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Chapter 2 - part 1

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

Chapter 2 - part 1

Postby Kanakaberaka » 14 Oct 2008, 18:56

Overview of chapter 2, Dinner with the Sub-Warden. The focus of each of the four sections :

1 - Lord Feverstone

2 - Jane and Mark's reunion at the end of the day

3 - Jane and Mark go their separate ways

4 - Mark's drive to Belbury and Jane's journey to St. Anne's-on-the-Hill

Synopsis of part 1 - The scene opens in Curry's rooms overlooking Newton quadrangle. Mark is there along with Curry, Busby the Bursar, and Lord Feverstone. Curry complains about having to leave early to meet with the Warden. They all show disrespect for the man who is supposed to be their superior. Then Lord Feverstone takes over the conversation, first explaining why he treated Canon Jewel with such contempt. Lord Feverstone then goes on to have some fun at Curry's expense by making Curry's observations about Bracton appear ridiculous. Feverstone asks them what they think the N.I.C.E. is really all about. Curry and Busby are enamored about all the advanced technology the organization will bring to the campus. But Mark in more interested about the private legal system and police force the N.I.C.E will bring in. After Curry and Busby leave, Lord Feverston expresses his approval of Mark's interests. Then he goes on to be dismissive of Curry and Busby behind their backs. After some conversation, Feverstone offers Mark a position in the N.I.C.E.

The real leaders of the Progressive Element are meeting in Sub-Warden Curry's "magnificent rooms". And the Warden of Bracton in not among them. In fact the Warden is regarded by them as a mere figure head. They have even adopted the opposition's nick name for him of "Non-Olet". This name comes from the Latin phrase "Pecunia non olet", which means in English "Money does not smell'. It was said by Roman emporer Vespasian when his son Titus objected to his tax on public latrine use. This phrase is quite appropriate for a civil servent who specialized in the design of lavatories. The Warden's real name is Charles Place. In the game of Monopoly there is a St. Charles Place on the board. So I have to wonder if Lewis is trying to suggest something about this character? If the chess game analogy is correct, maybe Lewis is saying that the Warden is playing a different game from the rest of the characters.

Mark suggests empathy for old Jewel when the subject comes up about how Lord Feverstone put him down. Though Mark did so to "show is teeth" rather than out of charity. Feverstone defends his actions by refering to Carl Von Clausewitz. This Prussian military philosopher is remembered for his quote that "War is merely the continuation of policy by other means". Feverstone's justification of Total War against Jewel comes straight out of Clausewitz's writings :
Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst. The maximum use of force is in no way incompatible with the simultaneous use of the intellect.
So Lord Feverstone passed off his rudeness as a means to bring Jewel to face the inevitable.

Lord Feverstone also refers to "Othello's occupation" concering Curry's fighting against the "Diehards". This Shakespearean quote comes from the play :
Farewell the tranquil mind, farewell content!\ Farewell the plumed troops and the big wars\ That makes ambition virtue...\ Farewell: Othello's occupation gone".

At this point in Othello the title character is losing his sanity as well as his occupation as military leader.

But since Lord Feverstone is in fact simply Dick Devine with a title, he can't give up his old ways. And so he continues to belittle his friends as well as his enemies. That's why he baits Curry into agreeing that "In order to keep the place going as a learned society, all the best brains in it have to give up doing anything about learning." To which Curry agrees, untill he realizes that he has been made to look rediculous. Ransom knew Divine quite well when he observed back in Out of the Silent Planet:
...Ransom fell to thinking of Devine. He felt for him that sort of distaste we feel for someone whom we have admired in boyhood for a very brief period and then outgrown. Devine had learned just half a term earlier than anyone else that kind of humour which consists in a perpetual parody of the sentimental or idealistic clichés of one's elders. For a few weeks his references to the Dear Old Place and to Playing the Game, to the White Man's Burden and a Straight Bat, had swept everyone, Ransom included, off their feet. But before he left Wedenshaw Ransom had already begun to find Devine a bore, and at Cambridge he had avoided him, wondering from afar how anyone so flashy and, as it were, ready-made could be so successful.

So in spite of his interplanetary experience, Devine has not changed a bit.

