That Hideous Strength – Chapter One, Section 1

SUMMARY

Jane Studdock is introduced in sentence one (page 11 – I always love it when a book starts on page 11; I start out feeling like I’m so far ahead) and will be the primary protagonist. She is recently married to Mark and struggling to adjust to married life. There is much housework to do which she doesn’t find all that intellectually stimulating. She is somewhat of an intellectual and has been working on a doctorate thesis on Donne. It seems Mark is preoccupied with his work at the college.

Next we have the retelling of a dream. A picture of a face in the newspaper reminds her of her dream the previous night since the face in her dream was the same face as in the newspaper, yet she can’t recall when she may have seen it (14), possibly in a previous newspaper? The face, or the head rather, was twisted off the man’s body. Then it became a different head, with a flowing beard, covered with dirt belonging seemingly to a dead man who was coming back to life (13).

The memory of the dream broke her concentration, interfered with her work on her thesis and lead her to take the morning off and go “out.”

DISCUSSION

As previously mentioned, this tale begins in a rather mundane manner. Married life. Housework. Limited time with your spouse due to other engagements. Studies. And then there is the bad dream. It is a rather fantastic dream and yet it is still only a dream, something hardly out of the ordinary. We have all had bad dreams, nightmares even. Ordinary stuff. Now I will say that this dream will play a role later on. Things will begin to connect and mean more as the story unfolds. But again. It all starts out so slow and ho-hum.

I must admit that upon my first reading of this book I was quite taken by how boring it seemed in the beginning. The two previous books may not have jumped straight into action in the first couple of pages, but this bit on the struggles of early married life is a stretch even for me. 350 more pages of this? I thought. All I will say is, Hang in there. Things will take off eventually. 

Also I find it interesting that Lewis should bring up the problems of adjusting to marriage and what it should be versus our imagination of what it should be in such a book. This is, after all, part 3 of a Space Trilogy. Its science fiction. What role has marriage to play? I love the way he brings in so much of real life into his books. There is really something to learn of marriage in this part three, though that isn’t the main thrust, of course. Or is it?

And I found this line rather amusing:

[Mark] was an excellent sleeper. Only one thing ever seemed able to keep him awake after he had gone to bed, and even that did not keep him awake for long (12).

No more on that, now.

I want to note the description of the men in the dream:

1) the one later identified as Alcasan, brilliant scientist whose career was cut short due to his murdering his wife: foreign looking, bearded and rather yellow, hooked nose.

2) the man he spoke to: rather good looking, pointed grey beard, wearing a pince-nez, perfect teeth. And they spoke in French, some of which Jane picked up on.

3) the second head: flowing white beard all covered with earth, belonging to an old man being dug up in an almost-church-yard; ancient British, druidical, with a long mantle; a corpse that seemed to be coming to life.

And then on to the Donne quotation – “Hope not for minde in women…” (14), but I only want to remark that Jane seems very unhappy, very dissatisfied with her station in life as a wife, and possibly as a woman. Marriage has taken her “out of a world of work and comradeship and laughter and innumerable things to do, into something like solitary confinement” (12)

Let that be a lesson to all the husbands out there – myself included. Our first ministry is to our wives. Lets not abdicate that responsibility. Doing so can prove quite disastrous, as we’ll see.

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