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Chapter 2 Study

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

Chapter 2 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 05 Feb 2006, 23:23

Synopsis: While Weston takes care of Harry, Devine welcomes Ransom into the parlor of The Rise. Ransom can tell that Devine has not changed his mercenary ways since college. Yet he needs a place to stay for the night so he plays along when Devine pumps him for personal information. Ransom tells him that he's totaly cut off from the rest of the world to maintain his privacy. Devine slips Ransom a micky finn. Ransom has a prophetic dream while knocked out. As he begins to regain conciousness he overhears the plans of Weston and Devine. Ransom makes a desperate attempt to escape only to be knocked unconcious again.
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This is small but important chapter. Devine takes his time decanting the liquor for Ransom as he pumps him for personal information. This gives the reader much biographical data about who Ransom is. So there is a dual purpose to this section to the story. We learn that Ransom values his solitude and loves hiking. Devine suggests that Ransom must have enjoyed the army. However, Ransom corrects his impression by explaining that a military march was the direct opposite from what Ransom enjoyed. This also lets us know that Ransom had some military service.

But Ransom is not the only one giving out information. Devine refers to Weston as a "strong colleague". While Devine funds their project, it is Weston who calls the shots. Devine is in fact a mere toady. Devine does not care, as long as the professor's experiments are profitable.

Devine is stealthful enough to slip the knock-out drug into Ransom's water rather than the freshly opened liquor. Lewis gives us Ransom's perspective while being drugged, total confusion! And then Ransom has what seems like a prophetic dream sequece. Weston, Devine and Ransom are in a walled garden. Stars are overhead in spite of the fact that they stand in sunshine. Weston and Devine climb over the wall and Ransom attempts to follow, only to be hindered by broken glass on top of the wall (could the glass shards have been on the floor in reality?). As Ransom looks down he observes some "queer people" enter through a hidden door in the garden's wall. They return Weston and Devine, both unconcious, to the garden and leave. The strange people are not descibed in any detail and there in no hint that they are extra-terrestrials. I interpret the sunny walled garden as representing our Earth. But I really do not understand the meaning of the whole dream.

Here's an important note to Stanley about the fate of simple Harry; Weston would prefer to take Harry with them, but Devine dissagrees : "The boy was ideal," said Weston sulkily. "Incapable of serving humanity and only too likely to propagate idiocy. He was the sort of boy who in a civilized community would be automatically handed over to a state laboratory for experimental purposes."

"I dare say. But in England he is the sort of boy in whom Scotland Yard might conceivably feel an interest. - retorts Devine.

So you see, Stanley, killing Harry would have caused more trouble than forcing him along. Harry was probably sent home to his mother with a story about Ransom deciding to stay with his "colleagues". It would make a perfect alibi because Harry did not have the intellegence to understand what Weston and Devine were really up to.
And yet, Weston expresses reluctance to chose Ransom for their purpose. Weston sees more value in Ransom's misguided intellegence than in Harry's mentaly deficient life. Devine cares only for his own life, and so he wants to spare Harry to avoid detection by the police.

I liked the fact that Ransom attempts a desperate escape and almost makes it out the front door before being slugged. It add tension to the storyline and portrays Ransom as more than just a passive victim.

so it goes...
Last edited by Kanakaberaka on 06 Feb 2006, 17:43, edited 1 time in total.
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 2 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 06 Feb 2006, 17:36

Monica had this to say:
Right on time, J.K. Nice to read another installment.

I'm afraid I can't interpret Ransom's dream for you, and, furthermore, I can't interpret the description of the room he was in. Ransom says it was a strange mixture of luxury and squalor. The room was full of garbage, but furnished expensively; in it were both oysters and champagne, along with canned sardines and cheap dishes. I wonder if something is meant there that I am missing.

Or maybe we're digging too deeply. Maybe the dream was merely the hallucinations of a drugged man, and the room was simply the hodge-podge of its occupiers.