Feverstone continues to bait the three others by asking them what they think the N.I.C.E. really is. Curry babbles on about the fantastic technology this organization will bring in, and Busby agrees with him. They are most intrigued about a device called the "Pragmatometer" which is a device that sorts out information from forty committes, then prints them out on some sort of notice board for all to see. I am not sure whether it prints out these findings on paper or if it is presented in flashing lights such as those on the "zipper" in Times Square. The purpose of this device sounds like an early concept of what all those internet blogs are about. Information gets posted for all to see. Except in our reality this information comes into our work places and homes rather than on a public bulletin board.
But this is not the sort of thing that impresses Mark. The private leagal staff and police force are what interests him about the N.I.C.E. I remember Lewis saying somewhere that all dictatorships have one thing in common - a secret police force to maintain order. And it is for this reason that Lord Feverstone wants Mark to join the N.I.C.E.
After Curry leaves to see N.O. the Warden and Busby returns to see his family, Feverstone gives the full story to Mark. Lord Feverstone has no use for dim bulbs such as Curry and Busby. He even admits that their rivals such as Bill the blizzard and Jewel are much more intellegent. Yet Feverstone belives these men are wrong and must be stopped even if dull figureheads must do the work of defeating them. Mark feels privilaged to confide with this man. Although considering how fantasticly paranoid Feverstone sounds when he talks about a certain Cambridge don murdering Dr. Weston, I am surprised Mark took him seriously. Then again, when a person wants to be with the "inner-circle" he can even decieve himself. It is interesting that a soft science sociologist should be of greater use to the N.I.C.E. rather than a practical sanitation engineer such as Charles Place. I suppose it is easier to pervert people's understanding of society than their need for indoor plumbing.
Last edited by Kanakaberaka on 22 Oct 2008, 05:05, edited 4 times in total.
so it goes...
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Postby The Bigsleep J » 14 Oct 2008, 20:44

It seems that an almost nihilistic sense of loathing and disrespect seem to permeate the "progressives" in the college. In the previous part they disrespected the Canon and belittled him, and now the "friends" and "allies" end up doing it to each other. I wonder if this is possibly some kind of commentary by Lewis on a Darwinist attitude many people adopt in the work place.

Also, the progressives seem to believe they work towards the same goal in theory but seem to be constantly undermining each other at each given turn. Not all the "progressive element" is really part of the NICE, even if they are enamoured with it, but still stand outside on it. Could it be that Lord Feverstone manipulated into selling Bracton Wood by uniting them temporarily (possibly by implying they might get admitted to the NICE?)? That may be over-thinking it, but it is possible. :)
Insert supposedly witty but random absurd comment here and add water
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 11 Nov 2008, 22:57

The Bigsleep J wrote:Also, the progressives seem to believe they work towards the same goal in theory but seem to be constantly undermining each other at each given turn. Not all the "progressive element" is really part of the NICE, even if they are enamoured with it, but still stand outside on it. Could it be that Lord Feverstone manipulated into selling Bracton Wood by uniting them temporarily (possibly by implying they might get admitted to the NICE?)? That may be over-thinking it, but it is possible. :)

The whole point about the NICE is that each person is out for himself and will "align" with whoever happens to be beneficial to him at the moment, only to be discarded or thrown to the wolves when that use is ended. Unless of course, it might be that that person has some unseen use or unexpected influence over another higher person. Then, better to hold on to the person for a bit, or at least not let them know of your disregard for their true benefit. It is a delicate and dangerous game -- guess wrong, and you're out, possibly for good, but guess right and you're only led onto the seeming "next" level where the manipulating and guessing get even harder. We see this sort of thing all the way through the book and all the way up to the top "levels" of the NICE, even at the point near the end when all of Belbury is self-destructing. They are all biting the dust but even at that point it is a sort of "see who goes last" competition.

And so we see the NICE as all bustle and activity and goals and plans and nothing really happening in the end with them -- a sort of corrupt Martha if you will, while St. Annes seems (to MacPhee, anyway) all waiting, and holding back, and inaction, and prayer, and it is this "waiting on the Lord" that comes through in the end, choosing, like Mary, the better part.

…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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