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Chapter 9 Study

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

Chapter 9 Study

Postby Kanakaberaka » 03 Apr 2006, 15:45

Synopsis: Ransom awakens from his sleep thirsty and hungry. After debating with himself, he risks drinking from the warm spring and finds it to be safe after all. The foliage is inedible though. After pulling himself together mentaly, Ransom resumes his flight and explorations. He come apon some peacefull Malacandrian animal life eating the tops off the odd trees. This gives Ransom a view of what appear mountains. And then a glimpse of a Sorn! Ransom run for his life, hoping that the Sorn has not noticed him. Apon reaching another lake Ransom is surprised by something rising out of the water. He is not sure whether it's intelligent or not. But the creature utters some words in it's own language and Ransom concludes that he's intellegent. The being is known as a "Hross". After sharing some words, drink and food, Ransom begins to think of the Hross as human.
Ransom begins this chapter in the divided mind mode. It's as if he's watching himself from the outside. In my opinion this is due to loneliness rather than any switching over from modern to medival mindsets. He has been cooped up for a month in a steel sphere with two rotten apples, and now he finds himself in an alien wilderness. Ransom even mentions hoping that he would really be safe in an English asylum rather than in the dangerous situation he found himself. So against his own advise, Ransom drinks what could be poisonous water rather than die of thirst. Not much of a choice, but the gamble paid off. The only trouble with the water was it's mineral taste. Ransom was not quite as lucky with the using the trees as food. Ransom found them usefull only as chewing gum, but at least they were not poisonous.

Next come an encounter with some Malacandrian wildlife. I never really paid very much attention to the fuzzy giraffe like animals the first three of so times I read OOTSP. But I was intrigued with some of the details Lewis gave about them. Especialy the part about them standing up on their hind legs to get at the top leaves of the foliage. It reminded me of the barrosaurous skeleton in the Museum of Natural History, a terribly impressive creature. Then I tried imagining the dinosaur spindley and covered with yellow fuzz and the very idea sounds funny. Of course these animals have a dramatic purpose. They eat away a view through the forest canopy. Ransom is now able to view what he thinks are incredibly high mountains in formations that would fall over on our planet. The view also exposes an ominous sorn to the view of Ransom! Needless to say Ransom runs to avoid be seen by the sorn. His flight takes him back to the lower land near another lake.

While at the lake, Ransom makes his first friendly contact on Malacandra. But he does not even know whether or not the otter like creature in the water is intellegent. It's use of words tip Ransom off. He is so ecstatic about discovering an extra-terrestrial language that he plans on writting a book about it :
"In the fraction of a second which it took Ransom to decide that the creature was really talking, and while he still knew that he might be facing instant death, his imagination had leaped over every fear and hope and probability of his situation to follow the dazzling project of making a Malacandrian grammar. An Introduction to the Malacandrian Language -The Lunar Verb -A Concise Martian-English Dictionary... the titles flitted through his mind. And what might one not discover from the speech of a non-human race? The very form of language itself, the principle behind all possible languages, might fall into his hands."
Sounds crazy to go from fearing for one's life to focusing on philological studies. But as Lewis says,"The love of knowledge is a kind of madness". In a sort of "Me Tarzan, You Jane" fashion, Ransom and the Hross open up a sort of conversation with the help of a lot of gesticulation. It makes wonder if God wanted a master of languages to be one of the first humans to land on the Red Planet. The missunderstanding of Weston and Devine came from their lack of knowlege about Malacandrian speech. I would have thought that explorers of the unknown would have taken the time to understand the native population's tongue, if for no other reason than to get whatever it was they wanted. The two lunk-heads hurt themselves by not bothering to find out what the Malacandrians were really like. Then again, maybe Lewis is trying to show what imperialism is all about. Putting one's own civilization above the indigenous people.

The Hross extends his hospitality by offering Ranson a drink, which turns out to be alcoholic no less. Ransom sure lucks out when it come to finding a drink! But not before some misunderstanding on Ransom's part at first. He notices things hanging from the waist of the Hross and assumes that they are it's genitals. So naturaly when the Hross squirts some liquid into a water filled shell, Ransom thinks that he's urinating into it. Apon closer inspection Ransom realizes that the Hross is wearing things on a belt, sort of like a canteen or wine skin.

