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Introduction

The final book in Lewis' theological science fiction Space Trilogy.

Introduction

Postby Kanakaberaka » 02 Sep 2008, 01:31

This is both an introduction to this forum and to C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength. So allow me to begin with what I want to do here. Like my previous studies of the first and second books of Lewis' Space Trilogy, I plan to add a new posting once a week. However, unlike the previous books where I focused on a new chapter each week, I have decided to take Stanley Anderson's sage advice and divide the chapters up into their sub-headings. For example : Chapter one is divided up into five sub-chapters. So each week I shall focus on one of them, spreading the study of chapter one over five weeks. And readers interested in previous chapters can always go back and add their comments as the study progresses.

Now for the study -
________________________________________________

The title page for That Hideous Strength starts with a note that it is a "Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups". C.S. Lewis must have felt the need to include this note since adults these days are unaware that fairytales were not always children's literature. Some of the collected works of the Brothers Grimm would not be acceptable for today's children. Lewis goes on to explain this note in the book's Preface.

Right under this note there is a quote by Scottish poet Sir David Lyndsay about the Tower of Babel :
THE SHADOW OF THAT HYDDEOUS STRENGTH SAX MYLE AND MORE IT IS OF LENGTH.
The complete title of this poem is "Ane Dialog betwix Experience and ane Courteour of the Miserabyll Estait of the World". Considering the suggestion of the title of this poem, I wonder if the character of the Scottish skeptic Mac Phee was inspired by Sir Lyndsay?
Also there is the matter of the poet's name. There was a 20th Century Scottish author by the name of David Lindsay who wrote another book which inspired Lewis called A Voyage to Arcturus. At first I thought the quote was by him rather than the 16th Century poet who's name was sometime spelt the same way. This seems to be an odd coincidence.

Now on to the Preface -

Lewis warns the reader that the first two chapters are deliberately "hum-drum" and commonplace to set the scene for the fantastic happenings to come. And yet there are in fact a few suggestions in chapter one that this is more than simply a college story. Jane Studdock has her odd dreams and Bragdon Wood is described almost as wonderfully as Narnia. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Lewis makes a disclaimer that Edgestow University was not based on Durham, a real university at which Lewis taught. I wise idea condidering how readers are inclined to speculate on an author's inspiration.
Lewis also thanks Olaf Stapledon for his inspiration in writing this book. Though at the same time Lewis rejects Stapledon's ideas. I think Lewis is refering to Olaf Stapledon's novel Last and First Men which is about the future evolution of humanity beyond our recognition. Stapledon was an early proponent of what is now called "Transhumanism". We will see in the chapters to come how such ideas inspire the N.I.C.E. to complete their program for humanity.
Also, Lewis makes a reference to "Numinor and the True West" saying that readers will have to wait untill his friend J.R.R. Tolkien publishes his manuscripts. We now know all about the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Finally Lewis mentions that the time period his story takes place in is "vaguely "after the war"". This Preface was written on Christmas Eve of 1943. So the real world would have to suffer for another year and a half before seeing peace. Yet instead of being optimistic about the peace to come after the hoped for defeat of the Axis Powers, Lewis imagines a diabolical enemy more subtle and inhuman than the Nazis.
so it goes...
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 02 Sep 2008, 15:24

Thanks K for undertaking this hefty (but surely enjoyable for all us THS fans) task!

As many here are aware, my "chessboard" theory of THS plays -- and will play -- a very large part of my understanding and appreciation of the book, so I (and perhaps others?) may have many occasions to make reference to it. I have thought that perhaps a separate thread for "observations" of that sort might be useful. But I don't want such a thing to distract from the overall flow of the discussions of each section either. What I'm thinking is that I or anyone else can mention such things along with any other THS comments in the regular section threads as part of normal discussion. But that there could also be a separate single thread for recording (or rather, "transferring" from the main section threads) examples and analysis and commentary about the chessboard idea so that they can be "collected" in one spot (this is rather a selfish request on my part since it is something I've wanted to do for a long time anyway). Anyway, I don't intend that the discussions will be overwhelmed by this particular view of the book, but it will play a large part in my comments, I'm sure. I'll no doubt have lots of particular non-chessboard-type thoughts. And I also have several other types of "overarching" views of the book that I may comment on, but they are not as extensive as the chessboard one, so it is the only one I think a separate "tallying" thread, if you will, would be useful. What do you think? (and of course if you think it would be too "cluttering" of this forum, I will be happy if you choose not to implement the idea -- it's just a suggestion)

But on to the introduction. And here is another example of one of those "overarching" views of the book that I want to bring out here. I mentioned it in another forum, and it's not one I can quite put my finger on yet (though it's been in my mind as a vague feeling for many years), and I'd like to mention it just so that people can contemplate it as we go through the book and perhaps help me to clarify it in my own mind. It is based on Lewis' own comment that the book is a fairy tale, even though some may not recognize it as such to begin with (or even upon finishing the book, if he had not told them in the introduction).

