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Chapter 6 Study

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

Chapter 6 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 26 Mar 2006, 03:14

Synopsis: Ransom awakes from his troubled sleep with a new resolve. He has resigned himself to the fact that will probably not return to Earth alive. And yet he does not let despair take him over. He hides a knife in hopes that it will protect him from Malacandran monsters. Apparently Ransom's military service has given him this attitude of facing down his fears as best one can.

But then the mood shifts to one of observation. The temperature of Weston's spacecraft gets gradualy colder. And the light gradualy decreases in intensity. Yet Ransom notices that the glorious quality of the Sunlight does not decrease. When Ranson mentions this the Devine all he can reply is: "Like thingummy's soap!" grinned Devine. "Pure soap to the last bubble, eh?"

Next the story turns technical as the vessel approaches Malacandra. The gravity of this mystery planet begins to have an effect on the space ship. No longer is the center of the vessel "down". Now everything goes askew. Heavy items must be moved against what were walls because now certain walls have become floors. All three space voyagers chip in to orient the cargo.

Finaly the vessel makes it's descent into the Manalcandran atmosphere. Curiously Ransom finds himself in philosophical meditations on the light of the Sun and what lies out beyond our Solar System as the ship lands.

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

I wonder if C.S. Lewis' own military service contributed to his desciption of Ransom's resolve in the face of probable death? Lewis did lose a very close friend in WW I.

A first clue as to where Malacandra is located: the fact that the temperature gets colder indicates that the planet is out beyond our Earth (duh?). Of course the spacecraft could have bypassed Mars to go out further into our solar system. So Ransom can not be sure about what the planet is. Of course, no early sci-fi novel can be complete without a trip to the red planet. So we readers know better. (Okay, it's because we have read the notes on the inner flaps of the book cover )

As usual, all Devine can manage to say about Ransom's keen observation about the effects of the Sunlight is the Thingummy soap retort. Just what one would expect from such a man. Does anyone get the impression that Weston and Devine are rather two dimensional villains, set up to be knocked down by the powers of goodness? I am guilty of creating such characters myself in my "Jim Dandy" pulp adventures. Except that the heros as well as the villians are rather stereotypical. (Please forgive a little self-promotion, but would anyone here like to see any more of those Jim Dandy stories in the Fan Fiction Forum?)

I get the feeling that Lewis wanted to dispense with the technical details of the voyage as quickly and smoothly as possible. That's why the business about the gravity shift apon approaching Malacandra was so brief. Lewis dwells apon the physical exersion used to move all the heavy equipment into proper orientation lest they smash the vessel apart. The question I have is that if Weston was such a genius then why didn't he secure all these pieces of equipment with straps and bolts Before they even took off from Earth? The gear must have been in proper Earth orientation before lift-off, so Weston and Devine must have moved them before Ransom awoke the first time.

Lewis was wise to keep the control room out of our sight as the vessel descends into the Malacandran atmosphere. This way he does not have to make up technical details he has no interest in. Just Devine shouting that they are descending too fast. I wonder why they didn't burn up in the atmosphere if they were going too fast. Just to nit-pick, Ransom mentions nothing about the temperature rising apon atmospheric entry. He does get into a philosophical mood about the Sunlight which is blotted out by the atmosphere. He wonders about the existence of a greater "Light" out beyond our solar system which makes the light of our Sun seem like an interruption in space.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 6 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 26 Mar 2006, 04:05

Stanley Anderson kicked off the comments with this observation :
[from K]:
>He does get into a philosophical mood about the Sunlight which is
>blotted out by the atmosphere.

