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Chapter 5 Study

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

Chapter 5 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 20 Mar 2006, 23:50

Synopsis: Now it's Devine's turn to talk with Ransom. Although he's more talkative than Weston he shares even less real information. Devine makes cynical comments about "The white man's burden", rather than explain anything about the natives of Malacandra. And then he states that the real reason for his traveling there is all the wealth he intends to take back to Earth with him. Then Weston bangs on the wall, reminding them to shut up to "conserve oxygen" and no doubt to conceal their true motives. Yet Ramsom's attitude brightens up as he falls into a regular routine aboard the spaceship. He volunteers to do kitchen duty before Weston forces him to do so. And he spends his free time exploring the vessel when he's not busy. One of the things Ransom does is star gaze out the skylights. But then one "night" he overhears Devine's part of a conversation with Weston. And what he hears brings terror back into Ransoms mind. Devine mentions something about human sacrifice. And some odd creatures called "sorns". Ransom falls into a dreamless sleep after sneaking back to his bunk.
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It's no surprise that Devine should be evasive about his true purpose. It is interesting that he sarcasticly makes reference to "the white man's burden", which is the title of a poem written by Rudyard Kipling. In it Kipling makes the cause of 19th Century imperialism sound noble. I have posted the poem below. While Kipling was truthful about his view of foreign intervention, Devine is obviously not.

For a while it looks as if Ransom can relax and enjoy the journey. He falls into a routine where he is a usefull crew member rather than a prisoner. In his spare time he goes star gazing out the Skylights. And this leaves a big impression on him. He almost agrees with Weston about being small minded about his reluctance to be on such a quest. Ransom discovers that outer space is not empty but in fact full of glorious light and radiation. Of course Weston has a material explanation for this feeling that Ransom has.
"Weston, in one of his brief, reluctant answers, admitted a scientific basis for these sensations: they were receiving, he said, many rays that never penetrated the terrestrial atmosphere."

So much for Ransom's classical vision inspired by astrology. There is one classical reference I looked into. Ransom discribes himself as "a second Danae". Danae was the mother of Perseus. Her father jailed her in an underground cave with brass walls. That's surely a reference to the feel of Ransom's room. But I doubt the Zeus will drop in on the philologist in the form of a rain of gold coins.

But about halfway to Malacandra, Ransom accidentaly eavesdrops a conversation between Devine and Weston while preparing for the next days KP duties. It is interesting that Ransom can only make out Devine's half of the conversation. This gives the whole scene a more realistic feel as well as leaving the complete truth in the dark. The reader must use his imagination to figure out what is going on. One thing that is apparent is that Devine's sarcasm extends even to Weston's opinions. Devine suggests that Weston mate with the Malacandran natives if he's so interested in them. Ransom is unable to decipher Weston's gruff reply. The most shocking revelation is the suggestion that what the Malacandran's want is an Earthling to sacrifice! This of course slaps Ransom back to reality. Why did these two want a simpleton on their journey at first before kidnaping him? The answer is now painfully obvious. He is to be a sacrificial lamb for some horrible bug eyed monsters from another world. All the old visions of science fiction fill Ransom's mind as he falls asleep.

so it goes...
Last edited by Kanakaberaka on 26 Mar 2006, 03:16, edited 1 time in total.
so it goes...
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Kanakaberaka
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"The White Man's Burden"

Postby Kanakaberaka » 20 Mar 2006, 23:57

Rudyard Kipling, The White Man's Burden, 1899

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Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 5 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 26 Mar 2006, 03:08

The Big Sleep J had this to say:
Seems almost as if Weston has shut himself off from all beauty by just attaching himself to science. He seems to be only seeing one thing without reflecting on it's other properties.

>>> Ransom discribes himself as "a second Danae". Danae was the
>>> mother of Perseus. Her father jailed her in an underground cave
>>> with brass walls. That's surely a reference to the feel of
>>> Ransom's room. But I doubt the Zeus will drop in on the
>>> philologist in the form of a rain of gold coins.

Would have been very funny (and quite frankly uncalled for) if it did happen, but then again this is not a Monty Python sketch.