To which Stanley Anderson replied:
The room sounds like a typical description of men's tendencies without the civilizing effect of women around - no decor or atmosphere, only functional items where needed and luxury physical comfort items.

--Stanley


Which made Monica speculate:
makes you wonder...
...what St. Anne's would have been like without the women.


Then I had this to say about "Ransom's Bachelor Pad":
I suppose the mice would have to work overtime to clean up the mess.


So The Big Sleep J had this to add:
If so...
...would Mr Bultitude have licked the dishes clean?


Then Stanley Anderson became serious with his "bit-by-bit" study:
I just commented on Monica's post about the "strange mixture of luxury and squalor" that Ransom finds in Weston and Devine's place. Just another quick observation -- the description of the room, especially the last part of the paragraph conjures up images of the tea party with the March Hare and the Mad Hatter with Alice. In fact, I almost think the image of Weston and Devine as the March Hare and Mad Hatter with Ransom as a confused Alice may have been intentional by Lewis, or maybe subconscious but connected. But who is the doormouse then? Harry, perhaps?:-)

In the next paragraph, Lewis alludes to his well-known distaste for cynicism and the sort of superior mocking, or "knowing" humour that he fell away from upon his conversion.

The next few paragraphs dealing with the opening of the bottle are, along with the opening of Perelandra where "Lewis" is walking along to Ransom's house, are two sections that make me laugh out loud simply due to Lewis' ability, like Beethoven does to the listener in some sections of his symphonies, to carry the reader along nearly to frustration, almost as though he is seeing how long he can keep the reader waiting. And it is very humourous effect if done well (to me at least). The whole scene of him watch Devine open the bottle reminds me of similar scenes like that one in Young Frankenstein where the blind Gene Hackman character is dishing up food for the monster, or some Mr. Bean-like carryings-on, or even the Columbo-like "oh, just one more question" as he has begun to turn away, but continues on a bit further.

Although Ransom is a basically good character, I wonder if this scene is not supposed to show him giving into temptation (not unlike the good Lucy who nevertheless succumbs to temptation in Dawn Treader by spying on her friend in the Magician's book), and allowing his desire for drink (and alcoholic drink at that) to outweigh his feelings of caution about being around this detestable character of Devine. Of course it is this weakness that allows Maleldil to use Ransom for the greater ends that develop in the book and in the rest of the trilogy. But for the moment, Ransom might very well have escaped his danger had he not succumbed to that temptation. It is almost a symbolic signal that when the full damage is done -- ie Ransom has finally given the complete information that no one knows where he is or cares, the popping of the cork sounds -- the devious purposes of its holder having been accomplished. (I am reminded with a smile of the scene in The Graduate where Ben has just told his parents that he is going to marry Elaine, but that she doesn't know it yet. As his parents say "That sounds like a pretty half-baked idea", suddenly the toaster pops the toast up in the air as a kind of similar signal:-) Ransom's request to "fill it up, please" is almost the clinching act that makes sure he will be fully drugged by Devine.

The dream is certainly odd (by the way, I don't read where they can see stars, only that it is darkness over the top of the wall), but it is definitely very dream-like in its description -- I recognize exactly the type of dream, if not the particulars. Lewis did a wonderful job here conveying that sense. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it was or was like a dream Lewis himself had, since he seemed to have been plagued by nightmares most of his life.

I suspect its "symbolic" or "prophetic" nature is something along the line that Weston and Devine were giving themselves over to the dark eldils (and Thulcandra -- ie the macrobes), but that they were brought back into "the light", at least for a while longer to carry out Thulcandra's plans, doomed as they were, and that Ransom avoided "going there" himself. The coat protecting him from the broken bottles on the top of the wall is intriguing, but I can't make much of that at the moment. I suspect his "dark" leg that feels like it is going to fall off because it is so dark may be prophetic of the wound in his heel that he got on Perelandra. I am also reminded by the "Queer People" of the Longaevi that Lewis mentions in The Discarded Image -- I wish we had gotten to that section in the study by now. Oh well.