This is again another reference to the medieval model talked about in The Discarded Image. On Earth, it is below the moon's orbit where the air becomes oppressive and "dark". This same effect (to a lesser degree perhaps, since Malacandra is only besieged, not actually fallen) is being described as the ship leaves the deep Heavens and begins to enter the "atmosphere" of one of the other worlds, Mars. Here is a passage from The Discarded Image:
-----------------------
Whatever else a modern feels when he looks at the night sky, he certainly feels that he is looking "out" -- like one looking out from the saloon entrance on to the dark Atlantic or from the lighted porch upon dark and lonely moors. But if you accepted the Medieval Model you would feel like one looking "in". The Earth is "outside the city wall". When the sun is up he dazzles us and we cannot see inside. Darkness, our own darkness, draws the veil and we catch a glimpse of the high pomps within; the vast, lighted concavity filled with music and life.
----------------------
Here is another passage from the same chapter of TDI ("The Heavens"):
----------------------
Nothing is more deeply impressed on the cosmic imaginings of a modern than the idea that the heavenly bodies movie in a pitch-black and dead-cold vacuity. It was not so in the Medieval Model. Already in our passage from Lucan we have seen that...the ascending spirit passes into a region compared with which our terrestrial day is only a sort of night
----------------------

--Stanley


I had this to say about "The Discarded Technology" :
Way back in the pre-Industrial Middle Ages I am sure the Firmament was a vast light show. But nowadays with all our air and light pollution we feel lucky to catch a glimpse of a major constalation.


Monica posted "getting technical" :
///I get the feeling that Lewis wanted to dispense with the technical details of the voyage as quickly and smoothly as possible. ///

I'm with Lewis -- hoping the technical details of these first few chapters will be dispensed with as quickly as possible. There has been a fair bit of technial discussion in the threads that I'm afraid are a bit of a stretch for my feminine mind.

One wonders what the Malacandrian voyage would have been like had Weston and Devine and Ransom been women instead of men. The penultimate sentence in this chapter is: "Things do not always happen as a man would expect." Well, what would one expect if there hand't been a man at all?

But that's another book.:-)


To which Stanley Anderson replied "getting practical" :
Jane Studdock set out from the tree she had been sheltering under from the rain and began walking in the direction of Sterk, lamenting the ill-chosen spike heels and petite silk jacket she had selected for this walking tour...

...as she came to the shed behind the house, she saw two women struggling with Harry and running up to them exclaimed "I say...". Grace Ironwood and Fairy Hardcastle stopped their struggle and looked her over. They decided she would do as well as any for their journey to Mars (and in fact, would probably do better at dishes and cleanup during the journey than the stupid Harry anyway)...

...after they had drugged Jane and put her into the ship, Fairy and Grace pushed the "go" button and...

(you mean something like that?:-)

--Stanley


PurplePen replied to "getting technical" :
I'm with you, Monica! Kanak got the feeling Lewis wanted to dispense with the technical details as quickly and smoothly as possible; I couldn't help feeling that it could've gone much quicker and smoother. Bring on the Hrossa and their delightedly nontechnical ways!

--Dawn


To which Stanley replied "getting musical" :
Lewis himself said that when he came to writing Perelandra, he learned to dispense with the rockets and technical stuff and have angels transport Ransom through the heavens (although Weston does still arrive via the old spaceship method -- I think he hadn't upgraded to the Coffin XP version yet:-)

Still, as I've mentioned in other posts, I think some of this stuff during the journey does provide Lewis a way to achieve a certain frame of mind in the reader (via the "transformation" of Ransom's own thoughts and perceptions aboard the ship) that would have been lost had he "gotten to the good parts" with the Hrossa too quickly. The whole book really is a journey of perception changes from the modern cosmological viewpoint to the Medieval, and I think it quite appropriate that the first part of the book, including the journey to Malacandra begin with the "mechanical" as part of that modern indoctrination that will be gradually overcome as Ransom experiences the ramifications of this Medieval view.

