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Chapter 1 - part 1

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

Chapter 1 - part 1

Postby Kanakaberaka » 08 Sep 2008, 23:03

First an overview of Chapter 1, Sale of College Property. The focus of each of the five sections :

1 - Jane Studdock, a newlywed.
2 - Mark Studdock, Jane's Husband.
3 - Bracton / Bragdon Wood, a mysterious enclosure at Bracton College.
4 - The N.I.C.E., a progressive political organization with plans for Bracton, and beyond.
5 - Mr. and Mrs. Dimble, Jane's former tutor and his sociable wife.

Synopsis for part 1 :
Jane Studdock finds that married life is not as fulfilling as she had hoped it would be. She mopes about the flat with thoughts of resuming her thesis on the poetry of John Donne. But she can't because of a disturbing dream apparently inspired by the face of a man in a newspaper story. Finally in despiration she goes outside to escape her anxiety with a walk.

The novel opens with an introduction to Jane Studdock. Lewis notes that her wedding day had been the first time she had attended chuch since her school days. This is quite typical for young adults these days but I wonder how common it was back in the 1940's. More common than many folks would like to admit, I suspect. Yet it seems that marriage and more importantly, children bring the younger gereration back into their fold. What's missing in Jane's case are the children. To be fair, she and her husband Mark have only been married for six months. So I view her plans to postpone having children quite reasonable.
Lewis however uses Jane and Marks empty and quiet flat to give us a feeling of emptiness in Jane's life. Time passes with the "tick tick" of the clock. What Lewis conveys here is a feeling that something is missing.

Jane's College thesis is about the British poet John Donne, who lived from 1572 to 1631. Ironicly Donne was famous for his love poems. And Jane is missing out on love in her life at this time.

Yet a lack of love is not the only thing troubling Jane. She has had a mysterious dream recently. So disturbing that she did not want to share it with her husband. The fact that she did not want to wake him up has he wondering whether it was out of respect or out of fear that Mark would be dismissive of her. Jane's dream sounds a lot like "remote viewing" or ESP. The face Jane saw was frightening simply because it was frightened. Not by impending death, but because of something much worse. This suggestion of horror reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft's better short stories where the reader is left to guess what is really going on. Only Lewis goes on to answer our questions later in the book.
Jane's partial language comprehension makes this more than a common dream. She understands some of the French words she hears. Those words include "Tiens... ...ca...marche". I have attempted to translate them online and came up with - Keep it works - Hold it goes - and - Yours this walks. does anyone have a better idea what the words mean? I suspect the frightened man is trying to say "Hold it, will this work?", but I'm not sure. The surreal removal of the man's head is likened to removing a diving helmet rather than violent decapitation. This gives the nightmare a clinical feel.
Next the scene shifts to another head. This one has a long flowing beard and is buried but not dead! This man will be the focus of interest for both the forces of light and darkness in this story. But I won't say any more about him for now.
The shocker for Jane comes when she picks up the newest newspaper to find the face of the first man in her dream on the cover under the headline : Execution of Alcasan on the guillotine. His name sound like "assasin" and his crime was poisoning his wife. Much of the focus in this novel involves marriage, so I think there is somthing symbolic in the fact that this character murdered his spouse.
Jane attempts to return to her thesis. She remebers Donne's poem Love's Alchymie and is disturbed about the meaning of the final lines. Here is the complete poem:

LOVE'S ALCHEMY.

Some that have deeper digg'd love's mine than I,
Say, where his centric happiness doth lie.
I have loved, and got, and told,
But should I love, get, tell, till I were old,
I should not find that hidden mystery.
O ! 'tis imposture all ;
And as no chemic yet th' elixir got,
But glorifies his pregnant pot,
If by the way to him befall
Some odoriferous thing, or medicinal,
So, lovers dream a rich and long delight,
But get a winter-seeming summer's night.

