That Hideous Strength – The Liquidation of Anachronisms – Chapter 4.1


Mrs Dimble arrives at Jane’s house (with Jane having just put clean sheets on “Mark’s bed”) and speaks a lot during the course of the chapter. There are full paragraphs of her just going on and on. Apparently Jane is speaking some as well since we see some of what Dimble says are answers to unwritten questions from Jane. First thing that morning some construction workers from NICE had arrive to send the Dimbles out of their house and to tear it down. Cecil (who lives at Bracton but teaches elsewhere) tries to get help on the phone from Busby and then from the NICE, but to no avail. He ends up sleeping at the college while Mother Dimble comes to stay with Jane. At bedtime Jane finds it awkward that Mother Dimble prays. (Apparently they do share a room, if not a bed.)


I just want to bring up Mark and Jane seeming to have different beds. I think that was a bit of a trend in the early 1900s, seen to be more hygienic or some such. I seem to recall that in Thurber’s My Life and Hard Times (ostensibly an autobiography or memoir of sorts, though written when he was in his mid-30s; I had a feeling the whole thing was completely made up.), his parents actually slept in completely different rooms. Maybe this is connected to Jane’s and Mark’s marriage problems, but I doubt it. It doesn’t seem to be a point of any consequence to Lewis. And there is no mention yet made of anyone else’s sleeping arrangements.

In a chapter titled The Liquidation of Anachronisms, the Dimble home seems to be the first such liquidation. I doubt it will be the last. Maybe the Dimbles themselves are the true anachronism here. Jane certainly considers Mrs Dimbles prayer habit out-dated. She is above such superstitions. And the way Mrs Dimble so longed for children that she never had. Jane certainly has no such anachronistic longing. Then there is her constant chattering: “It comes from being married thirty years. Husbands were made to be talked to. It helps them to concentrate their minds on what they’re reading – like the sound of a weir [that is water flowing over a small dam]” (75). I dont think this sentiment is as old-fashioned as it is wrong-headed. It is certainly not feminist. And there is no



That Hideous Strength – Chapter 3, Section 5


Jane leaves St. Anne’s determined to treat all she has heard as nonsense, though not convinced it is nonsense. She wants to live her own life – a sentiment that crossed over into her marriage and desire to avoid having children. Once home, Mrs Dimble calls and needs a place to spend the night, saying only that “such a dreadful thing’s happened.”


Jane’s desire to live her own life is certainly a desire we all share on some level. Giving it up and really getting invested in others and vulnerable with others is, I think, one of the keys to happiness. Lewis seems to agree here. I am reminded of a song (youtube link) by Andy Gullahorn:

I’ve heard that you can tell the ones who truly open up
Their lives are marked with freedom and with peace

Freedom and peace do not mark Jane’s life at this time. I think this is the third time her being childless by choice has been noted. This desire to live one’s own life has interfered with her marriage and the possibility of having children (something most find fulfilling though difficult and demanding sacrifice). Jane does not want to sacrifice, does not want to give of herself in a truly costly way. I don’t want to be too hard on her though, for her husband certainly isn’t considering any true sacrifice either.

Jane has, at this point, rejected the idea of acting on faith, and it isn’t because she is convinced that Miss Ironwood’s words were all nonsense. She holds out the intellectual possibility that it may be true. There are 3 steps in acting on faith or believing.

  • The first is knowledge. Jane doesn’t have all the knowledge it would be nice to have, but she at least has the introduction to the idea that there is nothing wrong with her to be cured, that her “vision” is a gift. She has the beginning of the knowledge, she has what is required to further explore.
  • The second is assent. That is intellectual assent to it, saying “it is true.” She certainly isn’t convinced of it’s truth but she is questioning. “She was not indeed sure that it was nonsense…”[continued below] (70).
  • The third is trusting or having allegiance to the thing. She has rejected this, at least for now. “… but she had already resolved to treat it as if it were” (70).

That Hideous Strength – Chapter 3, Section 4


Here Lewis broadly recounts Mark’s conversation with Hardcastle, focusing especially on the role of a progressive police force and treatment vs punishment for crimes. Mark has decided to stay for dinner and sits with Hingest who begins to explain his reasoning for leaving NICE and the Fairy interrupts to find out his driving plans that evening, saying that she would like to ride with him if she’s going his way, which he isn’t.


