Oh, how delightful that you used my defense of Lewis's vigorous intelligence and scrupulous planning against me. Isn't that just how a chess master would play. I've never played chess myself, but there's probably even a name for a move like that -- The Hideous Anderssen Boomerang Defense, or something.

Carol joked:
He may have chosen the name "Ransom" because the character was on a walking holiday, but occasionally when he needed to go faster, that's what he did (r___ s___).

sorry. couldn't help it.

Actually, I wondered whether Lewis was thinking of writer Arthur Ransome, when looking for a worthy name.

Stanley had this to say about Devine's corrupt communion:
Finally, even though it's been discussed in the past, I have to mention in passing the corrupt communion reference that Devine makes in describing Weston to Ransom "Has Einstein on toast and drinks a pint of Schrodinger's blood for breakfast". The reference to bread and wine in communion and applied to modern physics is very interesting. I wonder what sort of comment Lewis might have been making here. I don't know who Jespersen is (a quick google search indicates an Otto Jespersen who was connected with the "philosophy of grammar" which would seem to fit in with Ransoms philological background), but I would love to know how Devine would have finished the interrupted line when he describes Ransom to Weston, saying, "Has Jespersen on toast and drinks a pint--"


And Carol suggested:
Perhaps Lewis had him interrupted because he didn't actually want to put a name in - on the grounds that it is a fairly horrid thing to say. Somehow, eating a good philologist on toast seems nowhere near as bad as drinking another's blood.

This gave me something to chew over:
I never thought of the communion parody untill you brought it up Stan. Whenever I have read this first chapter I just took it as Devine boasting about Weston and Ransom.

Steve had another observation:
"There was something about the whole scene suspicious enough and disagreeable enough to convince him that he had blundered on something criminal, while on the other hand he had all the deep, irrational conviction of his age and class that such things could never cross the path of an ordinary person except in fiction and could least of all be associated with professors and old schoolfellows."

I wonder about the "deep irrational conviction of his age and class" -- I wouldn't say that I'm in the same age or class, but criminal behavior in my acquaintances is rather rare. Although I suppose there is a big difference between "relatively rare" and "never ... except in fiction".

Carol said:
It's merely a restatement of the idea, "It couldn't happen to me."
He has lived in a stable, sane world, where odd events do not intrude, and so he believes, at one level, that they will continue to keep out of his stable, sane world. He lives in that world by dint of class.

I asked "Where in the Midlands is Ransom?":
Maybe it's just me, but after doing internet searches for Nadderby, Sterk and Stoke Underwood I have come up empty handed. Did all three of these towns come from Lewis' imagination? You know, "Names have been changed to protect the innocent". Or am I looking in the wrong places? Maybe they are too small or insignificant to be listed on the maps I have accessed. I thought that the names could have been changed over the years, but in tradition minded England that is not likely. Can anyone out there verify the existence of these towns?

And recieved this reply from Carol:
Is it the midlands? I was wondering which area it was intended to be. I suspect the names are invented.

And Jo (who should know) added:
Never heard of any of them .. I assumed they were made up

I was so dissapointed:
Oh, but the towns sound so typicaly British. I suppose that was the whole point. So Nadderby and Sterk are as imaginary as Kurt Vonnegut's Illium, NY. I wonder if anyone thinks that a place named Flushing is the product of someone's toilet humor ?

I lived back in Flushing, New York at the time.

This set Carol off:
There's a place called Flushing Meadows... makes you wonder who lives there, apart from flocks of Toilet Ducks.... (don't know if you have that product? toilet bowl cleaners with a bent neck to clean inside the top of the bowl.. looking slightly like a duck)

And so I explained:
Yes Carol, and it's less than a 10 min. walk from where I live. Back in 1964 it was the site of the World's Fair which both my future wife and I went to see with our respective families. We still visit the place when the weather is nice. Donna loves the new Hall of Science which is still there. No toilet ducks there though.

Then Carol became serious again about "Handling Harry":
Nobody seems to have mentioned this...
Weston and Devine's idea of Harry's value is a prefiguring of how they think of the Malacandrians, and how they treat them. Expendable, because they are not "like us" - in some way or other. It is developed very much further in Hideous Strength.

[I hope I am not looking ahead too far...? please tell me if I need to stop]

More will be said about this later in the study.
so it goes...
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