Lewis goes into some detail about Malacandrian vocabulary. The Hross shows Ransom some dirt and says "handra". So Ransom mentions the word "Malacandra", and the Hross indicates the whole landscape. Now all Ransom has to do is figure out what a handramit is. It's details like this where Lewis shows off his profession in a most interesting way.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Original Chapter 9 Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 03 Apr 2006, 16:04

Stanley Anderson began the comments with "modern man -- fear of heights" :
Well, we'll have to just disagree about the "meaning" behind the dual personality bit. I would just add about it that from my point of view, I also find it interesting (not convincing of course to someone who doesn't already subscribe to the view) that it is precisely when Ransom decides to finally drink the water that the duality begins to disappear -- ie the Medieval Malacandrian soul has won out and his "baptism" has caused the old man (the modern scientific one) to die out as it were. The old man rears its ugly head from time to time, but Ransom (the new one) lets it "roll over him" and it goes away. As an aside, this is not unlike how we, as Christians, deal with our "old man" after our conversion -- we are new born and redeemed, but our sinful body keeps popping up.

But now to go on away from the dual personality thing.

Another aspect of the medieval view in this chapter is, for me, illustrated by the scene where Ransom is able to see the mountains more clearly. In The Discarded Image, Lewis emphasizes strongly that the Medieval view had a very "vertical" nature about it -- the Heavens were not just "out there" but distinctly "up". As he writes in TDI, "As a modern, you located the stars at a great distance. For distance you [as a modern trying to imagine the Medieval view] must now substitute that very special, and far less abstract, sort of distance which we call height; height, which speaks immediately to our muscles and nerves. The Medieval Model is vertiginous."

Compare this with the passage in OSP where Ransom observes the waterfall and realizes that the greenish-white things are mountains:

"...with that discovery the mere oddity of the prospect was swallowed up in the fantastic sublime. Here, he understood, was the full statement of that perpendicular theme which beast and plant and earth all played on Malacandra -- here in this riot of rock, leaping and surging skyward like solid jets from some rock-fountain, and hanging by their own lightness in the air, so shaped, so elongated, that all terrestrial mountains must ever after seem to him to be mountains lying on theyr sides. He felt a lift and lightening at the heart."

Finally, we see at the end of the chapter another occurance of what I have called Ransom's B.E.M.U.S.E.D. view -- the changing of point of view that helps him to gradually become the Medieval Man. Ransom discovers that seeing the hross as a disfigured human causes feelings of horror, but changing that point of view to that of an animal with the added features of speech and reason is the opposite. As Lewis writes in the last few sentences: "Nothing could be more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful than the other. It all depended on the point of view."


"Getting Medieval" was my reply to Stanley :
Sorry Stan, but I really have a bone to pick with you on this one. I aggree with C.S. Lewis' view on the shortcommings of "Modern" thinking. And I know that we have a lot to learn from our ancestors. Here I'm thinking more of G.K. Chesterton rather than just Lewis. But if I thought that Lewis wanted us to throw away our modern view of the world in favor of an idealized middle age, I would have written him off as a crackpot. What I understand from "The Abolition of Man" is that the Classic and Scientific view of the world are both of value. It's only when people have a Modern view of things without an appreciation for the how we came to be where we are that trouble arises.

Even Lewis admits that certain vices are imbeded in our society. He mentioned the vice of usury as an example. Lending money for interest is such a part of our modern economy that there is no way we can possibly eliminate it. That does not make it good, just a neccesary evil.

In my opinion Ransom got himself back together when he met up with the Hross. Now he had another being to converse with so that there was no need to talk to himself. Lewis even compares the meeting of Ransom and the Hross to a mating dance, there was such importance and celebration to it. Still your point about Ransom drinking the curious water has merit. It's just that I associate Baptism with being bathed in water rather than drinking it.

I like your point about Ransom's point of view about the hross. An intellegent animal is easier to accept than a beastly human.

so it goes...

"Crackpots Anonymous" was Stanley's counter point to mine :
[from K]:
>...if I thought that Lewis wanted us to throw away our modern view
>of the world in favor of an idealized middle age, I would have
>written him off as a crackpot

Well he did refer to himself as a dinosaur more than once. But of course he would not want us to throw away our modern view of the world. At the beginning of the epilogue of The Discarded Image he writes, "I have made no serious effort to hide the fact that the old Model delights me as I believe it delighted our ancestors. Few constructions of the the imagination seem to me to have combined splendour, sobriety, and coherence in the same degree. It is possible that some readers have long been itching to remind me that it had a serious defect; [ie] it was not true."