Lewis wrote quite a bit about retributive punishment vs remedial treatment in the criminal justice system. It is probably not mere over-simplification to say that he landed solidly in the retributive punishment camp against treatment of the criminal. An essay called the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment can be found here and is worth reading. In this section of THS he presents some of the ideas without a lot of comment except that the proponents of the humanitarian theory, or the remedial treatment theory, are members of the NICE (specifically Fairy Hardcastle). What the progressive NICE wants is generally the opposite of what Lewis favors.

But the Fairy pointed out that what had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite: you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on til it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would when that was. (68)

The Fairy sees the police as giving the sociologists the muscle needed to really work out their theories on the population. And she’s thought as much about these theories as our sociologist protagonist has.

I like that Lewis puts his essays into novel form. I wish more writers would do this. In my opinion, the genre of Christian spiritual self-help books is growing much too fast and books like That Hideous Strength are too few. Metaphysical truth and good fiction are a hard marriage, but Lewis was adept at just that.

The Fairy was introduced earlier but here we have a little more of her description. She “excited” in Mark ” all the distaste which a young man feels at the proximity of something rankly, even insolently sexed, and at the same time wholly unattractive” (67). Sexed here I take to mean sexualized, not a great difference in the actual word, though I stumbled on Lewis’s “sexed.” She’s an “emancipated female.” I think that wording could be misunderstood. Though I’m no expert I would like to say that he isn’t merely speaking of women being able to vote or work or drive. He is speaking of a woman who has rejected femininity and taken on the masculine form. Masculinity and Femininity are thought highly of by Lewis and have been discussed in both the previous two books of the Space Trilogy. Here on the silent planet is the first example of a female throwing off femininity, rejecting its being a good gift from, shall we say, Maleldil (there’s a name I haven’t used yet in writing about THS).

Lets also note, briefly, once again Mark’s desire to be “in.” “Several times that day he had been made to feel himself an outsider; that feeling completely disappeared while Miss Hardcastle was talking to him. He had the sense of getting in” (67).

Finally we have a second conversation between Mark and Bill Hingest. He’s leaving NICE because he at first thought it had to do with science and has found out its more “like a political conspiracy” (69). He doesn’t consider sociology a science. “I happen to believe that you can’t study men; you can only get to know them.” The Fairy’s, and Mark’s, ideas of sociology are all about studying and controlling people while trying to avoid getting to know them.

(This reminds me of Abraham Flexner. He was of the same opinion as regards sociology. He was an educator who sparked the reform of medical education about a hundred years ago. I was fortunate to be exposed to some of his work while attending school in Louisville where he also worked and studied somewhat before my time.)

And if he found chemistry fitting in with “a secret police run by a middle aged viragro” – the Fairy – attempting to change up all of society in its progressive image, he would leave chemistry at once (69).

He pulls no punches with Mark and advises him to consider getting out of the NICE, that it will do him no good personally or for his career. When Mark objects that there are two views on that, Hingest (or Lewis) replies quite trenchantly, “There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one” (70). Again, I applaud Lewis’s ability to add such an incisive observation and comment on relativist thinking to the flow of a novel. That’s why I love this book.

Lastly, I want to note that Orion is rising over Hingest as he leaves the NICE. I know little of astronomy and the associated “folklore.” But I do know that Orion is a hunter and I have read the book before and so I know that this is Hingest’s last night among the living. Orion seems to foreshadow his death. Lewis seems to know much of western astronomy, mythology and cosmology.


