Notes on Out of the Silent Planet – Ransom’s Growth

Just some thoughts, summary and such regarding the first installment of the trilogy.

First of all, I really like this book. Out of the three it is my second favorite. I like That Hideous Strength better, I think due to the overall scope, but will say that it suffers from a slow start, which OOTSP doesn’t. Ransom is on the ship by the 15th page, and he has already been drugged and had a acid-esque vision of the Queer People saying Hoo Hoo Hoo like owls.

Ransom’s Growth: The book sees a great change in Ransom. In the beginning, Ransom is just a happy go lucky man of the world. He’s got certain morals and scruples, but he lacks a lot. Bravery and courage? Had the Ransom of the beginning known what was to come, he never would have crossed that hedge. He spent his early time on Malacandra, likewise, running for his life. It wasn’t until he met the noble Hrossa that he began to see things in a different light. Death was no longer the ultimate evil as he grew to truly value life. And though he began as a product of Western Christianity, with its education, attitudes and values, there was quite a sprinkling in of Darwinianism sprinkled in, an idea that one must survive at all costs. More than once, Ransom advises Malacandrians to kill all three of the earthlings, himself included.

Having not lived through the early 20th century, I can only speculate, but I think this attitude has grown throughout the years. Not that the survival instinct was absent prior to Darwin and Nietzsche and the social engineers who followed, but it seems that it moved from something to be ashamed of to something to be proud of. The red badge of courage, injury in battle, was honored. We award the Purple Heart to soldiers injured in battle in the States. Many still admire the courage and dedication it takes to earn that award, an award no one would volunteer for, but which many accept the risk involved in earning it. As I write a man is running for President who has publicly made statements disparaging Purple Heart recipients and compares it to his own battle against sexually transmitted diseases.

Meanwhile all around the culture we see a “me first” and “my rights” mentality. For a growing segment of our society there is nothing worse than being a victim, of someone offending your rights or sensibilities. Saying that black lives matter offends some. Saying that all lives matter offends others. We mustn’t let anyone show their concern by kneeling during the national anthem. We mustn’t let anyone refuse to bake a wedding cake due to a personal disagreement about the meaning of the ceremony. We mustn’t expect men and women to have separate locations to “do their business” as has been done for thousands of years. You can’t wave that flag; it may offend someone. You can’t tell me to take my flag down; that offends me. We mustn’t suffer. We mustn’t let anyone slight us in any way. We mustn’t consider others better. We mustn’t love. It seems the era of sacrifice and mercy, even tolerance, has passed us by in this hyper-outraged, electronically-networked age. Turn the other cheek? Do the right thing even when it hurts? That’s so 1900s.

Ransom’s willingness to sacrifice even his own life, for the good of the hnau of Malacandra stands in stark contrast to these ideas. And we get to see Ransom grow into it: From a man who regrets telling a lady he’ll help find her mentally challenged son to a man who would choose death over letting the evils of his own world affect another planet. He grows much. Even Oyarsa remarks “and you, when you have grown a little braver, will be ready to go to Maleldil.”

Can we expect that great of a change in Book Two? I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I would suspect not. Going to a second foreign planet must not be as effective as going to your first. But we’ll see I guess. By the time of the third book Ransom has “arrived,” so to speak, and doesn’t even figure prominently in the action. He’s more of a general, less of a grunt.

 

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