Even the title of the book is significant here, I think. Ironically, we think of "mechanical" as full of noise and clatterings, but in fact, it is this "scientific" mechanical world of Earth that is the "Silent Planet" -- one which, in it's fallen state, cannot hear the Music of the Spheres (nor, as we find out later, can its fallen "noises" be detected outside its Lunar prison from the heavens or Malacandra -- it is silent in both directions). Equally ironic in the other direction, is how when Ransom IS in the heavens during the ship's journey, that music of the spheres is nearly silent to him aurally and affects more his mood and mental perceptions in a powerful way. The "music" in the ship is described as the room being "in a state of continuous faint vibration -- a silent vibration with a strangely lifelike and unmechanical quality about it. But if the vibration was silent, there was plenty of noise going on -- a series of musical raps or percussions...". It is interesting that when he can hear it, it is described as musical, and the vibrations as lifelike and unmechanical (these vibrations probably have to do with those "less observed properties of solar radiation" -- as Weston so mechanically refers to them - that drive the ship).

But what do you think? Would Ransom getting suddenly dumped into the Malacandrian fantasy give the reader the same sense of transformation without all that introductory stuff? Lewis certainly does that, effectively, in Perelandra. But I might argue that by that time, Ransom is a changed person. Someone reading Perelandra first wouldn't have that benefit, I suppose, but I would additionally point out that by the time we get to Perelandra, the "purposes" of the book have changed a bit, and the style and narrative are approached in a different manner than they were in OSP (and indeed in THS - one of the fascinating things about the Space Trilogy is how completely different each book is from the other two)

Well, I'm beginning to ramble again here,
--Stanley



Steve posted "For men only -- Lewis' views on gravitation" :
So we understand now from Monica that women don't want to get bogged down in the technical details -- I guess I'm more stereotypically male than I thought because I found myself trying to figure out Lewis' conception of gravity (and whether it really works) in this chapter. Maybe I would like James Bond films, or pro wrestling after all

OK, to the meat of the subject. What seems inconsistent to me is the details about the slow change of gravitational influence as they approach Mars, when in the previous chapter when they lifted off from earth, there was no ambivalence about where "down" was.

Is this section where the gravity of Mars slowly becomes more and more noticeable only a few hours long, corresponding to the time that Ransom was still unconscious from the drug when they lifted off? I don't think so, Lewis states that their weight was doubling every 24 hours, so we are talking at least a couple of days.

I think Lewis's imagination just wasn't consistent with the details (which isn't at all surprising for someone writing about space travel in the 1930s).

But getting back to the male/female thing -- the reason why the trip to Mars is so masculine and technical while the voyage to Venus is quick and feminine is obvious. Lewis in his prophetic brilliance anticipates that classic of contemporary literature "Men are from Mars, women from Venus."


I commented on "Ransom's Gravity" :
Maybe Ransom did not notice that his weight was gradualy getting lighter hour by hour as he slowly got his wits back. The stress of planetary gravity returning could not be ignored.

The thing that I just noticed now is that Lewis assumes that a spacecraft such as Weston's would naturaly generate it's own gravity. At first I thought that maybe the vessel had some sort of artificial gravity generator. But if it did, wouldn't it be unaffected by Malacandra's gravity field?


To which Steve responded :
I suspect that in Lewis' imagination, the gravity inside the craft is the product of the craft's own mass. This wouldn't work out in practice, because the craft wouldn't be nearly massive enough to produce gravity. But this is why he imagines "down" being towards the center while far away from planets, but "down" being towards a nearby planet.

As you point out, an artificial gravity field would remain equally strong no matter how close or far to a planet they were.


Stanley Anderson had this to say about "recognizing the gravity of the situation" :
Well, again (see my post below), this may be more analysis than is warrented, but I can't resist replying with possibilities. Steve, you say "in the previous chapter when they lifted off from earth, there was no ambivalence about where "down" was", but in fact, as I just quoted in my "Sur-praase" post below, Lewis writes "At the same time their sense of direction -- never very confident on the space-ship -- became...". So whatever sense of down they had, it wasn't very strong and was easily confused.

