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Chapter 1 - part 5

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

Chapter 1 - part 5

Postby Kanakaberaka » 06 Oct 2008, 21:51

Synopsis : The focus returns to Jane, who has gone out to Edgestow to buy herself a new hat. Along the way she meets the wife of her old tutor, Mrs. Dimble. She invites Jane to come over for lunch. So Mr. Dimble drives them over to their home on the other side of the river Wynd. Once there Jane gets the bad news that the Dimble's lease is not being renewed because Bracton College has other plans for it. "Mother Dimble" takes Jane aside to help her adjust her new hat. But her real reason is to allow Jane to confide her marital troubles. Jane is brought to tears. Later they return downstairs to discuss Jane's dream with Mr. Dimble. He has much to say about the legendary Merlin, rather than modern dream interpretation. In fact the story makes Jane swoon. Jane suggests being psychoanalysed, but Cecil Dimble asks her to see someone else first. Jane leaves after other guests begin arriving at the Dimble's house.

This section opens with Jane contemplating the purchase of a new hat. But she is quite choosie about the fashion of the hat. She wants a serious, that is "grown-up" look so as not to be confused with those "chocolate box variety" women. Jane wants to be taken seriously, so she expresses this with severe fashion. This reminds me of a Lewis quote where he states that the most childish children are those who try to act more mature than they really are.
Luckily for Jane she meets up with Mrs. Dimble, the wife of her tutor from back in her student days. She accepts their invitation for lunch over at their house. Jane shows her ignorance about university business when Cecil tells her about their lease not being renewed. Although Cecil Dimble is a Don at Northumberland College, the Dimble's house belongs to Bracton College. This appears to be a dramatic invention so that the reader can sympathise with the Dimbles.

When Mother Dimble takes Jane upstairs to help her adjust her new hat she inquires into Jane's feelings about Mark. Rather than asking Jane if she planned to have a baby, she simply asks her "Do you hate being kissed?". This sets off a chain reaction in Jane which ends with her seeking solance in Mrs. Dimble as a true adult figure. It appears that Jane is not quite the mature young lady she sees herself as. Mrs. Dimble's question was so simple, and yet it exposed Jane's fear of physical love with her husband Mark.

Dr. Dimble has much to say about Merlin as the second head in Jane's dream. He does not waste time asking her personal questions. He simply tells her all he knows about the legend of Merlin. One of the interesting things sets up the "chess board" idea back in the days of King Arthur. Dr. Dimble explains :
You've noticed how there are two sets of characters? There's Guinevere and Launcelot and all those people in the centre: all very courtly and nothing particularly British about them. But then in the background - on the other side of Arthur, so to speak - there are all those dark people like Morgan and Morgawse, who are very British indeed and usually more or less hostile though they are his own relatives. Mixed up with magic.

Yet more importantly, there is the matter of Merlin. As Dr. Dimble says:
Has it ever struck you what an odd creation Merlin is? He's not evil; yet he's a magician. He is obviously a druid; yet he knows all about the Grail. He's 'the devil's son'; but then Layamon goes out of his way to tell you that the kind of being who fathered Merlin needn't have been bad after all. You remember, 'There dwell in the sky many kinds of wights. Some of them are good, and some work evil'."

So Merlin seems to be a contradictory character. Lewis metions the idea that long ago there may have been a blurring between pagan magic and holy mysticisim. But as time has passed, the differences become more pronounced. Merlin is called the son of a devil. But it is possible that some other sort of "eldil" sired him. Lewis only suggests possibilities. He does not speculate on occult details. In my opinion, that's what makes this book interesting. We are left to draw our own conclusions.
What I found of interest is how Merlin ended up burried but not dead underground. There is a legend about Merlin agreeing to teach his magic to a young woman named Nimue. Melin fell in love with this girl. But after he had taught her his secrets, he asked her to be his lover. Nimue repaid Merlin's advances by tricking him into going into a crystal cave and trapping there in sleep untill King Arthur returned. So I can see why Merlin would have misgivings about womankind. This legend is also mentioned in T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Although according to White's story, the whole matter was an excuse for Merlin to retire from the world and hang out with his pal the badger in his den.

Dr. Dimble speculates that the N.I.C.E. are looking for "Merlin's mantle" in Merlin's well. He wonders if any of them will be "big enought to wear it".
Finally Jane suggests going to a psychiatrist. Dr. Dimble mentions a "Brizeacre" to Jane. There appears to be symbolism in the sound of this name. Sort of like "breezy acres". To me this suggests an empty field. It's possible that's what Lewis felt about the field of psychiatry. Dr. Dimble has a more fruitfull destination in mind for Jane.
Last edited by Kanakaberaka on 08 Oct 2008, 05:18, edited 2 times in total.
so it goes...
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 07 Oct 2008, 22:06

Oooh, this chapter starts getting into lots of stuff. I'm sure I'll miss some things I intended to mention, but here goes:

First of all K already mentioned the reference in the text that sort of supports the chessboard view, where Dimble is talking about "two sets of characters" -- ironic in that he himself and those around him are involved in that very process of two sets of characters (if the chessboard view has any validity). Much later in the book of course there is discussion about the "hauntings" of each country and the battle between Britain and Logress that furthers this idea.