He then goes on to give what is probably his "real" answer, and it is not at all what one might expect (and curiously, it shows that he had a pretty rich understanding of the implications of some of the more bizarre conclusions of quantum physics). It is much too subtle to convey here with any accuracy -- I heartily recommend reading the epilogue of The Discarded Image even apart from the rest of the book as an illumination to this subject.

But in regards to OSP, I can offer some of Lewis' own words. In one of his letters (August 1960) he writes, "My 'Out of the Silent Planet' has no factual basis and is a critique of our own age only as any Christian work is implicitly a critique of any age."

It's "purpose" was not to throw out the modern and "go back" to the Middle Ages, but to give "plausibility" to a mode of thought -- not necessarily the actual "facts" believed by the medievals. There was no need for him to "balance" the views presented in the book with a "but let's not forget the good parts of our current age" view, since he already thought we were enough entrenched in chronological snobbery (his term) that such a balance would be rather pointless, sort of like insisting that our bodies need sugar -- ie, we already get so much overabundance of sugar that we don't need to hear about that. Better to focus on the other side of the coin. And it is, after all, a work of art. And as such, it can indulge in certain fantasies to the exclusion of others to make a point.


To which I had to admit in my "Man of LaMancha" posting :
I think you have just pointed out to me why I find the works of C.S. Lewis and to an even greater extent those of G.K. Chesterton so facinating. Lewis and Chesterton were literary Don Quixotes of the 20th Century. And I (as well as many others who vist this forum) fancy myself a sort of Sancho Panza. I reminds me of a song from the Broadway musical "Man of LaMancha". Sancho is asked why he bothers following such a nut case. What does he get out of the deal playing a sidekick? Sancho aswers in song after admitting that he has gotten nothing (material anyway) "I like him, I really like him". And then he goes on to sing comicly that even under torture he would have to confess to following the Knight of LaMancha simply because he liked him.

And the funny thing is that I must admit the same thing. I can see the truth to what Lewis has to say, even when I do not aggree with him. That's the amazing thing about it. Lewis has forced me to admit there are greater truths which I should be living up to. Even if I am not able to fulfill them, I should at least use Christian Principles as my guide.

This attitude is so much better than the phoney "New Age" fads which are merely a return to superstition. So it's odd that a religeous writter should appeal the the rational part of me rather than only the mystical.

Larry W. posed this question to Stanley :

Do you think that C. S. Lewis would have approved of this website if he were living today? It seems that he might have preferred the medieval world to the Internet. He might have been surprised at some of the things that technology has brought us in the 21st century. I think it was said about him that he did not like to talk very much about his own writing. Because he was that modest, maybe he would not have wanted a website devoted entirely to him and his work.

Lewis would certainly reject today's materialism, which was not so much present in the medieval world. But I think he would encourage open-mindedness in religion (e.g., encourage unity of ideas in church's denominations) as long as there is no conflict with the Bible or Christianity. It would not have mattered to him if a good concept was old or new.

Larry W.

Susan Norton replied to Larry :
I think he would have approved of it, though not to the point that he considered it the be-all and end-all.

No author is so modest that he does not wish his writing to be loved and to survive him. Otherwise he would not write at all.

In "The Great Divorce" he imagined himself in Heaven telling George MacDonald how much his writing meant to him, and GM saying "Your love - all love - is of inestimable value to me ..." At the same time he showed two artists in heaven. One laughed at the fact his work was forgotten on Earth because it was so trivial compared to the glory he had found. The other thoughtr it the greatest grief and disaster, rejected the Heaven offered him, and went back to Hell to try to do something about it, such as influencing a medium. Plainly not the right attitude.

Though Lewis loved medievalism, he did not reject the technology of his day - he used the radio and first came to popular fame as a radio-broadcaster in World War II. He suggested to a diabetic that she thank God for insulin. His attitude was balanced, but with a strong streak of medieval romanticism.

I not only think he would have approverd this website, but, as I posted recently after encountering the dreary and miserable neurotiocs who infest a certain other religious chatroom, I would not be at all surprised if his spirit were guiding it. I might add in this context that I am a lawyer and used to weighing evidence ...

To which Larry W. added :
Lewis was humble enough to acknowledge George MacDonald as his master, and although Lewis was considered by many to be a greater writer, he was influenced by MacDonald's ideas and probably considered MacDonald to be a greater Christian than himself.

He might have thought of this website as a ministry-- a good influence to counteract what is bad on the Internet.

Thanks for responding.

Larry W.
so it goes...
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