That Hideous Strength – Chapter Three – Section 3


Jane arrives at St Anne’s and is shown in to Miss Ironwood. She was expected due to Dr Dimble’s call. Jane curiously finds that she knows a line from a book that is at St. Anne’s, a book that she hasn’t read yet, not until she arrived there. She shares her dreams with Miss Ironwood in hopes that she can be “cured” of these dreams. Miss Ironwood tells Jane there is no cure because she isn’t ill. Miss Ironwood is under the impression that Jane is seeing true events in a somewhat mixed-up dream-like manner, that Jane is having visions, not dreams. Further, Miss Ironwood thinks these visions are of utmost importance in some type of battle between good and evil (and, of course, Miss Ironwood sees herself on the side of good). She encourages Jane to join her “company” and help their side, for if the other side were to get hold of her, it would be bad for Jane and the rest of humanity. Jane initially rejects Miss Ironwood’s opinion and takes her leave.


Here Lewis begins to introduce the truly fantastic into this “Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups.” The dreams have been present before, and have been strikingly odd. But they have still been only dreams. Now we have the idea that Jane has “vision – the power of dreaming realities” (63). This adds another layer to the story. More is going on than meets the eye. What was that in the dream about a head being removed from a man, a man covered in dirt brought back to life? What about that bit about Merlin supposedly being buried but not dead? And in Bragdon Wood, recently acquired by the NICE? And if Jane Studdock is in the center of the whole affair, Mark cannot be far from it himself.

Let’s note Jane’s maiden name of Tudor – the House of Tudor, the Royal Family? And Merlin has been mentioned – he goes back further than that. This is a distinctly British fairy-tale. It will become more British as the tale progresses.

And shall we consider the stakes of this fair-tale? We have had Lord Feverstone speaking of the goals of NICE in chapter 2 and then Filostrato in chapter 3. Now we have a word from the other side of the conflict. Miss Ironwood tells Jane, “If you [help us] you will be much less frightened in the long run and you will be helping to save the human race from a very great disaster” (66).

Jane seems conflicted in where her allegiance lies, but, in her defense, she has just learned of the two camps, and little of them at that. It is easier for us with a bird’s eye view of the NICE to see that Jane should align herself with St Anne’s than it is for Jane who is caught up in it and is personally and emotionally invested. To believe Miss Ironwood, at this point, would take something not unlike faith in what she is saying. None of this can be proved without a doubt though there is mounting evidence. This is not mere “blind faith” but it would take acting on faith to join with Miss Ironwood in her mission, whatever exactly it may be. Still that faith, if Ironwood is to be believed, may save Jane her life. I am reminded of the verse from Habakkuk, the righteous shall live by his faith. The question of salvation is before her, though she doesn’t understand it as such, and it is not quite presented as such, at least in a religious way.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter 3 – Section 2


Here we follow Mark for an hour or so at the NICE, separated from Feverstone and trying to make his way. He begins by awkwardly sitting at a dining table next to two NICE members “talking shop,” – lots of acronyms, little that Mark comprehends.

He then happens into a fellow fellow at Bracton – a real scientist – Hingest, a scientist of some renown who has decided to part ways with the NICE. He seems to see the group as powerful – “The NICE would have the Wood in any case. They have powers to compel a sale” (56) – and misguided – “there’s nothing extraordinary in the fact that the NICE should wish, if possible, to hand over to Bracton the odium of turning the heart of England into a cross between an abortive American hotel and a glorified gas works” (56). (I regret only that my country is held in such low regard. I’m quite fond of it.)

He then is introduced to Steele (by Hingest), a man who is nominally in charge of sociology at NICE and is in no way pleased to find that Studdock has been let into his department my Wither without even letting him know. It is unclear to the reader, or to Mark, if this is even the case. Mark tries to explain this but seems as impotent here as he did with Wither (who is known often as D.D. – deputy director).

He is saved from the ordeal with Steele, at least temporarily, when he meets Professor Filostrato – a true NICE believer – who holds Feverstone in low regard, much as in the way Feverstone thinks of Curry. Mark naturally gravitates to him, who explains “the NICE is serious. It is nothing less than the existence of the human race that depends on our work: our real work” (58). He explains that Mark need not worry himself with the Steeles and Feverstones so long as he is in good with the D.D. and the Fairy – Miss Hardcastle.

Lastly Mark meets Miss Hardcastle, the leader of the Institutional Police, “a terrible Inglesaccia.

Longer Summary this section. I felt like several important (Filostrato, the Fairy) or semi-important (Hingest, Steele) characters were introduced.


