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Chapter 8 Study

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

Chapter 8 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 27 Mar 2006, 02:36

Synopsis: Ransom runs for his life into the Malacandran wilderness. Weston, Devine and the Sorns are unable to catch up with him and are soon left behind. The rest of this chapter is basicly a travelog about the Malacandran forest. Finaly as night falls, Ransom finds a warm place to sleep.
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Another author might have focused on the action of Ransom's escape. It certainly has the potential for suspense and thrills. Lewis instead gives short shrift to the chase sequence and instead has Ransom on a sort of nature hike through the purple forest of and alien world. Talk about an abrupt change of focus! And yet Lewis has a reason for doing this. He always despised action stories that ignored the setting of the action. In an essay entitled "On Stories" Lewis says, "But the fact is that what is said to be the most 'exciting' novel in the world, The Three Musketeers, makes no appeal to me at all. The total lack of atmosphere repels me. There is no country in the book - save as a storehouse of inns and ambushes. There is no weather. When they cross to London there is no feeling that London differs from Paris. There is not a moment's rest from the 'adventures': one's nose is kept ruthlessly to the grindstone. It all means nothing to me."

And so this chapter is Lewis' attempt frame the action into a vivid background. Ransom is not running through any old English or for that matter terrestrial forest. And Lewis wants us to appreciate that fact. That is the reason why he gets the chase scene cliche' out of the way to concentrate on the discription of the Malacandran landscape. And considering that we are being introduced to a world quite different from ours, I think that Lewis has it right. Most of the discriptions concern the effect of lower gravity on the landscape. Here Lewis does a fine guessing job, Even though our recent Mars probes reveal a flat, desert like planet nothing like the gravity defying hills and gullies of Malacandra. Then again, our probes have not yet explored those fabled Martian canals . Lewis even provides a reason for a livable temperature on Malacandra. Numerous hot water springs flowing down to a river in the valley form a sort of natural radiator system. The focus is on the flora rather than fauna here. Only one or two "red creatures" scuttled across Ransom's path. This lack of detail is realistic in that anyone who has viewed wild creatures in their natural habitat will tell you that don't often lay around long enough to be observed. Just as the land is formed by the low gravity, so are the purple plants which Ransom discribes as trees. They stretch up tall to reach the sky supported only by the air.

In between the action of Ransom's escape and his communing with Malacandran nature, he takes time to reflect on the apperance of the sorns. "They were quite unlike the horrors his imagination had conjured up, and for that reason had taken him off his guard. They appealed away from the Wellsian fantasies to an earlier, almost an infantile, complex of fears. Giants -ogres -ghosts -skeletons: those were its key words. Spooks on stilts, he said to himself; surrealistic bogy-men with their long faces." For now the sorns are still monsters in Ransom's mind. Albeit, not science fiction monsters but more traditional fairy tale style demons. This view will change in later chapers.

By the end of this chapter Ransom needs to sleep, quite understandably because of his all day run and hike. At first he is reluctant to get comfortable next to a hot spring cataract thinking that another aquantic monster might live there as well. He falls asleep in the comfort of the streams warmth unintentionaly.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 8 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 03 Apr 2006, 15:41

Stanley Anderson began the comments saying "I'm of two minds" :
This chapter -- and the beginning of the next chapter, so I'll include that part in my comments here -- are, I think, a crucial turning point in my theory about what I think is the primary theme of the book. As I've referred to in many of my posts here, but perhaps not stated this explicitly, that theme is Ransom's journey from the indoctrination of the modern "romantic" (as Lewis defines it in The Discarded Image and which I've quoted here a couple times) scientific man to his transformation (along with the reader's, hopefully) into a Medieval Man with his "classical" outlook of the Medieval cosmological view of the universe.

As I have indicated in previous posts, this is effected in part by what I've fancifully called by the BEMUSED acronym in reference to the various changing points of view that Ransom experiences, even physical ones like the odd "geometrical" ones he undergoes in the spaceship with its seemingly slanted walls which become "square" when he enters the room and sees them from a different point of view.

