My friend, you have already separated the Fun, as you call it, from fertility. (170)
Whereas chapter 7 concerned Jane and St. Anne’s almost exclusively, chapter 8 focuses primarily on Mark and the goings-on at Belbury.
Wither discusses Jane with the Fairy – The Fairy to see the Head – Mr Bultitude – Mr McPhee – Mrs Maggs – “In” at Belbury? – A conversation with Wither about Mrs Studdock – Back on Wither’s bad side – On trees – Filostrato explains – Lunacy – Enter the mad parson – Mark to see the Head
Marriage and Sexuality
This chapter doesnt have a lot specifically designated for this chapter. But its addressed and there are some gems here if you read between the lines.
The first and most obvious point is the way the household chores are divided between the men and women at St. Anne’s. The explanation is from Mother Dimble, who explains that “Men can’t help in a job, you know. They can be induced to do it; not to help while you’re doing it. At least, it makes them grumpy. (164)”
This is because men are so awesome… I kid. Men aren’t good at helping women. Men are created to be leaders. God saw that Adam needed a helper and so he created Eve. Now I think it is painting with too broad a brush to say that men can’t help, especially on something like household chores. Though I’ll be the first to admit that women are often more detail oriented. Men just aren’t good at getting things done without help. I clean the kitchen happily, and then my wife spends 10 more minutes cleaning the kitchen. There are just things to do that I don’t see. I take the kids out. I remember the diaper bag, I just forget to make sure the diaper bag is “loaded.” Its the details. And I can learn to do a good job on things. But remembering the details is not my forte. I am good with the big picture. I find this is generally true of men. Big picture. More romantic. Women – details, more practical.
Now before anyone tries to tell me I’m a chauvinist, let me just say that God never said a woman couldn’t get a job done and needed help. He said it about the man. Men aren’t better than women. Men are incomplete without women. Men need women. Don’t call me a chauvinist for saying that men are better than women because that is not what I am doing. (But if you want to call me a chauvinist for saying men are leaders, go ahead.)
And poor Mark. Lets look at him for a minute where sexuality is concerned. The paragraph that begins at the bottom of 167 and ends midway down 168. I won’t quote it all. The DD has asked Mark to bring his wife to Belbury and Mark has declined. His reasoning is that there are so many things at Belbury that Jane wouldn’t understand, so many conversations that would seem silly to her, even gutless. He could not face trying to get Jane to keep the DD in a good temper.
Mark is a doormat at Belbury. He knows his wife would not be willing to see that. Mark’s cowardice, his desire to be in the inner ring, his effeminacy can only go so far. He would not be able to perform appropriately in front of his wife. It is to Mark’s credit, and Jane’s, that this would be a bridge too far. His effeminacy on that kind of display before his wife is unthinkable. He would not ask her to do such a thing as partner in his not “showing himself a man.” I have heard stories of men who ask their wives to sleep with someone else in order to sweeten a business deal. Disgusting. This is the same type of thing, though not to the same degree.
And little does Mark know that it is actually Jane they want, and not himself.
Then there is the conversation that begins with the destruction of the trees. It is an effort to sterilize the area around Belbury, and eventually the whole world. But trees are only the early stages. Eventually… “There will never be peace and order and discipline so long as there is sex. When man has thrown it away, then he will become finally governable” (170). Filostrato makes this argument. He wants to rid the world of the organic, and make it mind only. The organic has done its work via evolution in producing the mind, but it is time for men to take over and refine the mind. We no longer need the evolution. We no longer need the fruitfulness. We no longer need the sex. The “Fun” lasts, for now at least. But we will eventually shed even that.
This is a weird modern gnosticism. I will return to that shortly. The point here is the sex. Man is innately sexual. We are made as two different sexes. Male and female. We are made to be fruitful. Like the rest of creation we will not survive without fruitfulness. Everything lives and grows and reproduces. It is who we are.
CS Lewis was big on the planets. I previously mentioned Jupiter – sometimes called Jove (149). The Moon is discussed on page 172 and 173. Lewis brings the Moon into his fiction here and moreso toward the end. The thing to take away from this portion is the Moon’s dual nature. One side faces us, while the other is always facing away, obscured from our vision. In the medieval worldview, because of Earth’s sin, the visible, close, side of the moon was barren, empty, dead, but the far side was vibrant and life-like. Lewis borrows that idea here, giving the Moon two natures.
Filostrato prefers the “lighted” side of the moon because it is clean and sterile. No eroding organic life. He also mentions the “savages” of the far side with their ever-shrinking territory. (Like the cleaning of “tarnished silver.”) Lewis seemed to have an (unhealthy?) fascination with paganism. These savages fit perfectly. Ransom visited Mars in OOTSP, but never the Moon. I think Lewis draws a bit from HG Wells’s The First Men in the Moon as well.
Lewis revisits the moonlight on 175: “In that disastrous light [the faces of Straik and Filostrato] looked like masks hanging in the air.”
Poor, poor Mark. He’s finally getting to do some work for the NICE. He seems to be “in.” Way past some others that had previously made him feel “out.” He’s doing work. He’s involved in the library conversations. He’s getting somewhere. He’s in. Or is he?…
If a mere arrest could have secured the – er – good will and collaboration of Mrs. Studdock, we should hardly have embarrassed ourselves with the presence of her husband. (158)
So this whole thing with Mark is just to get to his wife. He’s been completely used. They care nothing for him. He is means to an end. They despise him. They tolerate him, but for how long?
It really gets mixed up here. Filostrato’s science. Straik’s religion. I can’t hope to do it justice; you really must read the last few pages for yourself. The big reveal is that Alcasan – the executed French scientist – is being brought back… or rather his head is being reanimated. He/It will be kept alive with a bunch of science-y machines and it will be purely intellectual, purely logical. It will absorb other intellects to gain more and more knowledge. It will be a god.
(Hence the name of the book – reference to the Tower of Babel – men striving for divinity.)
“It is the beginning of Man Immortal and Man Ubiquitous,” said Straik. “Man on the throne of the universe. It is what all the prophecies really meant.” (175)
For Straik this is the “real resurrection” (78). He had previously told Mark he would see it for himself.
Filostrato takes a less religious attitude – at least on the surface – regarding Alcasan, the Head. Its all about progress for him. Its about sweeping the world clean of the dirt of life and making way for pure intellect. Its less religious for him, but its no less eschatological. He desires progress, universal change, what one might call a heaven on earth.
Still, he is OK with realizing the dreams of certain forms of religion: “does it fallow that because there was no God in the past that there will be no God also in the future?” (176).
Using science to change all of society, to invent God, to revolutionize the world – that is scientism. Using science to attempt what science cannot do and should not try.
And Mark is to go and meet the Head? But why? We’ve established they don’t care anything about Mark. What could they want?