I would also add that I think there would be a lot bigger difference in the psychological effect (given Lewis' extrapolation of the effects in a science fiction sort of way) in going from full earth weight down to near zero in an exponential "halving" of weight than the reverse of exponential "doubling" of weight from a near zero weight. In the first case, the change is so dramatic that one would essentially feel weightless (thus Ransom bumping his head upon waking) and now having to sort out the minute differences of the further decreasing of Earth gravity in relation to the ship's small gravity would be inconsequential to how his familiarity with his earth weight affected his perceptions.

But at the end of the trip, having gotten used to the near weightless effects of the low gravity and thinking it "normal", the doubling of weight would loom a lot larger in their consciousness and disorientation because the effects are large in comparison to the weight they are used to.

I make a point of this because I think it is another example of the BEMUSED idea I brought up earlier in this study and is instrumental in the gradual progression of Ransom (and the reader's) perception to a different point of view (jumping ahead again, but a prime turning point of this process is near the end of the book when Ransom sees two seemingly unnaturally "squat" figures, and suddenly realizes that they are Weston and Devine, and that he has simply changed his point of view to seeing the "elongated" Malacandrian forms as "normal")

[from K]:
>The thing that I just noticed now is that Lewis assumes that a
>spacecraft such as Weston's would naturaly generate it's own gravity.
>At first I thought that maybe the vessel had some sort of artificial
>gravity generator. But if it did, wouldn't it be unaffected by
>Malacandra's gravity field?

I would suggest that the gravity generator, if it did exist, did not generate a lot of gravity, only enough to provide some degree of direction on the ship for convenience. But again, as I noted above, its effects would be different on the "large" end at the beginning of the journey where the magnitudes would be vastly different and the "small" end at the end of the journey where the magnitudes (at least when they started noticing them) would be comparable to each other.

And as a separate note, if the propulsion exploits those "less observed properties of solar radiation", perhaps a gravity generator exploits them too, and the reason they are less observed is that they begin to be blocked near a planet's own gravitation. Certainly proximity to a planet affects, in Medieval fashion (as I noted in other posts), the perception of other aspects of the heavens that Ransom feels on the journey.

--Stanley


Here is the "Sur-praase, Sur-praase" posting Stanley refered to above:
(does anyone remember where that subject line is from?:-)

[from K]:
>Lewis dwells apon the physical exersion used to move all the heavy
>equipment into proper orientation lest they smash the vessel apart.
>The question I have is that if Weston was such a genius then why
>didn't he secure all these pieces of equipment with straps and bolts
>Before they even took off from Earth?

Well, this may be paying more attention to details than Lewis might have cared about, perhaps (though he does mention a care for something like "explanations" in one of the Narnia books somewhere I think, in case the reader wonders why such-and-such was the way it was), but I might explain it by saying that the ship was not meant to "reside" on Earth -- its purpose there was to "take off". But once in space, they would be there a long time, so that stuff needed to be in "position" around the center of the ship where the weak gravity attracted them (yes, he makes it much too strong for the gravitational effect of the mass of the ship, however, we still don't know what is in the core of the ship and whether the "drive" influences the gravitational effect somehow).

Then when they got to Malacandra, the ship was likely to be there for a while (even though they planned to live primarily in the hut perhaps, things would still need to be accessible and convenient in the ship too, as they may have planned to be there for a while gathering their cargo to take back. Thus the need to reorient the things before landing.

And besides, you are suggesting that genius has to do with neatness and orderliness and efficiency. We've already seen that the house where Ransom found them had the same sort of disorder and lack of attention to what might make things easier later. It's the male adage: Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow -- it may go away by then:-)

>I wonder why they didn't burn up in the atmosphere if they were going
>too fast.