Once again, it makes me almost laugh out loud to see the first sentence in the next paragraph where Lewis says, so matter-of-factly, "He began to realize that his leg was not so much dark as cold and stiff", as though "darkness" was a perfectly natural thing for a leg to be, even if he happened to be mistaken in this case. It reminds me of Lucy (was it?) who knew perfectly well what a purple smell was even though it didn't make sense logically (I think it was a purple smell -- something like that anyway).

In the next section where Devine and Weston are discussing what to do with Ransom while Ransom feigns unconsciousness, Weston makes the comment, referring to using Ransom as the (as they see it) sacrifice, "Well, I confess I don't like it. He is, after all, human." I wonder if this is some small indication of Weston's not-fully-broken status that Oyarsa says of him near the end of the book (as opposed to Devine who is but a "talking animal", completely broken with greed and total self-absorption).

When they get ready to carry Ransom Devine says "Take his feet and I'll take his head". Probably I'm carrying this way too far, but it is interesting that Weston, who, as the Un-Man in Perelandra, will wound Ransom's heel, is the one who is supposed to take Ransoms feet at this moment. As Devine leaves the room to get more of the drug, Ransom fights with Weston -- another precursor to his fight with the Un-man on Perelandra?

(In this chapter I've put my thoughts about all the subsections into one post. Is that better than separating them as I did in the chapter 1 thread? Or perhaps it doesn't matter one way or the other?)

--Stanley


To which I responded with my "C.S. Lewis Carroll" posting:
Good observation about the Alice in Wonderland tea party, Stan. Are you saying that Devine would have made a better Mad Hatter because of his talkativeness? I hate to admit it today, but when I first read OOTSP back around 1980 I found Devine a likeable rougueish character compared to Weston. I did not fully appreciate the fact that Devine was spiritualy dead while Weston had a sort of twisted idealism.
As for Ransom giving in to temptation by accepting the offer of a drink from Devine, I think you are reading too much into it. Sure, Ransom knew that his old school "chum" could not be trusted. But he sure could not forsee being shanghaied onboard a spacecraft. And besides, if you hope to be offered an overnight stay, you should really accept your host's hospitality. If Ransom had been truely distrustfull of Devine and Weston he would have insisted on returning Harry back home himself and asked Harry's mother if he could stay the night.
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The dream is certainly odd (by the way, I don't read where they can see stars, only that it is darkness over the top of the wall) - Stanley
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Oh no! now I'm seeing stars . I really should read each chapter more carefuly. I must have assumed that there were stars in the darkness since this is an interplanetary adventure. (Or is it an Alegory?)
I think that you are reading too much into minor details when you mention Ransom's fighting past Weston in this chapter and how he and Devine carried Weston, Stanley.


But Monica had this to say about my accusing Stanley of reading too much into minor details:
Or perhaps he is minoring in too much detailed reading. He may even be detailing to the reading minors. But, either way, hopefully you'll agree that reading too much into minor details is part of the fun of a book study. :-)


PurplePen shared his agreement with me about Devine:
(Kanakaberaka): "I hate to admit it today, but when I first read OOTSP back around 1980 I found Devine a likeable rougueish character compared to Weston. I did not fully appreciate the fact that Devine was spiritualy dead while Weston had a sort of twisted idealism."

I had the exact same experience when I read it the first time, Kanak. Then I went back and read it again a few years later and actually felt as if I had been taken in by Devine like the schoolboys had. I still find myself tempted to think, maybe "more kindly" of him isn't the exact way to put it, but certainly "less stongly against" him. Like he's so empty that there isn't enough there to be offended by or opposed to. Actually, I don't think that's it all -- I think it's that he's so empty he has the potential of being useful and that is somehow a pull. The very emptiness combined with whatever success he has managed to attain "in the city" or elsewhere creates a sort of attractiveness that those people who can "get things done" have. He's the sort of abhorrent person one would be tempted to tolerate if he were on one's side, and -- who knows? -- he just might be next time. Talking animal or not, he's dangerous stuff, this Mr. Devine.


