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Chapter 3 Study

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

Chapter 3 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 06 Feb 2006, 17:42

Synopsis: Ransom comes to his senses to find himself imprisioned in an odd metal room. At first he is facinated with the dazzling appearance of the stars seen from an overhead skylight. Then he is confused when he feels lighter that he ought to, bumping his head on the skylight when standing up. The very dimensions of the room are discombobulating. The ceiling appears to be twice the area of the floor. Ransom belives that it has to be the result of his being drugged. And then Ransom notices something truely uncanny outside the skylight. It appears to be the Moon. But it's much bigger and brighter than it ought to be. When Ransom says, "Like a great football just outside the glass" I thought he meant it was an oblong object untill I realized Lewis was refering to what we in The States call a soccer ball.

Finaly Weston enters the room, stark naked no less. And yet Ransom is not angry at him, just mystified about the glowing orb. Ransom asks, "What is it? It's not the Moon, not that size. It can't be, can it?"

"No," replied Weston, "it's the Earth."

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

Now we all know from reading the dust jacket of the book that the protagonist somehow ends up in outer-space. So there is really no surprise for the reader that Ransom should find himself shanghied on board some sort of spacecraft. And yet, Lewis manages to through a shock of recognition at the end of this short chapter. Weston's punchline about the glowing disk outside the window being our own home planet made me slap myself. I should have known that the luminous "football" was in fact the Earth!

The whole chapter appears to be one big practical joke played on Ransom. And the reader, if he has even the most rudimentary knowlege of space travel, is in on the joke. I know that some people will point out that this book was published in 1938. But even back then, science fiction fans (of scientifiction, as Lewis says it was called at the time) were familiar with all the gimics about reduced gravity and starlight in a vacuum. The part about the "full" moon which should not have been there turning out to be the Earth adds the one real shock to the chapter.

Other details such as the fact that the walls of Ransom's room appeared perpendicular in spite of the fact the ceiling was twice as big as the floor, make the scene appear surreal. We are not really sure whether this is an accurate discription of a real place or just another dream like the one Ransome had back at The Rise. Could that have been the purpose of Ransom's dream? To confuse the reader about whether what was happening was reality or not?

And finaly, when Weston makes his grand entrance, I think it is significant that Ransom does not curse him out. Could this be a case of the "Stockholm Syndrome" where a captive feels empathy for his captor? Or is it supposed to illustrate Christian Charity on Ransom's part? Or (most likely) the fact that Ransom has been torn away from his mundane reality?

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 3 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 20 Mar 2006, 01:27

Before I posted my Chapter 3 Study, Steve took it apon himself to get the ball rolling :
I don't know if I'm violating a rule by posting ahead of the chapter summary from Kbaka, but here goes. But hey, it is Monday in Wardrobe time, so let the study begin!

I'm amused that this whole chapter could have been just one sentence by a hack sci-fi writer:

"When Ransom came to his senses, he was horrified to discover he was in a spacecraft hurtling rapidly away from the earth!" (the accompanying illustration would undoubtedly show the top half of a horrified Ransom gazing out the window at a perfectly recognizable continental outline on the globe below).

I'm delighted in how Lewis explores the details that Ransom notices as being different; the bright starlight (he had never seen a frostier night), the room which is wider at the ceiling than at the floor, yet each wall is perpendicular to the floor, and the extraordinarily large 'moon' which turns out to be the earth.

I replied that it was okay with me and that he call me "K" or "Kan" if he had trouble remembering my pfifltrigg name.

Monica had this to say about Steve's take on my name:
Kbaka sound too much like a certain furry Wookie? Or does it sound too much like product one chews between one's lips and one's gum?

Monica also had this to say about Steve's comment about this whole chapter penned as one sentence by a hack SF writer:
Or one caption in a comic book or graphic novel, with accompanying horrendous drawings.

Good point.


Carol had this to say about Ransom's odd room:
Ransom's perception of the room and its walls, since it doesn't seem to make sense, suggests he is still suffering from the effects of the drug/headblow... and leaves us confused about whether it is real or not, just like the dream.
Where he is unsure of what he is seeing, whether it is a delusion, etc, so is the reader.


To which Steve had this to add:
I assume that this account does make sense. Inside the spacecraft there is artificial gravity towards the center, and the deck of Ransom's room is curved. So each wall is perpendicular to the deck at that point, and straight "up".