I have said that the image of a chessboard is only handy and that the idea is really of simply two contrasting "sides", but in fact, here is one of the few places where I imagine a bit of an actual chessboard. I mentioned previously about the wood being the center of the board that both players in a chess match like to "control", and also of the fellows at Bracton College and the citizens of Edgestow as not unlike the "pawns" in a chess game since they are of seemingly "lesser" importance.

The typical opening of a chess game is for both sides to move their king's or queen's pawns up to that center spot. And indeed, we see here almost a "picture" of that opening where Mark and Jane are virtually up against that center spot of the wood on opposite sides, Mark at Lady Alice with the other fellows attending the college meeting on one side of the wood, and Jane at the Dimbles' house on the other side of the wood.

I'll go on more about the chessboard view here, but parts of this section parallel portions of the previous section and also portions of the next section. So I may be "jumping ahead" in some of my comments to connect them with the next section.

As I've said, Mark and Jane seem to be clearly corresponding characters in the chessboard view for a variety of reasons and here we see even their reactions to different setting, though different, are interestingly comparable. In this case we see that Mark enjoys his conversation with Curry walking to the meeting, but doesn't really like him, while Jane enjoys being with Mrs Dimble for comfort, but feels like she is not really "her type". It is also interesting that Mark feels like he has to have a drink before "going in" to see Feverstone and the rest at the meeting, while Jane has to show her hat to Mrs. Dimble before going to eat with Mr Dimble (something that "goes to their head" for both of them?:-)

By the way, in my previous comments, I mentioned the part about how three years ago Mark might have expected "to hear the claims of sentiment against progress and beauty against utility" and how those two sets of claims were indeed occurring but not "with" each other. And we see something more of this in the two "parallel" conversations that go on at the Dimbles (the sentiment and beauty part) and in the next section where Feverstone, Mark, Busby and Curry are talking in Curry's room (the progress and utility part). It really is interesting to try and read these two sections in parallel to see how "similar" and yet different they are in terms of the chessboard view.

More parallels: In the next section (again, sorry for jumping ahead -- not sure how to handle this sort of thing efficiently, but I assume we've all read the book before anyway) Curry, having left, finally arrives back at his room after leaving Mark and Feverstone alone, and Feverstone indicates how boring his arrival will be. This seems to correspond to Dimble's reluctance to go listen to his "dullest" pupil's paper on Swift.

I suppose at this point I might conjecture that Dr. Dimble would "correspond" to "Feverstone" and Mrs. Dimble to, say, Curry, though I'm not at all sure of that yet (it is a new consideration for me at the moment) -- they certainly fit here, but I'll have to think on it more as the story progresses, since I've thought in the past that Dr. Dimble might parallel the Deputy Director -- they both interestingly have initials DD, but that is minor of course (other parallels between other characters are much clearer and definite in my mind).

It is interesting though, that both Dr. Dimble and Feverstone are discussing with Jane and Mark subjects with higher "planes of secrecy", Dimble about Merlin of course, and Feverstone about the inner workings of the NICE. In the next section we even read of Mark's reaction to Feverstone's confidence, "The giddy sensation of being suddenly whirled up from one plane of secrecy to another , coupled with the growing effect of Curry's excellent port, prevented him from speaking". Jane, while listening to Dr. Dimble gets her own bit of "giddy sensation", not from excellent port, but from the various hints at connections to her dreams like the "rather like Spanish" comment or Merlin's mantle and being buried but not dead.

I can also mention here that both the Dimbles and Feverstone want Jane and Mark, not so much for themselves, but for what they can offer -- Jane the information from her dreams, and Mark the "information" of his writing -- we will see later that both provide "news" for their respective sides in this manner although Jane's is transferring information from the outside "into" St. Annes while Mark's job is to transfer (distorted and false) information from the NICE "out to" the newspapers with his article writing with Fairy Hardcastle.

By the way -- total side note, but they mention Jules from the NICE -- could the similarity of the sound of Canon Jewell and Jules have any connection? They are both described as outdated for their position (well, Feverstone mentions it about Jules in the next section, and Jewell's tottering effect is describe previously)

Finally, of course both Jane and Mark are invited to the respective "sides" of the chessboard view -- Jane to St. Annes (not yet stated explicitly but what the Dimbles intend) and Mark to the Institute by Feverstone (in the next section).

I'm sure there is more I could go on about -- as I've said, nearly every paragraph screams at me to discuss, but I'll stop for now. If you get a chance, I do recommend to try to read this section and the next "in parallel" (after reading it normally of course), flipping back and forth between the two to see how they "line up" so nicely.

…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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