I like to think this is a more literal comment by Lewis than we may at first realize. In the other thread mentioned above, there was discussion about how one might portray Fairy Hardcastle. I mentioned that I have this vague (but very strong) feeling that Lewis is following very closely the typical elements of a classic Fairy Tale. And in the case of Miss Hardcastle, he even tells us directly, by her nickname, that she is the (or one of, anyway) the fairy in the story. Now this may seem an odd idea to many who picture fairies as those cute little -- tiny, rather -- female or childlike creatures with wings fluttering around flowers and such. But if one reads Lewis' The Discarded Image (the book I failed to complete the study on, since there was at the time seemingly less and less interest in -- likely in part at least because of the book's relative inaccessibility in bookstores), in the chapter on The Longaevi, he talks about "fairies" in a quite different manner. Aside from their size not being necessarily "tiny" at all, they are a sort of "neither here nor there" sort of creature, neither good nor evil, but simply "other" and uncanny -- and therefore rather frightening to us in the sense of not knowing quite what to make of them.

And this is exactly what Fairy Hardcastle is like when we first meet her. Mark is not sure what to make of her and she doesn't fit into any "neat" category. She is, to me, distinctively the "fairy" of this odd (but secretly conventional, if I am correct) fairy tale (she even wields a "magic wand" in her ever-present cheroot that even has a "sparkly tip" when she is using it to "cast spells" when it is lit up). Well, I won't jump the gun with further discussion about Fairy Hardcastle until we get to those later sections. But my point in mentioning her is that unfortunately she is the only "clear" example of this "fairy tale" view of THS that I am trying to construct in my head. Even though I have this strong gut feeling about the idea, I can't identify as clearly any other classic "elements" of fairy tales in THS. In fact, part of the problem is figuring out what other types of "classic elements" fairy tales have -- Evil Stepmothers? (Lewis mentions this one in the introduction of course), dragons? Woods and forests? Magicians? Magic Spells?

Well, I have some ideas along these lines that I'd like to explore at some point, but mainly I just wanted to present the idea for people to think about as they read through the book. I have a feeling I'm missing "larger" ideas about fairy tales in listing the sorts of particular facets and examples above -- perhaps others here will provide some insight to help me out (or convince me that the idea is a bunch of hogwash! :-) ).

Well, I may think of more later, but that's enough for now (funny how my comments are longer than Lewis' introduction itself, eh?:-)

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Chess Master

Postby Kanakaberaka » 02 Sep 2008, 18:19

Stanley Anderson wrote:Thanks K for undertaking this hefty (but surely enjoyable for all us THS fans) task!

You're welcome Stanley.


As many here are aware, my "chessboard" theory of THS plays -- and will play -- a very large part of my understanding and appreciation of the book, so I (and perhaps others?) may have many occasions to make reference to it. I have thought that perhaps a separate thread for "observations" of that sort might be useful. ... What do you think? (and of course if you think it would be too "cluttering" of this forum, I will be happy if you choose not to implement the idea -- it's just a suggestion)

I would welcome your Chessboard theory presented along with this study. I know that you might want to skip ahead, or point something out from a previous chapter. That's okay because this is not a formal sort of study. It's more of a "pot luck dinner" invention where we each bring what we are most familiar with.



...And in the case of Miss Hardcastle, he even tells us directly, by her nickname, that she is the (or one of, anyway) the fairy in the story.

Ah yes, it would not be a THS study without Stanley focusing on "The Fairy". Feel free to write as much about her as you wish. Although I would suggest waiting untill she appears in the story before posting about her.


(funny how my comments are longer than Lewis' introduction itself, eh?:-)

--Stanley


Write them as long as you want, Stanley. We are all aware that you know what you're talking about. At least when it comes to the novels of C.S. Lewis.
so it goes...
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Postby Sven » 02 Sep 2008, 20:07

Would you all like me to comment as we go along about what Lewis removed from the novel when he abridged it into The Tortured Planet?

As to the character of MacPhee, I think his "Scottishness" may be a nod to George MacDonald, and his overall personality to Lewis' tutor William Kirkpatrick, "The Great Knock".

The book's dedication is to Janie McNeill, a lifelong friend and correspondent of Lewis' from Belfast. When she died in 1959, Lewis wrote her obituary:

C. S. Lewis wrote:Of Miss McNeill the charitable lady, the teacher, the member of committees, I saw nothing. My knowledge is of Janie McNeill; even of Chanie, as we sometimes called her...