Carol Replied:
But Ransom didn't, at this point.


The Big Sleep J had this to say about my observation about Ransom's discombobulation:
Off course, it's more realistic for a person to not want to display acceptance of the impossible until it becomes rather clear. Even if Ransom wanted to go to Malacandra and the two baddies disclosed their intentions, he would have felt uncertaintity. If they showed him their space-ship he'd probably thing it would fall apart. You don't want to believe two men would build a rocket-ship in their backyard. I don't think even you would believe you're floating through space or even me in a time when it was impossible.


The Big Sleep J was also inspired by my mentioning Ransom being torn away from mundane reality:
What you said reminded me of what Gregory said in the beginning of "The Man who was Thursday".

"Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!"

It's interesting, but I never read into the book that. OOTSP, I mean. I have to admit it's an interesting idea that Ransom did not mind his travel plans getting thrown into disarray, but he should be bothered by the fact that he did not have a choice.


Stanley Anderson posted "Bemused b^3 (b-cubed for "bit-by-bit")" :
Actually, in this section, I'll not hold so closely to the sequential bit-by-bit analysis that I've followed to some degree in the first two chapters and in the Discarded Image study. Instead, I feel like this is a good place to introduce and give examples of two primary themes that run through all three books. The first theme is one I've simply noticed in reading much of Lewis' works in general, and the second is one that Lewis himself makes a point of identifying elsewhere. And the two themes are not unconnected with each other, but the first is actually (I believe) a sort of beckoning by Lewis to the reader into the second.

That first theme is a pervasive use by Lewis of what we might call a changing "point-of-view" (commonly abbreviated with the acronym "pov") by the main character (Ransom in this case). This idea is most exemplified for me by the scene in Perelandra where Ransom, underground has encountered what seemed (while the Un-man was with it) a horrid large insect-like creature:
------------------------
Ransom…turned to face the other horror [the insect-like creature]. But where had the horror gone? The creature was there, a curiously shaped creature no doubt, but all loathing had vanished clean out of his mind, so that neither then nor at any other time could he remember it, no ever understand again why one should quarrel with an animal for having more legs or eyes than oneself. All that he had felt from childhood about insects and reptiles died that moment; died utterly, as hideous music does when you switch off the wireless. Apparently it had all, even from the beginning, been a dark enchantment of the enemy's. Once, as he had sat writing near an open window in Cambridge, he had looked up and shuddered to see, as he supposed, a many coloured beetle of unusually hideous shape crawling across his paper. A second glance showed him that it was a dead leaf, moved by the breeze; and instantly the very curves and re-entrants which had made its ugliness turned into its beauties. At this moment he had almost the same sensation. He saw at once that the creature intended him no harm - had indeed no intentions at all. It had been drawn thither by the Un-man, and now stood still, tentatively moving its antennae.
-----------------------

Now of course any good writer will generally have his character's character develop and change and progress through a book (indeed this is often one of the main points and purposes of a book). But I think Lewis has a specific purpose in his particular (and as I said, pervasive, throughout the books) use of this changing pov. I am tempted to create an acronym for Lewis' particular use based on the illustration above. The standard sci-fi acronym B.E.M. for "Bug-Eyed-Monster" might be expanded (or shoehorned in a mangled way:-) into "Bug-Eyed-Monster, Understood -- a Starry-Eyed Deception" or B.E.M.U.S.E.D. to indicate the sort of changing pov technique that Lewis uses. It is a technique he uses not so much to show how his character changes or develops in the story (although he does that too), as to provide a way to make the reader see things from different points of view and how certain "distasteful" or "ugly" impressions may suddenly change to have an entirely different "feeling" as the pov changes. (and not necessarily always from "bad to good" or vice versa, but also simply to show a different viewpoint)

We have seen this to some degree in the first two chapters (in Ransom's perceptions of characters and scenery, and also in the transition from his dream to first waking), but we now have it thrust at us full-force with Ransom's investigation of the room that he finds himself in. As K points out, even in 1938 the odd physical and geometric perceptions of low gravity and the small spherical ship in space were probably not "new" to readers of science fiction. I gather (being one myself) that fans of the genre are not unlike hobbits in their enjoyment of hearing things they are already familiar with - a sort of "tell-it-to-me-again-daddy" childlike fascination with ideas. So this chapter certainly acts in a kind of required "hard-science-fiction-exploring-scientific-ideas" role (ironically, a form of science fiction that Lewis had little fascination for) in its description of Ransom's perceptions of the angles of the room and the size of the "moon" in the window (like K, I was also at first a bit confused by the "football" reference - I thought perhaps it meant that only a portion of the moon was showing on the side of the skylight and not the entire circle of the moon. And it seemed like an odd image to draw upon until the non-American use of the word became apparent:-).

