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Chapter 3 - part 1

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

Chapter 3 - part 1

Postby Kanakaberaka » 24 Nov 2008, 22:54

Overview of chapter 3, Belbury and St. Anne's-on-the-Hill. The focus of each of the five sections :

1 - Mr. John Wither, Deputy Director of the N.I.C.E

2 - Various N.I.C.E. members

3 - Miss Ironwood at St. Anne's-on-the-Hill

4 - "Fairy" Hardcastle versus "Bill the blizzard" Hingest

5 - Jane's entanglements

Synopsis of part 1 - Thanks to Lord Feverstone, Mark has his interview with the Deputy Director of the N.I.C.E., Mr. John Wither. Although Wither bloviates for quite some time, he says practicaly nothing. He does not even remember Mark's name or where Mark resides. This leaves Mark uncertain about whether or not he has been accepted for a position with the N.I.C.E. Finally Mark pretends to agree with Wither, in spite of the fact that he has no idea what Wither is talking about. This pleases Wither who then invites Mark to join the club - at a cost of 200 English Pounds! Mark claims he has forgotten his check book, knowing full well he can not presently afford such a fee. As they exit the interview, Mark attempts to ask Feverstone whether of not he will get the job. Feverstone deliberatly ignores him with silence. Mark finds himself on his own among the N.I.C.E. members.

This has to be the most unpleasent section of any C.S. Lewis book I have ever read. Lewis attempts to present us with a man who can talk for hours on end, sounding intelligent and yet giving us absolutely no information at all. Even after re-reading Wither's glib lines I had no idea what it was he was saying. I thought I was missing something. Yet I wasn't, because there was nothing there. The trouble is that Lewis did such a good job illustrating this intolerable form of non-communication it made my head ache. I just couldn't stand reading what Wither had to say, or rather what he avoided saying. Wither truely lives up to his name.

Wither justifies his vagueness by claiming that he did not want to put Mark into a "straight waistcoat" or straight jacket as we say on this side of the Atlantic. He also mentions the "bed of Procrustes". This bed was a trap used by the mythic Greek bandit of Attica, Procrustes. This villain would invite travelers to use his iron bed. After tying his victims down he would either amputate their legs if they were too tall to fit onto the bed. Or stretch them out on a rack if they proved to be too short to fill it. The term "bed of Procrustes" thus refers to holding someone to an arbitrary standard. Apparently Wither has no standards.

Finally Mark gets Wither's attention by claiming to agree with whatever it is Wither appears to be saying. Mark simply gives his consent as Wither blathers on. Lewis is somewhat forgiving of Mark as he writes :
And Mark said - God forgive him, for he was young and shy and vain and timid, all in one - "I do think that is so important. The elasticity of your organisation is one of the things that attracts me."

Mark almost imitates Wither with his vague agreement.

Then comes the punch line. Wither mentions to Mark that he would be welcome to join the club for a fee of 200 Pounds. This makes me wonder if Lewis had ever attended a time share sales pitch where the salesperson talks your ear off untill you break down and buy into a vacation scheme. Either Lewis was ahead of his time or this is a con-game that has been going on for quite some time. I suspect the latter.

As they exit the interview Lord Feverstone has nothing to say to Mark. I am not sure whether Feverstone's coldness is because he feels he was wrong to have ever introduced Mark to the Deputy Director. Or whether Feverstone deliberately wants Mark to socialize on his own by thowing him out into the deep water, so to speak. Or to be even more cynical, Feverstone may have been disgusted that Mark had not taken Wither's bait and agreed to pay the membership fee. Then again, is it possible to be too cynical when it comes to judging Lord Feverstone?
so it goes...
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Cynics 'r Us - at least Lord Feverstone...

Postby Brian » 26 Nov 2008, 03:24

Hi K,
As they exit the interview Lord Feverstone has nothing to say to Mark. I am not sure whether Feverstone's coldness is because he feels he was wrong to have ever introduced Mark to the Deputy Director. Or whether Feverstone deliberately wants Mark to socialize on his own by thowing him out into the deep water, so to speak. Or to be even more cynical, Feverstone may have been disgusted that Mark had not taken Wither's bait and agreed to pay the membership fee. Then again, is it possible to be too cynical when it comes to judging Lord Feverstone?


In answer to your likely rhetorical question - we will find that the answer is NO! where cynicism and Lord Feverstone are concerned. I do suspect that part of Feverstone's coldness to Mark after meeting with Wither, is related to Feverstone already moving on to his next objective - to the filling of Mark's fellowship at Bracton with a much less qualified, but 'reliable' sort that won't get in the way of Lord Feverstone or the N.I.C.E.
In Christ alone,
Brian

Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry. Mark Twain
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Re: Chapter 3 - part 1

Postby Jofa » 27 Feb 2009, 16:26

My first thought when Feverstone leaves Mark and walks off has always been that he is clearly not interested in Mark's company. Mark seems deep enough into the N.I.C.E for the moment to satisfy their purposes so Feverstone does not need to bother about him anymore and, as Brian says, can go on to the next task. It is frustrating to me every time I read THS how much Mark does not see this whole fakeness, how slowly he takes in and processes some things. I know, part of the picture. So I bear with him. :)

About Wither - a character about whom it's hard to decide whether he is to be feared or pitied.
"Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
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