I remember wild walks on the (still unspoiled) Holywood hills, preposterous jokes shouted through the gale across half a field, extravagantly merry (yet also Lucullan) lunches and suppers at Lisnadene, devastating raillery, the salty tang of an immensely vivid personality. She was a religious woman, a true, sometimes a grim, daughter of the Kirk; no less certainly, the broadest-spoken maiden lady in the Six Counties. She was a born satirist. Every kind of sham and self-righteousness was her butt. She deflated the unco-gude with a single ironic phrase, then a moment's silence, then the great gust of her laughter. She laughed with her whole body...



Published in 'The Campbellian' magazine, quoted in C. S. Lewis: A Companion & Guide by Walter Hooper


Another friend of Miss McNeill, Mary Rodgers, recorded McNeill's reaction to That Hideous Strength "I hate it! I wish he'd dedicated any book other than this to me!"
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Dedication

Postby Kanakaberaka » 03 Sep 2008, 05:19

Sven wrote:Would you all like me to comment as we go along about what Lewis removed from the novel when he abridged it into The Tortured Planet?


Please do Sven. There will be plenty enough time to do so considering how I intend to stretch out this study.

The book's dedication is to Janie McNeill, a lifelong friend and correspondent of Lewis' from Belfast.


Thank you for this important piece of information. The last time I noted Lewis' dedication in Perelandra I got it wrong. This is one of the advantages of a book study done on a forum. Whatever I miss, someone else is likely to point out. Ironic that Janie McNeill disliked the book. I wonder why Lewis dedicated this particular one to her?
so it goes...
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Postby Sven » 03 Sep 2008, 19:49

The Tortured Planet was published as a paperback by Avon in New York in 1946, and then again in 1955 in London by Pan, confusingly under the name of That Hideous Strength. After 1955 all editions published were of the unabridged original.*

The Preface to The Tortured Planet is considerably shortened.

C. S. Lewis wrote:Preface

This is a 'tall story' about devilry, though it has behind it a serious 'point' which I have tried to make in my Abolition of Man. In the story the outer rim of that devilry had had to be shown touching the life of some ordinary and respectable profession. I selected my own profession, not, of course, because I think Fellows of Colleges more likely to be thus corrupted than anyone else, but because my own profession is naturally that which I know best. A very small university is imagined because that has certain conveniences for fiction. Edgestow has resemblance, save for its smallness, to Durham--a university with which the only connection I have ever had was entirely pleasant.

In reducing the original story to a length suitable for this edition, I believe I have altered nothing but the tempo and the manner. I myself prefer the more leisurely pace--I would not wish even War and Peace or The Faerie Queene any shorter--but some critics may well think this abridgment is also an improvement.

C. S. L.




*Actually, originals, because there were (maybe still are) two slightly different versions of the unabridged That Hideous Strength. Version 1 was first published by Bodley Head in 1945, and version 2 by MacMillan in 1946. Most of the differences between the two original versions are in paragraphing. You can tell which version you have by looking at chapter 1, section 4, the next-to-the-last paragraph. Two paragraphs after describing Canon Jewel as blind, version 1 says the "He stared with puzzled eyes in the direction of Feverstone." Version 2 deletes that. The two versions were not a UK and a US version, during the early 80s the UK hardback was version 1 and the UK paperback was version 2.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Dedication

Postby a_hnau » 06 Sep 2008, 09:59

Kanakaberaka wrote:
The book's dedication is to Janie McNeill, a lifelong friend and correspondent of Lewis' from Belfast.


Ironic that Janie McNeill disliked the book. I wonder why Lewis dedicated this particular one to her?

It's possible that Janie McNeill disliked the book because she assumed that the dedication implied some similarity in Lewis's mind between herself and 'Jane' (obvious similarity of name), and she found the comparison uncongenial. Or, as was the case with many people, she may simply not have liked Lewis's 'supernatural scientifiction'.

Lewis's relationships with the opposite sex have often been portrayed, not without some reason, as unconventional and in some sense ambiguous. Without running on too far ahead, I'll also hope to draw out of THS some of the possible influences and connections with Charles Williams who was even less conventional in this respect; dedicating a piece of work to someone is one of the more obvious (and acceptable) ways of expressing a personal tie. Another related direction for thought is Lewis's consideration of the moral tension, in the Christian framework, of the phenomenon of courtly love (the 'religion of adultery').
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Re: Introduction

Postby Nerd42 » 23 Mar 2010, 17:55

The thing I'm really interested in talking about from That Hideous Strength is the Objective Room from chapter 14. Before even the blasphemy that Studdock is expected to engage in there, I think the whole room is the most truly horrible thing in the entire book, more horrible than meeting the Head and everything else. Because there's nothing physically attacking or threatening you in the Objective Room, but the whole place is deliberately and calculatingly designed as a seemingly innocuous attack directly on the soul, to kill the spirit and leave the body (and even to some degree, the mind) intact. I very much fear that something very like this may someday be made real, for the inclinations of the Powers That Be who run our world certainly haven't abandoned the philosophy that Lewis predicted will lead to it. The scene, of course, directly connects to the central thesis of The Abolition of Man.