Funny, some people said (based on the Narnian Chronicles) that CS Lewis was an Imperialist. How they got to that conclusion is debatable. OOTSP seems to be very anti-imperialism because what Devine and Weston intend to do defines Imperialism. To (through Devine) exploit a newly discovered piece of geography for personal gain and (through Weston) to conquer for future generations to live. That was, in some regard, the basis of Imperalism.


Once again he is haunted by HG Wells or at least Wells' "dreary" world view on man's lack of assurance about his place in the universe. Weston and Devine seem to think like Wells that aliens are hostile and would have invaded earth if they had the means just like they are doing. Their cynical world view had them assume that the creatures wanted a sacrifice because these "beasts" were primitives. They assume the worst. Ransom, to tell the truth, assumed the same based on Wells' books, which shows you that people rub off on each other.


To which I responded, "And now for something completely different" :
If you think C.S. Lewis has gotten a bum rap about imperialism, Mark Twain (alias Samuel Clemens) has been accused of promoting the very evils he denounced in his writtings. Apon hearing Kipling's poem about the white man's burden, Twain replied, "But who will write of the brown man's burden? He also went against popular opinion by denouncing the Spanish - American War. And what thanks has he gotten for sticking his neck out? Misguided civil rights leaders have denounced Mark Twain as racist for using the "N" word too often in his novel "Huckleberry Finn"! You would think that the ignoramuses would have enough sense to see that one of the protagonists in the story is an escaped slave. Some people just can't put words into the context of the story.


TBSJ mentioned "The Narnian Empire" :
Well, most of the supposed "imperialism" from Narnia comes from this: All the main characters in Narnia are caucasian Englishman ruling by devine right in a country where animals (lesser creatures) live and talk. Off course, this is a very stupid way to look at the Chronicles, but then again, you just get some people who have nothing better to do in their time than look for evils everywhere.


Gwyneth responded to TBSJ :
I would be more inclined to think of the Calormens as imperialists. They are the ones that long to "swallow up" Narnia and poor little Archenland. The Calormen is the opposite of what Narnia is about (imperialism, collectivism, cruelty...) Don't the Narnians show time and time again they want just want to live and let live?

In his Letters to Children Lewis wrote in reference to the Roman Empire and the Gauls..."I'm all for the Gauls myself and I hate all conquerors..."


PurplePen had this to say :
[Big Sleep J] Seems almost as if Weston has shut himself off from all beauty by just attaching himself to science. He seems to be only seeing one thing without reflecting on it's other properties.

What I was thinking as well. Especially as compared to Ransom of whom it says, "almost he felt, wholly he imagined, 'sweet influence' pouring or even stabbing into his surrendered body." I don't think the use of "surrendered" is accidental or is simply a description of a physical state. It plays nicely off his name, of course, but I think it also indicates how he has consciously and unconsciously opened himself to the "good" just as Weston has consciously and unconsciously shut himself off from it.

And I love the idea behind this -- the dual nature of things. In this particular instance, the "rays" can be "rays" with a thoroughly valid and proper scientific explanation and yet can also be more. It's as if Weston gets the substance, the body of the thing, but misses it's soul, its animation. He does it here, I think, but he does it more obviously later.

--Dawn


Stanley Anderson did not give his direct comments to chapter 4, so he combined them with his comments on chapter 5 :
In Chapters four and five, we begin to get the direct assault of Lewis' intention to deliver to the reader a "believable" and aesthetically appealing medieval cosmological model that he describes in detail in The Discarded Image.

One quick humourous point from the beginning of Chapter four -- "What for? said Ransom. "And what on earth have you kidnapped me for? And how have you done it?" For a moment Weston seemed disposed to give no answer..."

I like to jokingly think that Weston's delay in answering was part of the same pause Ransom's question gave me. I wanted to say, in answer to his question "And how have you done it?" immediately following his question about why he was kidnapped, "well, by drugging you and carrying your limp body into the ship -- what did you think?":-) Of course, his question meant "how did you get us into space?", but the sequence was confusing on first read:-)

By the way, although I'm sure Weston has most of the selfish motives attributed to him here, I think his desire to conserve oxygen by talking as little as possible is a simply realistic assessment of their physical situation and the limitations of the ship and has little to do with saving oxygen only for himself or seeing everything as an extension of himself. He does seem to have still a trace of concern for those outside himself. One can't say for sure of course, but from Devine's side of the overheard conversation, it appears that Weston has some reservations about the "sacrifice" of Ransom, and some care about the inhabitants of Malacandra, which Devine sees as just resources to be exploited.