Our ease, our thrift, our honour, and our day,
Shall we for this vain bubble's shadow pay?
Ends love in this, that my man
Can be as happy as I can, if he can
Endure the short scorn of a bridegroom's play?
That loving wretch that swears,
'Tis not the bodies marry, but the minds,
Which he in her angelic finds,
Would swear as justly, that he hears,
In that day's rude hoarse minstrelsy, the spheres.
Hope not for mind in women ; at their best,
Sweetness and wit they are, but mummy, possess'd.


Jane of course dislikes the suggestion that women are not intellectually inclined. But when I read this poem, it seems to me that Donne is saying that mothers have the experience to have wit. Also I wonder if the first line of this poem about "deeper digg'd" could have inspired the second buried face in Jane's dream. The ironic element here is that while Jane finds interest in Donne's ideas of romantic love, she herself in unable to find it in her married life.
And so she leaves the empty flat to escape her own feelings.
Last edited by Kanakaberaka on 14 Oct 2008, 16:36, edited 2 times in total.
so it goes...
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Postby rusmeister » 09 Sep 2008, 00:59

The French words could be taken as "Hey - that'll work". (Tiens could be a call to hold something or simply "hey!" ("Hold, stranger!")
"Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one."
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Postby a_hnau » 09 Sep 2008, 20:52

I'd understood the French as "So - it [the plan i.e. to use Alcasan's head] goes forward"?
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Re: Chapter 1 - part 1

Postby a_hnau » 09 Sep 2008, 21:19

The Donne is fascinating, I'd not read the whole before but it seems full of allusions in the context of Lewis's novel; you could potentially tie it to the themes of the novel phrase by phrase or significant word. Particularly the theme of the various heavens is of course explicit in the Trilogy. Some suggestions as to how the poem ties up to THS;

- 'centric' (l. 2); in the medieval model paradoxically God, who is on the 'outside' of the spheres, is their real centre - I think Lewis makes this reversal explicit in The Discarded Image. So God is at the centre of love, and Mark and Jane only achieve love as it's supposed to be when they are brought to a point of centring on him at the end of THS.

- the play (I think) on 'get' as [be]get; if one loves, one generally begets; the alchemist's pot is 'pregnant' but it does not beget, he does not get (obtain), the elixir of life (along with the philosopher's stone, the two main aims of alchemy). Of course Jane is not planning to 'beget', 'not for a very long time', and her marriage to Mark does not seem to 'beget' the life she was expecting.

- love is 'imposture' and (pessimistic this) what lovers dream, like what the alchemist dreams, is impossible and they settle for second best, some 'odoriferous thing'. Certainly Jane is considering lowering her expectations, but crucially at the end of the book rediscovers them - in Maleldil, the dreams are not vain.

- [the mind which] 'he in her angelic finds' - this certainly echoes Mark's reflections on Jane towards the end of the book.

- 'the spheres' of course, as experienced as St Anne's, contrasted with 'rude hoarse minstrelsy' - the coarse banter at Belbury.

Probably there's much more in there, I know little about Donne.
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Well Donne

Postby Kanakaberaka » 10 Sep 2008, 05:12

a_hnau wrote:Probably there's much more in there, I know little about Donne.


I knew nothing about John Donne myself, untill I began this study. Lines from Love's Alchemy such as :
So, lovers dream a rich and long delight,
But get a winter-seeming summer's night.

Illustrate quite well what Jane feels. Jane and Mark's honeymoon has turned from a summer's night into a wintery one.

I discovered some interesting biographical information about Donne. He was born into a well to do Catholic family at a time when England was turning against Rome. He was educated by Jesuits. And was later arrested for harboring a Catholic priest. Yet in his older years he himself converted to Anglicanism. Along the way Donne wrote a great many poems and sermons.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 11 Sep 2008, 16:29

Interesting comments all. In fact, I'm reminded of this famous Peanuts bit:

Lucy Van Pelt: Aren't the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud's formations. What do you think you see, Linus?

Linus Van Pelt: Well, those clouds to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Carribbean. [points up] That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there [points] gives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.

Lucy Van Pelt: Uh huh. That's very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?

Charlie Brown: Well... I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie but I changed my mind.


I feel a bit like Charlie Brown here:-)

Anyway, the main comments I have at this moment are associated with (can you guess?) my chessboard view of THS and as such are directly connected with the next section. So I'll wait to post those comments in the next thread.