Of particular interest is the passage about the dots on the ceiling. The point of that passage is, I think, that the designers and builders of the room want the subject to be divested of any aversion to doing wrong and so try to get the subject to overcome a related (according to classical philosophers at least) aversion to ugliness. I'm sure the arrangement of the dots Lewis is referring to must have been calculated to leave absolutely no possibility for the average person to find any pattern in them, yet put there in a way that looks deliberate. Getting the subject used to overcoming other aversions is, I think, meant to get them to overcome aversions to or inhibitions against doing wrong.

I wish Lewis had taken the Objective Room scenes and put them into their own short story, because that would make it easier to talk about. :)
Last edited by Nerd42 on 14 May 2010, 03:36, edited 1 time in total.
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Objectivity Room with a view

Postby Kanakaberaka » 24 Mar 2010, 05:10

Nerd42 wrote: ...I think the whole room is the most truly horrible thing in the entire book, more horrible than meeting the Head and everything else. Because there's nothing physically attacking or threatening you in the Objective Room, but the whole place is deliberately and calculatingly designed as a seemingly innocuous attack directly on the soul,...


C.S. Lewis mentions a similar threat in King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard. The protagonists find themselves trapped in a cavern filled with mummies. The threat is a slow death in a grusome setting rather than the more dynamic horrors seen on film.

I would probably be up to Chapter 14 in this study if other personal things had not gotten in my way. But I'm happy to discuss it here.

Your description of it reminded me of a "meditaion room" in a hospital my father was in several years ago. When I think of a non-demoninational room set aside for spiritual reflection, I imagine a place painted in pastel colors with pictures of natural wonders adorning it's walls. For some reason this hospital, whose name I have forgotten, had it's meditaion room illuminated with recessed flood lights which gave very uneven light. My impression was being given the "Third Degree" by the police. The walls themselves were painted red and white with black accents. Against it's curved walls was a ledge with a few crumby pillows for sitting on. All it lacked was a soundtrack by Black Sabbath or Nirvana to complete the mood. All I could think was that someone with a very negative view of anything even vaguely spiritual must have decorated that horrible place.
so it goes...
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Re: Objectivity Room with a view

Postby Nerd42 » 26 Mar 2010, 00:43

Kanakaberaka wrote:Your description of it reminded me of a "meditaion room" in a hospital my father was in several years ago. When I think of a non-demoninational room set aside for spiritual reflection, I imagine a place painted in pastel colors with pictures of natural wonders adorning it's walls. For some reason this hospital, whose name I have forgotten, had it's meditaion room illuminated with recessed flood lights which gave very uneven light. My impression was being given the "Third Degree" by the police. The walls themselves were painted red and white with black accents. Against it's curved walls was a ledge with a few crumby pillows for sitting on. All it lacked was a soundtrack by Black Sabbath or Nirvana to complete the mood. All I could think was that someone with a very negative view of anything even vaguely spiritual must have decorated that horrible place.
LOL. Reminds me of Douglas Adams's description of Dirk Gently's apartment. Speaking of Adams, (who was a radical atheist, sadly) That Hideous Strength also has alot to say about bureaucracy, which it basically caricatures as a modern, civilized version of barbarism, because it treats people as objects rather than as people - exactly what barbarians used to do. In Adams's words, bureaucrats, "smile politely and are breathtakingly rude." People in That Hideous Strength are completely clueless about the obvious and extreme levels of evil surrounding them, to a degree that is sad ... and you have to admit, slightly humorous, at the same time.

On a more serious note, I've been in a place like the one you describe. It was supposed to be a temple, shaped weirdly on the outside but what really struck me about it on the inside was the light. Or rather ... the lack thereof. Creepy. I don't know what it is but in certain places and situations, the amount of light the place is kept in relates to the spiritual condition of the place and when you go in there, you can just tell. There is something wrong - something spiritually amiss with this place. And I'm not the type to see devil or angels under every rock like some nutcases out there. But if you're going to be rational, you have to include all the data, and spiritual awareness is part of that even though you can't prove it to anybody else.

I went and re-worded that paragraph several times and I'm still not happy with how it came out. So ... I'm just gonna have to post it the way it is, and if anybody misinterprets it I'll have to correct myself later.

Isn't it kind of weird that Iron Maiden made that "Out of the Silent Planet" song? What's up with that?

I really identify with McPhee. He's really my kind of guy. He really does care about the truth and about standards and ethics and so forth, and all that's missing is an acknowledgment of spiritual truth. I very much wish Lewis had lived to write a fourth Silent Planet book that sees McPhee converted :)
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