By the way, I am frustrated that in a previous post about their landing on Mars, I neglected to point out one of the primary things I wanted to say there. When Ransom is looking through the manhole at the pink circle of Malacandrain ground, this is very reminiscent of Lewis' comment about how modern man looks out into the universe as though he were looking out into the vast darkness from a porch (as contrasted with the Medieval view that imagines we are looking "up" into the festivities of the "house" from the outside -- it is we who are outside in the darkness longing to get to the lighted porch).

But finally onto this turning point in the current chapter I mentioned above: I don't know enough about psychology to be able to judge whether Lewis' description of Ransom talking to himself as if there were two people there is scientifically correct. It frankly seems slightly "hokie" to me psychologically. Again, I am not a good judge of that aspect. But for me the primary purpose of that "dual personality" is not "psychological" in that sense. Rather, I see it as a crucial literary device to demonstrate to the reader that the Medieval Man is beginning to "take over" in Ransom's psyche. He talks to the "poor" fellow wandering in the woods and tries to comfort that "modern man" who is becoming lost in this new Medieval mindset. That dual personality gradually fades and it is the Medieval man who has won the day. It is this section in the book that we see the first big corner turned that the earlier chapters were preparing us for.

To be sure the transformation will continue throughout the book -- Ransom will continue to have those disorienting point of view changes here and into Perelandra. But this chapter is pivotal to this view of the book, I think.

--Stanley


Monica had this to say about Ransom talking to himself :
Interesting comments, Stanley (to be completely unoriginal and plagiarize Big Sleep. :-) Whether it's psychological or literary, now that you mention it, it seems familiar. Lewis uses a similar two-mind device elsewhere: In "The Pilgrim's Regress" with Duty and Desire. In "That Hideous Strength" with the Witherian two minds (although there were really supposed to BE two minds there.) And in "The Great Divorce" with the man who wears the lizard.

There might be more that aren't coming to mind right now.


To which Stanley replied "Toto two?" :
You know, now that you mention it and the examples you provide, it sort of fits in almost exactly with my past much-elaborated chessboard theory about THS doesn't it? Each character there (and even some events) have a sort of dual counterpart (Jane/Mark, Fairy/Grace, Ransom/Alcasan, etc). What a revelation! These ideas all sort of connect together nicely in ways I hadn't even contemplated.

(have to go off and thing about this some more),
--Stanley


The next day Stanley had this thought to add, "And possibly Weston and Devine?" :
I suddenly wonder if another "dual" personality is not represented by Weston and Devine. I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but I think K pointed out their names possibly resonating with the sound of Western and Divine. Could these two villains somehow represent a sort of corrupt parallel to Ransom's transformation between the "romantic" modern scientific view and the "classical" Medieval Man view as Lewis describes in The Discarded Image? I suppose Weston with his "high" theories could be a sort of self-preservation corruption of the Classical Medieval view while Devine, devoid of any values but self-interest in an otherwise meaningless world could be an (even more) corruption of the Romantic modern scientific view.

But I'm not at all sure about this -- just exploring. I'm tempted to see something in the plot device of having Ransom escape from his captors as also aiding metaphorically in his split personality which allows the Medieval Man side to take over -- and can this be connected in any way with Ransom's odd dream/vision in the early chapters? Well, it all seems a bit "heavy", but fun to think about.

--Stanley


And then Stanley could not resist the pun, "Dr. Dual-little" :
I hope I'm not pushing this way too far, but as I keep thinking about this idea in other works, it occurs to me that the piebald nature of Ransom's arrival on Perelandra would fit in perfectly too. Again, as in the dual personality on Malacandra fading away as the Medieval Man overcomes the modern, Ransom's piebald skin fades too as he become more completely the "defender of the faith" on Perelandra.

I suppose even Weston/Unman has some of this duality as we see him fluctuate between the two (obviously the Weston part only make brief appearances after his possession.)