So I replied this to PurplePen about "Divining Devine":
Good point about Devine's emptiness, P.P. And I must confess that to this day I have more than a little empathy for Dick Devine. Maybe I should compare him to Harry Harrison's "Stainless Steel Rat", Slippey Jim DeGreaze. Harrison is an atheist, and it shows in his best know creation. DeGreaze finds himself in some fantastic adventures that require him to use his wits and strength to the utmost. And while he has a few redeeming virtures, such as his fidelity to his homicidal wife, Angelina, The Rat is basicly a Very self-centered person. He is cynical about everyone's motives. In the books, which are written from Jim DeGreaze's viewpoint, most of the other characters are portrayed as fools who deserve to be taken advantage of.

What does all this have to do with my empathy for Devine? I suppose both Devine and DeGreaze pesonify a sort of mean attitude of superiority I have had myself. And the worst part of it is that I am fully aware of my own weakness, which I keep to myself just like both ficticious miscreants do. Devine knows his own limitations. That's why he hooks up with a "strong colleague" such as Weston. No doubt that this is the way that Devine has amassed his fortune in the first place. It's the old saying that "It's not what you know, it's WHO you know". Devine knows nothing, other than how to warm up to others. And so he gets ahead by "befriending" the right people. Weston is a megalomaniac, but at least he has ideals, albeit perverse ones. Devine cares only for his own well being and material comfort. He has no intention of sacrificing his life for some greater cause. He would rather leave that up to someone else, Ransom or even Weston if need be. This will become painfully obvious after Weston and Devine are captured by the Malacandrans later in the story. But I don't want to get ahead of myself.

So there it is. I suppose I like Devine because he's such a slick operator who gets what he wants without violent effort. He's a prototypical slacker. Maybe I should be a bit more introspective about my own goals and motives.

Oh, one more thing. The word "devine" is Old French for the English word "divine". However, it sounds more to me like de-vine, or to remove from the vine. I wonder if Lewis is trying to suggest that Devine is cut off from the spiritual life which comes from God. Remember the parable where Jesus compares himself to a grape vine.


Carol had this observation about Devine's name:
Devine also begins the same way as Devil.
Weston? Hmm, Western society? (learned but corrupt)


PurplePen had this to say about my comment about Stanley reading into minor details:
(Kanakaberaka): "I think that you are reading too much into minor details when you mention Ransom's fighting past Weston in this chapter and how he and Devine carried Weston, Stanley."

Really? I always took it for granted that this was foreshadowing. Not only that Weston was to "take his feet" when carrying him but also that Ransom, in his desperate attempt to escape, throws himself at Weston's feet and trips him up.


So Carol asked PurplePen:
Is this an allusion to Genesis 3, where God says that Adam's descendant will have his heel attacked? and use his feet to stand on the serpent?


To which Stanley answered:
Ransom's wounded heel at the end of Perelandra and THS most certainly is a reference to the Genesis passage. The question is whether the "take his feet" comment to Weston and the resulting fight between Ransom and Weston pre-figures the wounded heel and fight between them in Perelandra. I don't think Lewis, at the time he wrote OSP probably had that in mind specifically, since he says elsewhere that he didn't even have a story for Perelandra when he began writing it -- only the images of the floating islands. But he may have had an overall sense of where he wanted to go and an outline of ideas in his head -- after all it hardly seems likely, for instance, that he would have given Ransom that name by chance and had its subsequent "meaning" be a set of happy circumstances waiting to be exploited. He probably had lot of ideas in his head waiting to be incorporated into his stories. There is much subconscious reference and "connections" in many writers' works and this (the "feet" thing) could very well have been the case with Lewis.