But I think this scene serves a purpose greater than simple exploration of scientific ideas that might seem more at home in an Arthur C Clarke book. I believe this chapter is really the first strong instance of the BEMUSED technique that Lewis is so fond of. Ransom's perception travels back and forth between the outward sloping "wheelbarrow" walls and the right-angled "normal" wall structure, and the presence of the "moon" on a supposedly moonless night, not to mention its sudden change, in the last sentence of the chapter, into the earth.

And this technique is used, as I indicated above, in the service (as I believe) of the second primary theme of this book (and the other two books of the trilogy as well as many elements of Narnia and his other books). That second primary theme is Lewis' clear preference and fascination with the medieval cosmological worldview that we had just begun to see in its fullness over on the Discarded Image study. I will quote again the last section from TDI that we had gotten to in the general Lewis forum study:
----------------------
"The really important difference is that the medieval universe, while unimaginably large, was also unambiguously finite. And one unexpected result of this is to make the smallness of Earth more vividly felt. In our [ie, modern view] universe she is small, no doubt; but so are the galaxies, so is everything - and so what? But in theirs there was an absolute standard of comparison…The word 'small' as applied to Earth thus takes on a far more absolute significance…to look out on the night sky with modern eyes is like looking out over a sea that fades away into mist, or looking about one in a trackless forest - trees forever and no horizon. To look up at the towering medieval universe is much more like looking at a great building. The 'space' of modern astronomy may arouse terror, or bewilderment or vague reverie; the spheres of the old present us with an object in which the mind can rest, overwhelming in its greatness but satisfying in its harmony. That is the sense in which our universe is romantic, and theirs was classical."
-------------------
There is a lot more to this medieval cosmology, and the Space Trilogy in general is Lewis' tribute to it and it shines through these works without directly (for the most part) referencing Medieval cosmology. And it does so (if one is aware of it) just as strongly as the Christian element of the Narnia stories shines through them without directly mentioning Scripture or Jesus (and of course a Christian viewpoint also shines through the Space Trilogy, but it is this medieval cosmology and worldview that is so prominent here).

We begin to see this outlook in the "unnatural splendour and fullness of the sky" and the stars and moon and even the darkness of the night sky as they are "pulsing with brightness as with some unbearable pain or pleasure, clustered in pathless and countless multitudes, dreamlike in clarity, blazing in perfect blackness, the stars seized all his attention, troubled him, excited him, and drew him up to a sitting position."

Well there are many, many examples of both these themes coming in the following chapters, but I'll just say here that I think Lewis is using the first theme (that I called his BEMUSED technique) in order to stir the reader into changing (almost without his realizing it) his "indoctrination" of the modern scientific view of space and the universe as empty vastness populated chaotically by tiny pricks of life on outposts of planets and stars, into a more medieval-friendly view of the fullness and orderliness (even though still unknown) of the music of the spheres.

Enough for now,
--Stanley


To which I gave this "Byte-ing Commentary" to Stanley about the "hard science fiction" function of this chapter:
You sure have that right, Stanley. Especialy when you consider that Ransom traded in Weston's space sphere for a cosmic coffin guided by eldils to get to Perelandra. Obviously C.S. Lewis was more interested in the purpose of Ransom's interplanetary travels than about the technical details. Could those scientific details used in the story have a deeper meaning than simply "scientifiction" convention?


To which Stanley replied:
That was indeed the subject and speculation of my next paragraph in that post. I'm curious to hear what other deeper meanings might you suggest too.

>Especialy when you consider that Ransom traded in Weston's space
>sphere for a cosmic coffin guided by eldils to get to Perelandra.