And if I can broach a possibly questionable area, we even see more of this "duality" in The Dark Tower with the alternate characters in Othertime that are apparent corruptions of their counterparts on Earth. Could this observation lend support to its authenticity, since it seems unlikely to be the sort of thing a forger would think to mimic? (I know, I know, I'm in a jungle of speculation here -- I'll back off if necessary:-)

--Stanley


Monica responded with "Doctoring Do Little" :
I think if you ask any talented writer -- and you don't have to look very far to find one :-) -- her or she will tell you that certain themes keep recurring in their work. Some authors have favourite themes, like Herman Melville and 'the voyage'. Some authors have themes they keep using despite themselves, themes that they didn't realize were pinging around in their heads until they find them continually recurring in their work -- like Richard Peck and kindly old women. And some authors will tell you that themes have a mind of their own, that they are "out there" and that every writer who picks up a pen finds them suddenly pressing in on his elbow, looking for recognition.

I think almost any book can be analyzed for a basic theme such as "duality", or "light" or "circularity". So, though I don't for a second discount any of your 'findings' of duality in Lewis -- I think you've fingered a lot of really good examples -- I HAVE to discount making a connection between finding-duality-in-The-Dark-Tower and naming-C.S.-Lewis-as-the-author. I expect I could find the duality theme in "War and Peace" too, but that doesn't mean Lewis wrote it.

Walter Hooper can try to doctor (or imitate) a Lewis book. But Doctor Hooper do little.

(Come on, I can't let any possible arguments pro-Lewis-as-"The-Dark- Tower" author go unchallenged on this site. :-)


Stanley shot back with "Do-Bee Little" :
(that subject line is meant to be a playful pun on "belittle" and Romper Room, not as taking offense at all:-)

[from Monica]:
>I HAVE to discount making a connection between
>finding-duality-in-The-Dark-Tower and
>naming-C.S.-Lewis-as-the-author.

That connection (or just about any other) certainly doesn't prove Lewis wrote the thing, just as feelings that "it doesn't sound like Lewis to me" (as many have claimed) don't prove that he didn't. It can only be one more piece of circumstantial evidence (in the collection of evidence for both sides) in a case that we will probably never have conclusive proof and can only weigh probabilities and give opinions. And simply as "a piece of evidence" I don't think it can be discounted too easily in terms of its suggestive power (but see more below for why I think so).

>I think almost any book can be analyzed for a basic theme such as
>"duality", or "light" or "circularity"

>I expect I could find the duality theme in "War and Peace" too, but that doesn't mean Lewis wrote it.

I agree that "duality" can be a pretty general theme, and in that generalized form might be "discovered" in just about any work of any authour (even the title "War and Peace" argues for that connection of course). But I have been thinking of a very specific theme (though still hard to clarify in explicit terms -- heck, it is still pretty hazy in my own mind:-), and I have used the general term "duality" as a quick reference term. And in fact I have generally enclosed it in quotes to indicate that it is not a very precise description of what I am talking about.

And that specific "duality" that I am talking about, though some (perhaps many) writers may also employ it, seems to be specific enough in the way Lewis uses it to make it seem very Lewisian in my mind. Ransom's talking to himself as two people in OSP, and his piebald body in Perelandra (which I think is not simply a sci-fi physical "explanation" of travelling through space, but was included by Lewis for literary reasons), Orual's eventual identification with Psyche (not simply "you shall be LIKE Psyche" but "you shall BE Psyche") -- these are all very extreme and very specific examples of a particular type of duality. Ransom IS two people in his mind in OSP, his body IS both dark and light on Perelandra, Orual IS Psyche in some hyper-theological/literary sense -- none of these are similes or metaphors, as the more general use of "duality" might manifest itself (and can easily be discovered without much difficulty) in most any authour.

Thus, in The Dark Tower, the characters don't see only a mysterious dark world through the device, or even metaphorical images that suggest symbolic duality of their own world and themselves as we might find in any "heavy" analysis of any literary work -- they see actual dark images of the tower they know in this world and more importantly, they see actual dual selves in that other world.

Though I think that the chessboard idea I've expressed about THS is another example of this "Lewisian" quality I've described above (but manifested in a bit more general literary way), if I had suggested a similar kind of duality in The Dark Tower, it would be less suggestive of Lewisian authourship and could more easily be discounted, I think (though such a connection could still carry some weight, perhaps). But my actual suggestion is a little more solid and specific to Lewis than simply finding a general kind of "duality" in War and Peace (or even the "Dick and Jane" first readers:-)

But of course it proves nothing, only suggests.