I will comment here on very personal feelings about the simple act of reading the book. I have very fond memories of my first reading, in part because it was such an odd, almost disappointing feeling. I say "disappointing", but it's not really that -- more "disoriented" I suppose. After the rich almost hallucinogenic imagery of the first two books, it was such a jolt to be thrust right into what seemed a very mundane "earthly" setting. Yes, there was the odd dream to start it off, but I was chomping at the bit for the colorful worlds of floating islands and elongated fantastic creatures of Malacandra and Perelandra.

But somehow that jolt into this seemingly (at least initially) mundane world gives me an even greater thrill down my back as I look back on it. Even just reading the opening chapter title "Sale of College Property" gives me shivers. Somehow the idea of "perfectly normal" things not really being normal after all is almost more intoxicating than the outwardly fantastic and otherworldly things that we see through Ransom's eyes in Malacandra and Perelandra. But of course I can only say this now in reflection. At the time I could only think "What is going on here? Where is Ransom? Where is the fantasy or science fiction I'm expecting to find in abundance?"

It's funny how it now seems all the more fantastic to me not in spite of the apparent "normalcy" but almost because of it -- or rather, I simply couldn't see the fantastic element at the time because I was looking for something else. I think there may even be an interesting theological point here, and one I think Lewis makes elsewhere (as does Scripture). That is essentially something akin to the idea that "the Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork" -- ie, we will not have excuses about "not knowing God" or that "he didn't show himself to me" later on -- we will find out that God's glory was before us and we ignored it and convinced ourselves that there was nothing there. (and of course this is something we will see later on in the horrid fates of some of the NICE people).

--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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He's a clown, that Charlie Brown

Postby Kanakaberaka » 14 Sep 2008, 21:55

Stanley Anderson wrote:I feel a bit like Charlie Brown here:-)


You have to be kidding, Stanley. We've only begun the first part of the first chapter. I'm certain you have important insights into this final volume of Lewis' trilogy.

Anyway, the main comments I have at this moment are associated with (can you guess?) my chessboard view of THS and as such are directly connected with the next section. So I'll wait to post those comments in the next thread.


I can't wait to hear what you have to say about your chessboard analogy. I have a paperback edition of THS which has an illustration with ghostly chess pieces in the foreground. If I can figure out how to scan it I shall include it on this forum.
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Re: He's a clown, that Charlie Brown

Postby a_hnau » 15 Sep 2008, 18:02

Probably jumping the gun here, but I did a Web search on Distributivism (on which there is an excellent Wikipedia article) and found a link to this article;

http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/debate.txt

which is a very entertaining debate, chaired by Hilaire Belloc, between G K Chesterton and [presume George] Bernard Shaw. Think the participants here will enjoy it.
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On to part 2...

Postby Kanakaberaka » 15 Sep 2008, 19:41

Thanks for the link a_hnau. But I was going to include the subject of Distributism as a central theme for part 2 of chapter 1. No problem though. You can always repost this link when I post that part of the study later this evening. BTW : I was unable to view the link. Maybe it's just me.
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Re: Chapter 1 - part 1

Postby jo » 07 Dec 2009, 20:33

I have actually just finished a reread of an autobiography from the 30s and 40s and the writer makes the point that amongst young people at that time, church going was not very prevelant. So yes, I don't think that it is unusual for Jane not to have attended a service for a long time until her wedding.

One thing that does contextualise the scene, however, is the fact that Jane had evidently given up work on her marriage, despite the fact that the was not expecting a child and did not intend to be. In the forties, this was the usual thing for middle class women to do and, indeed, in many professions a married woman was legally forced to give up her position, whether she wished to or not.

The first thing I see about Jane is her dis-satisfaction - her boredom. She can't settle to her thesis and she has no 'other' work to keep her occupied. Already, though a very new wife, criticisms of her husband are entering her mind... something which coloured my, at least, thoughts of her before I even 'met' him in the novel.
"I saw it begin,” said the Lord Digory. “I did not think I would live to see it die"

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