--Stanley


So PurplePen said to Stanley:
You beat me to it... I would just add that the allusion, a picture of ultimate struggle/defeat/victory/subjection/mastery/etc. also works on a impler level within the context of OOTSP without extending it in its grandest, Biblical-allusion form to the rest of the trilogy. Or does it? When it comes down to it, can it be said that there is a fundamental struggle between Ransom and Weston in OOTSP and between their respective ideologies? I think it can -- Ransom certainly "gets his feet taken out from under him" by Weston simply by being carried off against his will. And Ransom does "trip up Weston" by foiling his plans (though Ransom's role in this is somewhat limited when condsidering the role of the Oyarsa).

--Dawn


Steve had this to say about Stanley's "bit-by-bit":
I see the dream image of Ransom on top of the wall with one leg "light" and the other "dark", as a prefiguring of his role as the agent of the unfallen Oyarsa in the middle of Thulcandra.

Another prefiguring possibility is how Ransom feels like his head is caught in a soft but very firm vice. A prefiguring of Alcasan's head in THS? Sounds like it to me.

What seems odd to me about the drink business is the comment that Ransom realized how thirsty he was. When I'm thirsty I don't want alcohol, if I'm going to have wine with a meal I also want water to drink to take away thirst. Or is "thirst" in this context meant to be a shorthand for "Ransom realized how much he wanted a whiskey and soda".

I think the description of the room is very much two men living in a temporary room -- not bothering with cleaning up, but willing to spend money on fancy food and comfortable chairs.


Stanley replied to Steve's observation about Ransom having one leg in the light and the other in the dark:
Ah, his piebald look when he arrives?

--Stanley


Monica had this to say about Steve's comment about not wanting alcohol when thirsty:
(water water everywhere) Interesting point. When I'm thirsty I don't want alcohol either, but when one thinks of Lewis, does one think of him as a water-drinker? All those walking tours of his ended with stops at pubs or stops for tea.


So Stanley tried to clarify matters:
[from Monica/steve]:
>interesting point. When I'm thirsty I don't want alcohol either, but
>when one thinks of Lewis, does one think of him as a water-drinker?

I think it must be a British hydrophobic thing:-) Here is a section from the chapter (Devine has finally opened and poured wiskey into Ransom's glass):
------------------
...Devine, who had picked up the syphon, suddenly swore. "I'm afraid this is empty," he said, "Do you mind having water? I'll have to get some from the scullery. How much do you like?"

"Fill it up please," said Ransom.
------------------

Now of course this was a ploy by Devine in order to take the drink out of the room to put the drug into it, but Ransom clearly doesn't think it odd that adding water was only a second best alternative (I'm not a "drink" person -- what would have been added instead of water? Seltzer? Maybe we need to get Rick B's opinion here:-). I realize this does mitigate part of what I said earlier about Ransom's temptation when I suggested that his comment to "fill it up" ensured his full drugging. It did ensure it of course, but he was saying to fill it up with water, not alcohol. I'm still convinced (in a mild way -- this is finessing the data quite a bit, of course:-) that Ransom's eagerness to get his drink was a temptation that compromised his better judgement about accepting their "hospitality". Just before this, in the previous chapter we read this:
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Ransom was very much perplexed. There was something about the whole scene suspicious enough and disagreeable enough to convince him that [ha! I found a typo in the book -- it says "the" but it clearly should be "that"] he had blundered on something criminal...

[Later in the text]
The lie was barefaced, but Ransom's desire for a rest and a drink were rapidly overcoming his social scruples.

-----------------------

(and of course, Monica, I realize this last bit is not related to your comments, but is addressed to K's comments earlier)

--Stanley


Carol had this to say about Steve's observations:
I think the light and dark legs not only prefigures Ransom's "Piebald" appearance in Perelandra, but also shows a spiritual dilemma - a man is halfway between two choices, perhaps good and bad. Did Lewis remember this scene when writing about Jadis climbing the wall to the garden in Magician's Nephew?

As for the room: I think it shows, in a physical way, the spiritual condition of the two men: they are unable to put the right value on things and live in balance. As a result, their money is spent on expensive but unnecessary things, while they fail to use their time (or money to pay someone?) to keep their living space clean, tidy and hygienic.