>(Come on, I can't let any possible arguments pro-Lewis-as-"The-Dark-
>Tower" author go unchallenged on this site. :-)

Nor would I want you to. It would take some of the fun out of the site:-) But you do realize that it is the pro-Hooper-as-"The-Dark-Tower"-author arguments that are far more likely to go unchallenged on this site, right? That's just a guess on my part -- I have the impression that there are more Lindskoog supporters here than otherwise, but I'm not sure. It might be interesting to conduct a poll to see how many think Lewis wrote it, Lewis didn't write it, or don't have an opinion (and the "no opinion" side is not necessarily for those who haven't yet read it. I've found that many people who have not read it can often still have a very strong opinion on the matter -- usually pro-Lindskoog)

--Stanley


"To "Do" Little or Not to Dolittle" was Monica's reply :
I always thought Romper Room was Canadian. I actually thought it was local, provincial television, it was so lame.

[From Stanley]:
Ransom IS two people in his mind in OSP, his body IS both dark and light on Perelandra, Orual IS Psyche in some hyper-theological/literary sense -- none of these are similes or metaphors, as the more general use of "duality" might manifest itself (and can easily be discovered without much difficulty) in most any authour. ///

Actually I WAS thinking about just this kind of duality that Lewis uses, as opposed to the more general duality of, say, good and evil, or the duality of light and dark. The theme of 'twinning' or, for lack of a better term, 'Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyding' is a theme that other authors besides Lewis use. Now, if I could think of a good example from a book that BOTH you and I have read to delve into.....:-)

///But you do realize that it is the pro-Hooper-as-"The-Dark-Tower"-author arguments that are far more likely to go unchallenged on this site, right?///

Yes, of course. Naturally, I realize I won't have my hands full here running from forum to forum putting out anti-Walter Hooper fires.
I used the term 'on this site' to mean 'when you, Stanley, are writing here publically, and not privately in e-mail.' You can do more harm here with a wider audience. :-)

And again, please know that I'm not disagreeing with any of the examples you point out of duality. In fact, if I'm remembering correctly, I was the one who started pointing to other Lewisian examples, and suggesting a Lewisian pattern. But even if "The Dark Tower" imitates that 'duality' theme, it's only more evidence (for those of us in the Walter Hooper camp) of imitation. To me, the evidence of duality doesn't point to the fact that it's Lewis being Lewis; it points to the fact that it's somebody else "doing" Lewis. Sort of like Rich Little doing Jimmy Carter. :-)


"And what about "You also shall be Psyche"?" was Stanley's thought about Monica's first reply :
Oooh. Am I onto something here? Till We Have Faces almost seems to be the perfect culmination of this idea. I think you've mentioned before (was it you?) about Orual and Psyche (and possibly even Redival) representing different parts of the mind. This definitely seems to be a recurring theme in Lewis. I haven't thought much about Narnia along this line -- Cor/Corin, Prince Rillian and "Tashlan" come to mind off the top of my head, but they are not perhaps very "profound" instances. Still, it could warrant more thought.

--Stanley


Jo had this to say about the ""You also shall be Psyche" quote :
Hey that is my sign off line!

To which Monica chimed in :
which it's high-time you change!

Jo replied :
I am open to suggestions

So Stanley suggested :
How about "you also shall be Orual"?

And The Big Sleep J suggested :
Howabout "I kill Johnnies on sight"


Finaly The Big Sleep J had this to say about Lewis' dislike of the lack of detail in The Three Musketeers as well as Lewis' use of detail :
Interesting thing, something people (readers as well as writers) don't always realize when they're writing. The changes of atmosphere and so forth are always important.

>>> Only one or two "red creatures" scuttled across Ransom's path.
>>> This lack of detail is realistic in that anyone who has viewed
>>> wild creatures in their natural habitat will tell you that don't
>>> often lay around long enough to be observed.

Also, Lewis might also be using the lack of detail in discriptions to let the reader fill in the visual blanks himself, so to speak. He'd rather let the audience form a visual look for the creatures rather than try to discuss it. It's sometimes better that way.
so it goes...
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