Pretty much a bunch of random notes on the chapter – so much stuff to comment on here that I hardly know where to start or stop.
A couple things I notice several times in this chapter (as more examples of what occur throughout the book, really) are the continued mentions (as I noted about previous chapters) of Ransom’s worry about lapsing into madness – a curious constant theme of Lewis’. And also various manifestations of water conveying images of Joy and pleasant sensation. We see the bubble trees of course, and then Ransom drinks from the ocean, “The island at that moment was a little valley of bright land nestling between hills of green water, and he as he lay on his belly to drink he had the extraordinary experience of dipping his mouth in a sea that was higher than the shore.”
Ransom’s meeting with the dragon is a sort of foretaste of his meeting with the Green Lady. He has intentions of making noble introductions to the dragon only to discover that it ignores him and his efforts at decorum. And likewise as he is to experience in meeting the Green Lady. Instead of a noble meeting, he is met with laughter and frustration. Both meetings remind me a bit of the scene in the movie “Enchanted April” (one of our favourite films) where Melursh (sp?) is intent on making an impressive first meeting with Lady Caroline Dester and instead meets her in a very undignified manner, much to his surprise.
I notice another comment about the concept of “Reason” (as I mentioned in a post on a previous chapter) when Ransom is waiting while the dragon approaches him – ‘ “It’s madness to wait for it”, said the false reason, but Ransom set his teeth and stood.’ Again, as in the previous reference, he is commenting about reason in the modern sense as being limited only to “logical” deduction as opposed to the medieval sense of Reason encompassing more than that with a “moral” sense of things. It is this modern sense that his “indoctrination” in the Perelandrian atmosphere is trying to overcome – ie he is being “prepared” for his encounter with the Green Lady and his role as advocate against the Un-Man’s attacks on her.
I was initially intrigued and a little confused about why the dragon seemed to be “steering” him too the bubble trees. What was it’s purpose in doing so. But now I think it was part of this “preparation” that Ransom is undergoing in this initial part of the book. After the “baptism” of the bubble tree, Ransom has a renewed view of the world – colours seem richer and he views his condition with more “acceptance”. As that sections says, “for at that moment he had a sensation not of following an adventure, but of enacting a myth. To be the figure that he was in this unearthly pattern appeared sufficient.” This preparation is meant, I think, to put him more in a frame of mind of accepting the Will of Maleldil. (notice the contrast later in the book where he momentarily rejects this acceptance, feeling that it is “unfair” of Maleldil to pit him, a mere human, against the wiles of the Un-Man. Without this preparation, that feeling may have turned to despair instead of the determination of will he relies upon instead).
Here is the description of the mechanism of the bubble trees: “Their life, apparently, consisted in drawing up water from the ocean and then expelling it in this form [the sudden burst of shower], but enriched by its short sojourn in their sappy inwards.” I’m not exactly sure of the details of connection, but this seems like a very “theological” idea too – ie, something like what God does with us via the Holy Spirit, or perhaps some sort of parallel to the conversion of bread and wine into the body of Christ in the Sacrament of Communion – not sure exactly, but it seems to have significance.
Also, we see another example of the idea of seeing things from different points of view that Lewis uses so much here (and in his other books of course) that is also part of the “preparation” Ransom is going through. In particular, the difference in seeing individual bubbles bursting in comparison to their perception when viewed from a distance (“…but looking at the wood as a whole, one was conscious only of a continual faint disturbance of light, an elusive interference with the prevailing Perelandrian silence…”).
The whole “encore” theme is important to the book of course and has been commented on elsewhere. It too is a precursor to his meeting of the Green Lady who does not (initially, anyway, until she is “made older” by Ransom) view time very sequentially or of constant progression. She seems to be more “on” time rather than “in” it. And in the description of the problem with “encore” Lewis writes, “…a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film”. This analogy of unrolling of the film is the linear sequence of time, and Ransom’s whole experience in this part of the book is, as I have mentioned, a sort of preparation for not being so much “embedded” in this linear view of time.
I am rather surprised though that after all this philosophy about the spoiling effect of an encore of the bubble trees shower, the next paragraph immediately begins, “He rose and got a second shower from the bubble tree.” I suppose it means that he received it accidentally – ie that he didn’t “try” to get another one, but the mere act of getting up apparently caused one to burst on him.
I love the part about the berries where Lewis writes, “A man, or a at least a man like Ransom, felt he ought to say grace over it; and so he presently did. The gourds would have required rather an oratorio or a mystical meditation.” I can’t help but think of Karl Henning and the idea of composition here. If he is reading this, I wonder what his comments about a musical parallel to grace vs an oratorio ro mystical meditation would be? Any thoughts? (anyone else too of course).
