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Chapter 4 - part 1

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

Chapter 4 - part 1

Postby Kanakaberaka » 09 Mar 2009, 21:54

Overview of chapter 4, The Liquidation of Anachronisms. The focus of each of the seven sections :

1 - The eviction of the Dimbles by the N.I.C.E.

2 - Jane has another horrific dream/vision.

3 - Mark meets Reverend Straik.

4 - Rest in Peace, "Bill the Blizzard" Hingest.

5 - Curry confirms the reality of Jane's vision.

6 - Mark and Cosser survey Cure Hardy.

7 - Turmoil outside interrupts the Fellows of Bracton within the Common Room.

Synopsis of part 1 : Mrs. Dimble arrives at Jane's flat with a load of luggage. At first she is very thankful to Jane. Then she becomes angry as she tells her that she and her husband have been "turned out" by the N.I.C.E. who apparently own the place due to the deal they made with Bracton. Mrs. Dimble dumps all her frustrations on Jane. Then she becomes apologetic and asks Jane about her problems and how her visit to St. Anne's on The Hill went. Jane is reluctant to talk about it, so she insists Mrs. Dimble's problem is what really matters. But Mrs. Dimble tells Jane not to worry because she will only be staying for the night. The next day she and her husband, Cecil will be going over to St. Anne's. While Jane is happy to help Mrs. Dimble out, she feels uncomfortable about her religious practice.

There's no room at the inn for the Dimbles. So Jane has gotten her wish to have Mrs. Dimble come over to keep her company. Only it's Jane comforting Mrs. Dimble rather than the other way around. And what a disquieting tale Mrs. Dimble has to tell. Her description of the N.I.C.E. work gangs make them appear as sub-human. It had me thinking of J.R.R. Tolkien's orks cutting down the forests around Isengard. I wonder whether Lewis and Tolkien shared notes over at the "Bird and the Baby". Also the N.I.C.E. police are presented as a military force rather than keepers of civil order. They wear "peaked caps" like the army does rather than the sort of helmets worn by British "bobbies". They also maintain order by force -
Swinging some kind of truncheon things, like what you'd see in an American film. Do you know Jane, Cecil and I both thought the same thing: we thought, it's almost as if we'd lost the war.

Those "truncheon things" are what we call night sticks here in The States. I suppose the bobbies must have had more control over the public than our Police Officers do with their sidearms. At least that's the impression Lewis gives.

While Jane is willing to shelter Mrs. Dimble for as long as necessary, Mrs. Dimble has no desire to burden Jane any longer than one night. In fact she tells Jane -
As a matter of fact, I shan't have't behave like the sword of Siegfried

Siegfried's sword was know as Balmung in Norse mythology. It was originaly his father's sword. Odin stabbed this sword into the oak tree Brenstock. The god proclaimed that only the worthy one could remove it. The sword remained there untill Siegfried's father, Sigmund removed it. I suppose Mrs. Dimble wanted to assure Jane that she would not be as unmoveable as Siegfried's sword. But this reference also reminds me of the legend of Excalibur, King Arthur's sword. It too was embedded in an unmoveable object, in this case a stone. Of course only Arthur could remove it. While this reference fits in with Lewis' interest in Medieval legends, it seems rather clunky to me. I am not quite sure if this is what Lewis really meant.

Mrs. Dimble shows a stiff upper lip by giving a "sour grapes" talk about how their house held a lot of unrealized potential. She and her husband hoped to have a lot of children, but were unable to do so. That is why Cecil was able to have his students stay over in the empty rooms they had. She also laments :
I might have got like that frightful woman in Ibsen who was always maundering about dolls.

Mrs. Dimble must be refering to Nora from Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. Which seems odd to me because her husband does not resemble Nora's from the play. In fact, Mrs. Dimble appears to be quite the opposite of Nora. She certainly has no desire to run away from a stifling domestic situation, the way Nora did.

Finally, as they prepare to go to bed, Jane felt embarrassment when Mrs. Dimble knelt down and said her prayers. This is very typical for young people today. And yet I suppose our modern reluctance to engage in prayer with others really isn't anything new. If I were in Jane's situation I suppose I would "do as the Romans do" and join in the prayers of my more pious room mate. Provided of course we both shared the same faith. Whenever I do pray outside of church, I usualy pray alone. And I prefer it that way.
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Siegfried's sword and Ibsen's dolls

Postby Kanakaberaka » 23 Mar 2009, 03:01

Arend Smilde of Utrecht, The Netherlands has what appears to me a better explanation of Mrs. Dimble's reference to the Sword of Siegfried :
to behave like the Sword of Siegfried

In other words, to prevent lovers from having sexual intercourse; a reference to Richard Wagner’s opera Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods: Act 2, Scene 4). When Brünnhilde accuses Siegfried of having ‘extorted lust and love’ from her, Siegfried denies the charge, pointing out that he has placed his sword Notung between them when he wooed her for his blood-brother Gunther.

I do not know of any story or passage in Arthurian legend or Germanic mythology featuring Siegfried’s sword in this function. There is, however, at least one relevant story in medieval legend about another hero’s sword. Tristan lay his sword between himself and Isolde in their bed when he had cause to fear they might be caught together by Isolde’s husband. Interestingly, this husband’s name is Mark; cf. note to chapter 10.2. The sword lying there was apparently thought to be sufficient proof that they had no intercourse with each other (Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan, XXVIII, 17.398–17.413).

As well Mrs. Dimble's reference to "that frightful woman in Ibsen who was always maundering about dolls." -


Henrik Ibsen, (1828–1906), Norwegian poet and playwright; Mrs Dimble is referring to the figure of Aline Solness in his play The Master Builder (Bygmester Solness, 1892), Act 3. Aline had been mother of twin boys who had died as babies shortly after a fire in which their home had burnt to the gound. Recalling this, Aline tells her friend Hilda that she doesn’t actually deplore the loss of her boys since ‘We ought to feel nothing but joy in thinking of them; for they are so happy – so happy now’; but that ‘it is the small losses in life that cut one to the heart’. These losses include ‘nine lovely dolls’ which had been lost in the fire: ‘The dolls and I had gone on living together. (...) I carried them under my heart – like little unborn children.’

Quite a chilling Ibsen passage. And no doubt the play that Lewis was refering to.

I want to avoid plagiarizing the works of another. So I avoid reading other peoples studies of That Hideous Strength. However, when I feel that my explanation of Lewis' work is not accurate, I like to compare what I have written to this website hosted by Arend Smilde :

Others here might want to check out his footnotes to some of the more obscure references from the book.
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