I have seen this in less educated families: while they would never buy their children books, or take them to live theatre, and never seem to have enough money for school equipment, their homes have Playstations, Videos/DVDs, there are trips to movies, and often clothing with Name labels....


The Big Sleep J had this to say about chapter 2:
This chapter is rather straight-forward and there's not too much to discuss. But it is an important chapter because it affirms the reader's (and Ransom's) suspicions that Weston and Devine is up to no good.

I have to agree with Monica that the dream may just be a hallucination induced by whatever Devine slipped him. I can't see if fit much in with the story, unlike Jane's dreams in "That Hideous Strenght."

>> And yet, Weston expresses reluctance to chose Ransom for their
>> purpose. Weston sees more value in Ransom's misguided
>> intellegence than in Harry's mentaly deficient life. Devine cares
>> only for his own life, and so he wants to spare Harry to avoid
>> detection by the police

Off course we're back to Weston being practical in the bad sense, but he also expects others to share his views. Somehow, if they had killed poor Harry, he'd probably have told Scotland Yard the truth expecting them to understand his view and nod agreeingly (although I doubt he'd be that naive). But he's not all evil. There is that part in "Perelandra" (just before becoming, if that's the word, the unmam...is that the right word?) where he suddenly tries to tell Ransom to stop someone but could not finish the sentance. But I'm jumping the queue...


PurplePen had this to say about 'That drug-induced dream, i.e., Ransom's "Trip" ':
Because of the statement that precedes the dream, "Ransom could never be sure whether what followed had any bearing on the events recorded in this book or whether it was merely an irresponsible dream," I had always assumed that the dream did indeed have some "bearing on the events" and wasn't just a drug-induced hallucination. Why exactly that makes sense to me, I'm not quite sure. I guess I take this statement as one of those the-author-doth-protest-too-much type things so even though it's saying the dream may just be a dream, it seems to be meaning that the dream is actually more than that. Though how he's using the ideas of responsibility or irresponsibility as it applies to a dream I can't quite figure out.

For the dream itself, my take is a little different than Stanley's. I understand the light / dark to be representing the known / unknown (rather than the good / bad). In that sense, it could just be representing Ransom's subconscious fears about what Weston and Devine are up to and what he's going to be getting into the middle of. The preceding paragraph says that Ransom is comfortable but stuck (bandaged/vice) and isn't afraid but knows he ought to be afraid and soon will be. If it's no more than that, the lighted garden surrounded by the darkness can represent the sort of false comfort he is in, surrounded by the terror of the unknown. Weston (the strong colleague) insists on his being thrust into the terror of that unknown and Devine is going along with it. (Though it's interesting that Ransom isn't truly forced to climb up over the wall. He was the last to go but seemingly did so of his own choice/strength.) At present though, in his drugged state, he's simply caught in between, stuck on the wall.

Of course this interpretation completely leaves out the mysterious people and the door and the glass and the coat...So I think there's more to the dream than just his subconscious fears. Given what we know Weston and Devine are up to, the known and unknown that Ransom fears become attributed to this world / other worlds. Weston insists they give him a boost over (into the other world), though Ransom doesn't want them to because it is so dark (unknown) on the other side. Devine follows. Ransom follows as well but gets stuck in between – foreshadowing his role as arbitrator/communicator/mediator between the worlds. The beings in the unknown world (eldils/Oyarsa?) use an unseen door to force Weston and Devine back (into our world) and then close and lock that door, but Ransom is left half in and half out and even has some communication with the unknown people but we aren't allowed to know what that is or what it's like because, as I understand it, at that point he is waking up. Anyway...that's my take on the dream...though it still leaves out the glass and the coat...

--Dawn


To which Stanley replied:
Your ideas sound very good to me too. I, like you, think the dream is meant to mean something, even if in a very opaque way. It's sort of the "if there is a gun hanging over the fireplace mantle, somewhere in the third act the gun is going to get used."

--Stanley
so it goes...
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