That Hideous Strength – Chapter 1, Section 5


Jane, previously seen as disquieted by her dream and loneliness, goes to town and buys a hat. Soon she runs into Mrs Dimble (who is married to Dr Cecil Dimble, a professor at a nearby college) who invites Jane to lunch at her house. There, Jane discusses her loneliness with Mrs Dimble, as well as the sale of the “college property,” Arthurian legend, and her recent dream with the couple. They suggest that IF Jane decided to speak to someone about her dream (meaning some type of counselor/therapist/psychoanalyst) she would speak to someone they recommend.


One thing Lewis really does in THS is to pick at Arthurian legend, how British it is anyway, (which I will agree with despite my limited knowledge) and tries to “claim it” as Christian (I will leave that question alone because of my limited knowledge. I will merely say it is interesting to think about and makes a good back-drop for the story.) Merlin’s was previously mentioned in association with Bragdon Wood. Here we have further mention coming through Dimble. He relates how Arthur really ties together the wild pre-Christian British spirit, its wild danger and mystery, with Christianity coming up from the area of Rome – that which is “courtly” and not “particularly British,” “all those dark people.” (29)

This is similar to Lewis’s Aslan who is at once “good” and yet “not safe.”

All that danger and questionable wild and pagan side of ancient Briton, with its witches and druids, magic and bloodshed, is tied into Christianity, which at first seems much more civilized. But when you think about it, Christianity is also based on ancient bloodshed and danger. Christ’s crucifixion is of course an example of bloodshed, but look further back at ancient Israel – the Passover, the wars and the wild untamed lands that were the subject of the conquest.

Then there is that short bit: “talking a Celticised Latin – something that would sound to us rather like Spanish,” (29). Recall Jane’s dream: “The old, buried man sat up and began talking in something that sounded vaguely like Spanish” (13). Lewis notes that Jane misses this but, in so doing, insures that we do not.

Then Merlin turns out to be the most interesting of the lot: “not evil; yet a magician… obviously a druid; yet he knows all about the Grail” (29). Mrs Dimble notes that Merlin is “dead and buried under Bragdon Wood,” but her husband responds that he’s “not dead, according to the story” (30). Legends of Merlin vary but some hold that he was sealed into a magic tomb while still alive and left there to die.

Jane finds this Arthurian discussion seemingly interesting, then admittedly “puzzling” and finally “too ridiculous” (30). She then recounts her dream to the Dimbles and Dr Dimble is rather taken by something in the dream that he doesn’t elaborate on, something other than Jane’s good health, which she finds “disconcerting.” Something about the dream, however, really captivates Dimble though he never gets do elaborate due to interruptions.

On the Dimbles themselves: Their last name seems regrettable though maybe it was a perfectly good name to Lewis. We know that he used names, at least at times to try and say things about the characters. (Recall the opening line from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”) Are the Dimbles dim? This Dr Dimble seems possibly a bit clumsy in his thoughts and ways but to be a good man. His wife likewise, at least in Jane’s opinion (though I don’t see the same clumsiness myself.) They are childless and saddened by that fact. Yet they use their objective loneliness as a means to get to know and try to help the students in their college – Northumberland – where Jane had attended.

Jane, we find, “was not going to have a baby” (28). I mention it because it is mentioned at least once later in the book, by my recollection, in a rather shocking manner.


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