Wasn't Devine's comment meant to suggest that if they didn't slow down, they WOULD burn up -- that they were going too fast, but it wasn't yet too late to change their speed (but to hurry up because it would soon be too late)

Here are some other comments about the chapter that I wanted to make:

For some reason I laugh out loud reading the couple paragraphs where Weston is warning Ransom of the approaching change in gravitational effects and the resulting disorientation, and concludes by saying "You won't like it". I'm not sure why that strikes me so funny -- something about this purely functional Weston character still providing that last bit of warning, as though he cared about Ransom's well-being. Does it strike anyone that way. I'm smiling even now just thinking about that line:-)

I also wonder, smilingly, how women react to the description of the men's weight doubling every 24 hours and describing it as "They had the experiences of a pregnant woman, but magnified almost beyond endurance". I can hear the women saying "just like a man -- the experiences of a pregnant woman ARE already magnified almost beyond endurance:-)

In connection with the post from Monica about if women were on the ship, I can't help commenting about the line "At the same time their sense of direction -- never very confident on the space ship -- became continuously confused". I suspect that because they are all men on board, they wouldn't even THINK of asking a passing eldil for directions.

A couple things I didn't mention from earlier chapters, but occur to me now. While on the ship Ransom decides to choose to be the cook instead of being ordered to by his captors. This reflects his comment earlier in the house to Devine about the appeal of walking tours vs Army forced marches. I wonder if there is a slight (very slight, I'm sure) connection to the theological idea of God offering hints of his existence, but no absolute proof so that Christians make a real decision to accept him -- a theological point Lewis makes elsewhere.

I also note the recurrence of the observation that things are always messier than one remembers. Just before the scene where Ransom overhears Devine's conversation, he has come into the galley to check on things. Lewis writes "As everyone who has "kept house" will understand, he found that his preparations for the morning had been even more incomplete than he supposed." I'm jumping ahead here, but in the chapter seven when Weston and Devine are unlocking the hut they had left on Malacandra, they "expressed surprise that they had left it so dirty". Is there a running theme here? -- the house, the galley, the hut. And not so much the mess, but the surprise that it is messier than one remembers leaving it. Again this may have a slight hint of a theological issue with suddenly discovering that our sins are worse than we thought.

But back to the simple physical mess of supposed cleanup and the surprise that one didn't do it as well as one remembers -- is this a male thing? Angelee says she never experiences this surprise -- that she knows how she "left things" (I don't remember thinking this sort of surprise either, but then I always know what a mess I can leave:-) One other example I can think of that Lewis writes about -- although it is slightly different in tone -- is in THS where the women at St Annes observe something like that "it doesn't do to look at the dishes too closely on the men's day to cleanup".

Well, enough for now,
--Stanley
PS I just said above that I don't experience that surprise that things are messier than I remember, but I just proved it to myself by glancing over this post for typos -- it's amazing how many more there are than I remember (and I'm sure there are still others I'll be surprised about after I hit the "post message" button:-)


I responded to Stanley's "Sur-praase, Sur-praase" inquiry, posting:
Gomer Pyle USMC... ...Reporting for duty on the subject line, Sir!

-----------------------------------------------
You have a good point there about the heavy items being oriented for use in space, Stanley. It makes sense for the gas cylinders and cooking gear. But what about the rifles Ransom mentioned? Was Weston worried about fighting off Bug Eyed Monsters in outer space?
-------------------------------------------------------

We've already seen that the house where Ransom found them had the same sort of disorder and lack of attention to what might make things easier later. It's the male adage: Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow -- it may go away by then:-) - Stanley
------------------------------------------------

I wonder how Fairy Hardcastle would have handled the cargo shifting operation? Probably by sitting there smoking a cigar while she forced Ransom to do the heavy lifting.



To which Stanley replied :
[from K]:
>Was Weston worried about fighting off Bug Eyed Monsters in outer
>space?

Maybe he was worried about being attacked by a swarm of B.E.E.s (ie, Bug Eyed Eldilla:-)

>I wonder how Fairy Hardcastle would have handled the cargo shifting
>operation? Probably by sitting there smoking a cigar while she forced
>Ransom to do the heavy lifting.

One leg slung over the bulkhead, no doubt:-)

--Stanley
so it goes...
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