That Hideous Strength – Chapter One, Section Two


Here Mark Studdock, husband of Jane, is introduced more directly and formally, I guess. He’s a faculty member at Bracton College, a small (fictional) liberal arts school in the small (also fictional) town of Edgestow in England. He’s been trying to get into the “inner circle” and finally seems to have made it as part of the “progressive element.” He is a sociologist and getting on well, though I wouldn’t call it a friendship, with the “Sub-Warden,” Curry, of the college (15).

They are discussing a plan to pass some school legislation at the board meeting later that day – the decision to sell a portion of the college land. There is also mention of another board member – Lord Feverstone – who is shortly revealed to be none other than Dick Devine, one of the antagonists of Out of the Silent Planet (OOTSP), a man who, unbeknownst to Mark, had helped Mark get his fellowship, beating out a man named Denniston.


I find here most notable Mark’s desire to be a part of the inner circle. He demonstrates a desire that virtually all of us have, an inner circle desire. We want knowledge that only a few have, status, power, to be elevated above the common people, to build ourselves up. There are many ways to do this, but being in the in-crowd is perhaps the most common. It is present all throughout life and certainly rears its ugly head in academic settings. I’m sure Lewis was quite familiar with the desire and likely struggled with it, himself.

Mark enjoys Curry’s company because it elevates himself, but not because he particularly likes Curry: “He did not always like Curry either. His pleasure in being with him was not that sort of pleasure” (17). Once Mark had his fellowship he was “in.” But that didnt last long, he wanted to be “in” even further, a member of the “progressive element.” And here he was speaking confidentially with Curry, really feeling like he’d made it – at least for now.

So now we know of Jane that she struggles with wanting more comradeship and intellectual pursuits, with being a wife and a woman. And we know that Mark struggles with wanting to be part of the inner circle, his own ego needs puffing. This struggling relationship will be put to the test during the course of the ensuing events.


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