Lewis begins the chapter by describing how difficult it was to get Ransom to describe aspects of his journey. This is due mostly to the other-worldliness of Perelandra and the limits of language. Asked if it was too vague to put into words, he responds, “On the contrary, it is words that are vague” (30).
Unconscious for most of the journey, Ransom regains consciousness as he is descending to the surface and begins to feel Venus’ gravity. The coffin-like spacecraft essentially melts away, leaving Ransom naked and floating on a vast ocean and under a golden sky. The clouds are too dense to appreciate the sun, though its setting is obvious. Ransom floats atop great waves and weathers quite a storm (34).
He eventually meets a form of land that first appears as “great patches of floating stuff was sidling down a wave”(35). It moves with the waves, seeming to float, but is firm enough to lay or walk upon, though the walking took quite a bit of practice (36).
Finally, he finds fruit-bearing vegetation and drinks the juice from it. The taste, if it should be called taste, was unlike anything on earth: “It seemed mere pedantry to call it a taste at all. It was like the discovery of a totally new genus of pleasures” (37), but he had only one as it quenched his hunger and thirst completely.
Presently night falls and is totally dark, as the cloud cover lets in no starlight, nor does Venus have a moon (39).
Well there’s a whole ‘nother planet here!
Lets keep in mind that Lewis’ perception of Venus does not match the reality that has been discovered. I’ve already discussed the day and year length. Further, Venus is very hot with a very heavy atmosphere, as discussed here by NASA. So with that out of the way, lets press on. This is science-fiction, remember.
This is a planet, that seems at first, almost completely covered by water, save some landmasses that almost seem to float. This reminds me a little of the island Pi visited in The Life of Pi, but it is much less solid. The “land” seems to be composed entirely of floating vegetation – smaller plants make up the “coast” while the larger fruit-bearing more treelike plants are further away.
The sky is a lit up opaque golden color, which is actually pretty much what it really is. The golden clouds cast a golden color over everything, as seen in this picture or this one that corrects for the color of the atmosphere. And the darkness is complete, as would be expected.
No creatures yet – intelligent or otherwise.
I struggled regarding where to put the discussion of the fruit. Its a fruit, a Perelandran life-form. That kind of thing usually goes above. But its not just a fruit. Ransom is able to stick his finger through its skin “by accident” before he decides to taste it. Its amazing. Its like taste and not like taste. Its almost as though it excites a sixth sense. Its not a sensation to be matched on Thulcandra.
But if it was so good, why not have two? First of all, he was no longer hungry or thirsty. “To repeat a pleasure so intense and almost so spiritual seemed an obvious thing to do” (38). All reasons seemed to say do it: it was great, it was new, curiosity, was hard to get to Venus so he deserved a reward. On top of all that, when would he have further physical sustenance? What would the next hour, day, week bring? And yet, he had no more. Desire, it seems, would compel him to take more. “Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be a vulgarity” (38). He further attributes his decision to “a spurious rationalism” – a false belief that what he does should be based on reason, or maybe a belief that what he is doing is based on false reason.
What more can be said of this oddity? Its an experience that would be cheapened by repetition. Its like a true spiritual experience, or deeply emotional experience. Trying to relive it would not live up to the original experience. He is content with an adequate amount. Content and not longing for more. I think contentedness is a singularly satisfying (and satisfied) feeling. He felt that, purely, after consuming just one of these fruits.
PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE: simply
The Arrival. (Not very clever, though. Sorry.)