We see more too of the BEMUSED point of view changes that I mentioned earlier. In particular, Ransom decides that suicide is better than being handed over to the Sorns and prepares for it. Ransom thinks, "It was no more in his power, he thought, to decide otherwise than to grow a new limb." This seemingly immutable position does, in fact, change as we will see in later chapters.

And of course the spell of "outlook" caused by indoctrination of modern cosmology and science has already begun to unravel in Ransom as he thinks about space. "No: space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens", Ransom thinks.

The book is so infused with medieval thoughts and cosmology, I almost expect to hear Ransom exclaim to Devine and Weston, "It's all in Dante! What DO they teach them in these schools these days!":-)

--Stanley


Stanley had this comment about my observation :
[from K]:
>Ransom discribes himself as "a second Danae". Danae was the mother of
>Perseus. Her father jailed her in an underground cave with brass
>walls. That's surely a reference to the feel of Ransom's room. But I
>doubt the Zeus will drop in on the philologist in the form of a rain
>of gold coins.

Ah, but your doubt is unfounded, at least in essence. The tinkling on the ship of the small meteorites suggests coins, but more importantly, in the previous chapter we read that "the light was paler than any light of comparable intensity that he had ever seen; it was not pure white light, but the palest of all imaginable golds, and it cast shadows as sharp as floodlight". He goes on to say how the heat from it kneaded and carressed his skin like a gigantic masseur. Not a bad description of a magical rain of gold coins, I think:-)

--Stanley


I had this to say about Ransom's "Golden Shower" :
Hmmm... I forgot about those micro-meteorites tinkling on the hull. I suppose they would remind Ransom of coins raining down. So that may also contribute to the Danae reference. As long as the Greek god Zeus does not show up incarnate, I suppose it's on the level. And yet the way you discribe this scene, Stanley, it sounds almost homoerotic. Just my impression.


PurplePen had this to say about the "Shower of gold" :
I had momentarily forgotten them as well... but the impression Stanley's description made for me was distinctly different than the one it made for you, Kanak! I was delighted that he brought it all together -- the tickling, the cascading gold light -- to show the fullness of the imagery of Danae. Even the masseur doesn't bring up images of homoeroticism in my mind -- just classical, mythical blessing and comfort. Just my impression, though.

--Dawn


"And of course..." PurplePen added :
Of course if I'd really meant "tickling" instead of "tinkling"...it would be soundly within the realms of homoeroticism.

--Dawn


Stanley Anderson had this to say about my comment :
[from K]:
>As long as the Greek god Zeus does not show up incarnate, I suppose
>it's on the level

Well, I don't know if you'd call it incarnate, but he does show up in THS as the Oyarsa Glund (once removed, as it were -- ie, more like the Roman God Jupiter), and presumably he is present off-stage even in OSP. Of course Lewis talks more about this idea in the second book "Perelandra" of mythical imagery on Earth, being but dim reflections of actual mythical elements on other planets.

--Stanley


I said it was "Hit or Myth" :
I think you mean to say "the reality behind the myth" rather than "actual mythical elements", which to me sounds like "real fantasy". It brings to mind a critisism from a skeptic who called Jesus a "phoney myth". Of course if Jesus was mythical, them He was not phoney, just ficticious. On the other hand, if he was phoney then he was obviously no myth.

Maybe I'm just splitting hairs?


The Big Sleep J commented :
I think people just like to use the word "phoney"

It rolls nicely off the tongue.


I told him to "Blame J.D. Salinger" :
His anti-hero, Holden Caulfield from "Catcher in the Rye" used the word "phoney" to discribe anyone who displeased him.


Steve had this to say about my "Hit or Myth" posting :
I'm sure Lewis and Tolkien would have understood a distinction between true myths and untrue myths, but of course they would place Christianity in the "true myth" category.


So I responded with "Mything Persons" :
I think that Tolkien and I am sure that Lewis would discribe Christianity as the Fullfillment of the old myths.


(My apologies to Robert Lyn Asprin for the "Myth" puns)
so it goes...
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