Yes, Lewis talks elsewhere about getting rid of the "mechanics" of space travel and diving into the story itself when he got around to writing the second book. Still, even in Perelandra, Weston arrived presumably in the same or similar ship as in OSP, so such methods of space travel, though perhaps as outdated as our current shuttle craft, were still in use by the time Ransom used the new transport:-)

And there ARE curious bits and hints about the ship that Weston, Devine and Ransom travel in to Malacandra -- the part about its propulsion using some of the lesser known properties of the sun's radiation. What can THAT be about? I can only enjoyably hypothesize about the medieval characteristics of the sphere of the sun (Arbol, in the books) that Lewis outlines in The Discarded Image. Jupiter has outwardly royal kingly roles, but the Sun has subtler and more glorious characteristics in medieval cosmology that seem to remain "undercover" for some reason. Perhaps these are the lesser known properties that Devine hints at? And what could be their theological or philosophical implications for the story. Of course we never get to find out, but it is one of those intriguing unexplored hints in the book.

--Stanley


I could only give a shallow reply to Stanley's inquiry about deeper meanings I noticed:
Err... I ahh... To tell you the truth, I'm rather dense about such meaning beneath the surface. I'm more of a "Doc Savage" fan, as those close to me know. However, I did take note of the sounds that Ransom heard in the room. At first he mentions a high-pitched vibrating sound, barely audible to the human ear. But he could hear a regular plinking sound hitting the vessel. Obviously Ransom hears micro-meteorites striking the spacecraft. Though of course there is no way he could have known what they were at the time. Could there be any meaning behind this "cosmic rain" in the darkness of outer space?

There are just enough scientific facts to color the story, without becomming the true focus of it.


Still Stanley insisted on my opinion, so I wrote this:
Okay Stanley, how's this for deeper significance :

Ransom compares the unusualy large "Moon" to the size of a soccer ball. Could it be because he wishes he were back at the university playing football ? (just kidding)

BTW: Are you familiar with the children's book "Goodnight Moon" ? Just imagine how such a story could be transposed into Weston's spacecraft :

Goodnight Moon. Goodnight skylight into outer space. Goodnight oddly proportioned metal room. Goodnight megalomaniac scientist in the buff.


Yes, the Anderson's have Goodnight Moon, and Stanley could not resist adding:
And looking at the next picture, as megalomaniac scientist in the buff turns around and bends over, we read -- the title of the book, right?:-)

(You can tell a good study by the variety of types and tones of posts:-),
--Stanley


To which I replied "The End :D " and Stanley replied "The "End" of the beginning" :
Actually, this subject (the nudity, not the moon:-) does bring to mind another interesting parallel about Ransom and Weston (ref the carrying the feet and fight between them prefiguring what happens on Perelandra). In OSP Ransom's first image of Weston is of him in the buff while Ransom is the one with clothes, and in Perelandra, it is reversed -- in fact, Weston comments to Ransom about the impropriety of Ransom and the Green Lady being naked. It is interesting to carry it a bit further and consider that Weston gives himself over to the dark eldil/oyarsa and becomes the Un-Man, while on Malacandra, Ransom in effect "gives himself over" to the Oyarsa there and becomes -- well, not an Un-man -- what is the opposite of that? -- a sort of representative for Man to the Malacandrian Oyarsa.

Let me see -- that would make Devine the counterpart to the Green Lady, right? (well, come on, he IS pretty much the opposite -- she is unfallen, and he is so fallen -- according to the Malacandrain Oyarsa -- that he is not only bent, but completely broken:-)

Oh well, as you've indicated, one can carry this sort of thing further than is useful. Still, as Monica says, that's part of the fun of a study:-) I do think there might be something here though.

--Stanley


The Big Sleep J mentioned :
Hmmmmm. Didn't Cyrano De Bergerac write books about travels to the moon? Not the character from the play by Rostand (?), but the historical character.


To which Stanley replied:
That's what I understand too -- which is why Rostand had Cyrano playing the part of a man from the moon as he tried to delay the Count de Guiche from barging into the wedding of Christian and Roxane. (It is one of our favourite movies -- both the Ferrer and Gérard Depardieu versions are enjoyable, but the Gérard Depardieu is heavenly)

In fact, in a google search the link below talks a bit about the real Cyrano. Sounds interesting.

--Stanley


And TBSJ replied:
I've been trying to find some of Cyranos books in print as well as on the Project Gutenberg site, but it's either out of print, or it's Rostand's play.