Mark’s primary goal in life is to fit in with the best crowd available and yet he never seems to fit in at all, at least so far. I would say that, given the crowds he pursues, it bodes well for him that he doesn’t fit in, yet speaks poorly that he tries so hard to do so. The desire for popularity and prestige or status is common among people. It is not a desire or pursuit that is spoken highly of in scripture. Jesus commanded us not to fear man but to fear God. In James we are cautioned against showing favoritism to certain people based on outward characteristics. We are to seek acceptance with God and not men.

Hingest is known derisively by the Progressive Element at Bracton as Bill the Blizzard. He is presented as a legitimate and true scientist, though out of step with the Progressive Element. This is a good thing, given how the Progressive Element has been presented. I would say Hingest could be reasonably aligned with the “good guys.” Whatever the goals of the NICE, Hingest cares nothing for them.

At this point I dont think we are to know what to make of the Fairy Hardcastle. She is very much out of step with the social mores of the day in the way she dresses and carries herself and with the very fact that she leads the police department. All very feminist I am sure.


The Almanac de Gotha (55) is a record or directory of European royalty published in Germany. I doubt Bill the Blizzard actually perused this book as Curry said it behind his back as a jab.

Filostrato uses some foreign terms (58): Canaglia is a troublesome person. And Inglesaccia I think is an insult to an Englishman or lady.

It seems that this de Broglie (55) is an actual historic person, a physicist who studied quantum theory, contemporary of Lewis. He has a wikipedia page that does not mention a link between the two.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter 3 – Section 1


Upon arriving at the NICE, Mark meets the deputy director, Mr. John Wither. His conversation with Wither is anything but fruitful as Wither’s way of communicating is so obtuse and circumspect. He seems not to want to answer Mark’s questions but perhaps is merely missing the point of the questions. Mark does not find out what it is he is supposed to do at/for NICE. He is instead lulled into almost hypnotic agreement with Wither. He is told that the NICE is like a family, that he will be happy there, that he can live where he chooses, that he will be appreciated at NICE. He seems to forget Mark’s name at times, though this is hard to say given his “style.”


John Wither. I’ve never been one to often think that a character’s name was a direct comment on his character, though with Lewis I think this might come in to play at times. I can’t think of a better name for this character than Wither. Its like his insides have wasted away. He had “something rather vague and chaotic” about his face (50). Then there is his general mode of communication, or rather speaking without really communicating anything at all. The bulk of the chapter is centered around Wither’s words which never really come to a point. Is there a point to come to? Who does he literally represent in the story – this “committee” (52)? And is he just an odd man or is there something deeper going on?

Mark, all the time, is continually seduced by his desire to be a part of this “atmosphere of vague, yet heavily important confidence” (52). Mark is obviously unsure of what he is getting himself into, yet wants to be a part of whatever it is. In the end he has not found out what it is, nor if he is a part of it. He has, however, found out that if he wants to be a member of the “the NICE club,” the easiest way is to fork over 200 pounds as a life member. But he is going to have a hard time affording that, unless he accepts the position, which hasn’t been formally offered, which pays fifteen hundred per year.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Two – Section Four


This sections recounts Mark’s journey to the NICE at Belbury and Janes journey to St. Anne’s. Mark rides with Feverstone in his car; Feverstone is a bit frisky at the wheel. Jane goes quietly by train.


I find the description of the drive to Belbury quite comical. It seems, to me, that the Dick Devine of OOTSP, would drive this kind of car in this manner. Its so modern-man-ish. I feel that I pick up that this is a non-traditional form of transportation especially for that time and place. I think that’s what stands out the most, and I imagine it stands out much less to me – growing up in post-muscle-car America than it would to a contemporary of Lewis.

Contrast that to what seems to be a slow, calm and peaceful journey for Jane on a very traditional mode of transportation. And its not that trains had been around for several generations, but they had been embraced as a major means of mass-transit, not unlike the automobile is in contemporary USA. I can’t speak for other parts of the world where I know trains and buses are quite common, likely moreso. Jane’s timidity in approaching St. Anne’s is contrasted with Mark’s almost racing to Belbury.