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Chapter 5 - part 1

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

Chapter 5 - part 1

Postby Kanakaberaka » 07 Dec 2009, 19:16

Overview of chapter 5, Elasticity. The focus of each of the three sections :

1 - Mark's dissapointment with the N.I.C.E.

2 - Mark finds himself trapped in the N.I.C.E.

3 - Jane agrees to help the folks from St. Anne's On The Hill.


Synopsis of part 1 : Mark returns to Belbury in good spirits. But his hopes are soon shattered as he realizes that he does not in fact have a real position there. First he insults Steele and embarasses Cosser. Next he attempts to see Wither without having an appointment. Finally he is taken under the wing of Fairy Hardcastle and given some insider's advice which he does not fully appreciate. Mark ends up spending the rest of the day walking amid Belbury's cemetary-like formal gardens.

In part one of this chapter Mark continues to make a fool of himself. I am amazed that the people in charge at Belbury have not forced him out. But of course, it is not Mark himself they are interested in. Fairy Hardcastle has to physicaly force Mark into appreciating what the N.I.C.E. is really about. As Lewis describes it:

To this, the Fairy made no answer, and the steady pressure of her arm compelled Mark. unless he was prepared to struggle, to go with her along the passage. The intimacy and authority of her grip was ludicrously ambiguous and would have fitted almost equally well the relations of policeman and prisoner, mistress and lover, nurse and child. Mark felt that he would look a fool if they met anyone.


What sort of authority takes charge of another person in such a way? It is clear that the "Fairy" wants Mark to enter the inner circle at Bellbury willingly. But she is not above using physical force if seduction fails to do the trick. It's odd that the only forthright offical at Belbury is the head of their secret police. C.S. Lewis once said that the one thing all dictatorships had in common was their secret police force. So it should be obvious what sort of society the N.I.C.E. is trying to set up.


Miss Hardcastle is surrounded by members of the N.I.C.E. Women's Auxiliary Institutional Police or Waips as they are called. Lewis seems to have been inspired by such accronyms as WACs, the Women's Army Corp, WAVES of the U.S. Navy, and the WASPs, the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Interestingly all the Waips are as exageratedly feminine as The Fairy is oddly masculine.
so it goes...
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Mark's assignment

Postby Kanakaberaka » 07 Dec 2009, 20:20

Of course Mark wanted the N.I.C.E. to give him a job to do so that he could prove himself. It was Fairy Hardcastle who finally gave Mark what he was seeking. What he did not expect was to be put in charge of writing a propaganda piece whose purpose was to "rehabilitate" the murderer Alcasan. When Mark expresses disbelief that any educated person would belive such obvious rot, Hardcastle sets him straight. She tells Mark that the lower classes have too much common sense to be fooled by what they read in the newspapers. It is the educated classes who are far more gullible about what they read in their high brow publications. This rings true today when you see people with advanced college degrees following every fad that comes along while folks with high school diplomas are far more reluctant to belive what the media is trying to sell.

Fairy Hardcastle gives the example of Basic English as something promoted when it was invented by progressive Don. It was then shunned when a Tory (conservative) politician took it up. Basic English was a simplified form of the English laguage developed by Charles K. Ogden for those who used English as a second language. It has a vocabulary of only 850 words.

After Hardcastle is done with giving Mark a warning about what happens to those who leave the N.I.C.E. Mark fills the rest of his dreary day with a walk around the cemetery like gardens surrounding Belbury. It's quite the opposite of what Lewis likes about taking leasurely walks, lacking any connection with nature. The really disturbing part is when Mark hears the beastly cries of the animals the N.I.C.E. has caged on the premises. Rather than feel empathy for them, Mark fears being left out of the experiments, including vivisection, the N.I.C.E. plans to perform on these poor animals! After a while their howls are too much for even Mark to bear (no pun intended) so he goes back inside.
so it goes...
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Re: Chapter 5 - part 1

Postby jo » 07 Dec 2009, 20:42

Mark's views on vivisection really bothered me. I've seen it defended - I can't remember who by - as being a different era and one in which sensibilities about the ill treatment of animals had yet to reach public prominence but that just does not ring true to me. Mark simply did not care that the NICE were experimenting on live animals; all he cared about was that he did not have a part in that.

The part with the newspaper articles was fascinating... not only do we see Mark, without his apparently realising it being taken fully into the bosom of the NICE but we also see what he is capable of. The articles he writes would fit perfectly to this day into respectively any high brow broadsheet or red topped tabloid. And Mark, fuelled by alcohol and the feeling that he is for once 'onto something' does not care about his dishonesty; he is merely excited to be moving into the Inner Ring.
"I saw it begin,” said the Lord Digory. “I did not think I would live to see it die"

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Re: Chapter 5 - part 1

Postby a_hnau » 07 Dec 2009, 21:21

What interests me - especially as someone who likes to write as well as read - is when Mark finds that once a thing is written and looks like a newspaper article, or a paper, it is much easier to believe, even if it is your own writing and you have serious doubts about it - 'When a man has crossed the T's and dotted the I's, and likes the look of his work, he does not wish it to be committed to the wastepaper basket. The more often he re-read the articles, the better he liked them.'

Heinlein (in Stranger) notices the same thing - '[Madame Vesant] felt much better now and started writing out the results of the two horoscopes for the Douglases. That done, it turned out to be easy to write one for Smith, and she found, as she always did, that the words on paper proved themselves - they were all so beautifully true'.
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Re: Chapter 5 - part 1

Postby Kanakaberaka » 09 Dec 2009, 15:56

a_hnau wrote:...when Mark finds that once a thing is written and looks like a newspaper article, or a paper, it is much easier to believe, even if it is your own writing and you have serious doubts about it...


This is what I think of when I read political and relgious blogs on both the right and the left. Often their message boards appear to be echo chambers when all the postings are variations of one another. Dissenting posters are usually piled upon by the regular crowd, even if the blogger takes the high road and gives others the benefit of the doubt. It seems to me that the internet has become the Pragmatometer device that Lewis predicted. Ideas are repeated untill others assume they are true rather than real give and take conversation or debate.
so it goes...
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Re: Chapter 5 - part 1

Postby jo » 09 Dec 2009, 17:53

That's an interesting perspective. And yes, I guess we've all seen that occur on the internet ..

What I was very interested in - and slightly amused by - was the idea that one must always have a left and a right media constantly at odds with one another, to keep the public on its toes, so to speak.
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