Off course, I've never seen either version of Rostand's play (Depardieu could have been born to play the part, eh?) or a stage version of it or read the play. I'll look for it when I get to a proper video store...but when I get to one I'm usually distracted by Bogart and Kurosawa movies.


Stanley recommended:
Oh, you simply must! I understand that the DVD of the Depardieu version just came out recently (we've been waiting for it a long time -- unfortunately, it doesn't look like there are any special features added on to the DVD. But the movie is reason enough of course), so you may be able to find it somewhere to rent, I should think. It is on our top five movie list to be sure!

I suppose I should warn you that it is in French with subtitles. It really makes me wish I knew French so I could see and hear it in the original. It iw worth repeated viewings.

--Stanley


So TBSJ quiped:
Subtitles do not bother me! In fact, since I don't know French myself, it would be a bonus. I could remember watching the filmization of Verdi's La Traviata by Zeffereli on TV once...but it did not have subtitles. Great music...but I have only a faint idea of what was going on. So subtitles are prefered.

By the way, what languages can you speak, Stanley? English?

Off course, I can only speak Afrikaans and English. Latin and French is pretty much Greek to me (bad pun).


Which had Stanley joking:
I'm afraid it's only English. When I was younger I knew a little Quenya :D

--Stanley


I know that the thread went a bit off topic. But I thought Wardrobians might be interested in such subjects.

Gwyneth had this to add:
I'm reading a study on the space trilogy called "Planets in Peril" by David Downing. I normally don't read books about Lewis but this one is pretty good and especially nice in relation to what is going on in this forum. Has anyone read it? Stanley, in particular, might like it - lots of references to TDI in comparison with the Trilogy.

Downing writes that Lewis "confessed that Weston's 'scientific' explaination of how is spacecraft flew was 'pure mumbo jumbo". He used the fantasy genre not to depict the universe as understood in our century but to re-create imaginatively the medieval cosmology, a vast and magnificent picture that Lewis called 'the greatest work of art the Middle Ages produced.'"


To which I replied:
David Downing's study sounds interesting,Gwyneth. But if I should read it now there is a good chance that I will base many of my own observations on in. And I would rather be an original amatuer than try to pass off a professional's thoughts as my own. When this study is done I will look up "Planets in Peril". Thanks for mentioning it for the sake of others reading these posts.


Next The Big Sleep J had this to say about the "Reluctant Ransom" :
One of the staples (not Clive Lewis ) of heroic fiction and modern films is what is called the reluctant hero; when a character, despite every bit of common sense in his body tell him not to, goes on a mission or quest because it is the right thing to do. Best examples I can think of is Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Off course, Bilbo does not want to become a hero but goes on the adventure, even if some parts of him did not want to. Frodo, on the other hand, just wants to hand the One Ring to others so that he would not have to do it. Another example in film, is Kambei (Takashi Shimura) in Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai". When the peasants ask him to help protect their village, he declines and call it impossible, yet because of his moral (Bushido) code he does it anyway. Eventually he becomes the leader of the group.

I've been thinking that you don't get reluctant heroes all that much in the fictional works of Lewis (or at least those I read). The best one I can think of is Jane Studdock (spelt correctly?) in "That Hideous Strenght" who takes some time to be convinced to join St Anne's. Ransom, however, did not strike me as one.

Why do you think that Lewis did not have that many of these 'reluctant heroes' even if Tolkien himself did employ them?


To which Steve replied :
I think Ransom does qualify as a reluctant hero. He was kidnapped on this voyage to Mars, remember.

After this book, it is true that he voluntarily extends his participation for the next two books.


Carol mentioned :
I was just remembering a discussion we had here a while back, about the nudity... remember?


To which Gwyneth replied :
was wondering what all of you thought about the nudity. I really didn't have a problem with it, but it seems that every male I know that read the book (an uncle, a cousin, and two friends),with the exception of my brother who is a Lewis reader, was disturbed by it.

Are the male members of the Wardrobe bothered by it? My boyfriend was so disturbed that he wouldn't finish the book and is now slightly biased against Lewis . He says he always vividly pictures what he is reading in his head and that was not what he wanted to picture. (I suggested imagine from the waist upward, but that didn't cut it )

I'm very interested in anyone's comments!
so it goes...
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