As Ransom sits with his legs dangling in the red weeds in the water at the edge of the island, he contemplates his solitude. Lewis writes, “It was strange that the utter loneliness through all these hours had not troubled him so much as one night of it on Malacandra. He thought the difference lay in this, that mere chance, or what he took for chance had turned him adrift in Mars, but here he knew that he was part of a plan. He was no longer unattached, no longer on the outside.” Well, this is again an illustration of the Romantic vs the Classical view that Lewis talks about in The Discarded Image, and which I mentioned so much about in the Out of the Silent Planet study. Although I quoted it back then, it is so significant to Lewis’ views in all these books that I’ll quote the Discarded Image passage again here for reference:
“The really important difference is that the medieval universe, while unimaginably large, was also unambiguously finite. And one unexpected result of this is to make the smallness of Earth more vividly felt. In our [ie, modern view] universe she is small, no doubt; but so are the galaxies, so is everything – and so what? But in theirs there was an absolute standard of comparison…The word ‘small’ as applied to Earth thus takes on a far more absolute significance…to look out on the night sky with modern eyes is like looking out over a sea that fades away into mist, or looking about one in a trackless forest – trees forever and no horizon. To look up at the towering medieval universe is much more like looking at a great building. The ‘space’ of modern astronomy may arouse terror, or bewilderment or vague reverie; the spheres of the old present us with an object in which the mind can rest, overwhelming in its greatness but satisfying in its harmony. That is the sense in which our universe is romantic, and theirs was classical.
Here’s a side note: with the description of the islands changing shape from hills to valleys an everything between, I wonder how the trees on the island keep from getting horribly tangled up with each other or bumping into each other as the trunks roll to and fro with the waves?:-)
More hallucination fears as he sees the figure on the other island. “He had a picture of living for ever and ever on this hideous island, always really alone but always haunted by the phantoms of human beings, who would come up to him with smiles and outstretched hands, and then fade away as he approached them”. This is reminiscent of the horror he will feel when confronted by the Un-Man’s queries of “Ransom?” followed by “Nothing”.
Another interesting variation on the changing point of view idea mentioned above: Ransom uses it to his advantage when he is trying to figure out how to attract the attention of the figure. “And then, like a revelation, came the very simple idea that if he wished to attract the attention of the man-like creature he must wait till he wa on the crest of a wave and then stand up so that it would see him outlined against the sky.” Here, instead of Ransom seeing from a different point of view, he realizes he must change the point of view of the other figure.
I love the surprise for the reader after the buildup and let-down that Ransom experiences in seeing the other person, when the next sentence says “And the green man was not a man at all, but a woman”. Here the whole passage seemed to be about attracting the other’s attention, but we suddenly realize it is a buildup to a revelation of an entirely different sort.
Again, when Ransom sees the Green Lady laughing at him, he thinks of hallucination and of an evil spirit that mocks him. This thought, also a sort of precursor to the Un-Man’s “Nothing” responses.
Whatever the truth of the matter, many people think The Dark Tower to be unlike Lewis because of its sensual erotic suggestive imagery. But can anyone doubt Lewis’ play with such ideas with lines like this (after Ransom, in his unclothed state, has seen the Lady laughing uncontrollably at him): “It might not be she who was mad but he who was ridiculous. He glanced down at himself”. Of course Lewis goes on to describe the piebald state of Ransom’s body, but I can’t help thinking Lewis was perfectly aware of the momentary humouous thought that must go through every reader’s mind at this point. But on to the piebald image. I wonder if this is more of the “mythological” images that Ransom experiences in the other worlds. Here his apparently comedic image is almost like that of a harlequin, half dark and half light as an object of humour.
Lewis writes of Ransom, “He felt a momentary impatience with the creature who could mar the meeting of two worlds with laughter at such a triviality.” This reminds me very much of Weston’s response to Ransom on their way to Malacandra in OSP where he can’t believe Ransom is not more overwhelmed at the momentous occasion of interplanetary travel to worry about such a mere thing as being kidnapped.
We next see more of the “timeless” nature of the Green Lady sitting with her legs in the sea as if she had always been there. Steve (I think it was – is that right, Steve?), sometime back in these forums, wondered about the description of the Green Lady as having a “complete absence of resignation”. I wonder if this lack of resignation is part of her unfalleness – ie that fallen creatures have to “give in” to an acceptance of God’s will, whereas an unfallen creature does not need to “resign” itself, but simply already is there?
When the Green Lady asks “What is peace”, “Ransom could have danced with impatience”. Surely I am not the only one that has an image of having to go the bathroom really badly and having no place to go?:-)
Finally, at the end of the chapter, we see Ransom once again undergoing a radically chaotic experience in trying to get to the other island. But this time it is due to his own attempts to control the situation instead of accepting the will of Maleldil. As we will see in the next chapter, it was all for naught. He needn’t have worried – the next morning he finds he has ended up on his own island after all his effort anyway, and that the islands have gathered together close enough for him to casually walk over to the Green Lady’s island. After his great effort, he falls into a deep sleep so that he can awake to perform his appointed task in Perelandra.
(Whew. Sorry for the length. I could have gone on and on even more, but one has to stop SOMEWHERE. Practically every sentence and idea of this book could be commented on. Tough for me to hold back here:-)