That Hideous Strenth – Chapter 2 – Dinner with the Sub-Warden – Part 2

SUMMARY

Mark arrives home to find Jane distraught. It seems her fear and anxiety have increased since returning home and really taken hold of her. She had walked home from the Dimbles but became anxious enough that afternoon to call them and ask for the name of the person they wanted her to see. It was a Miss Ironwood and Jane was put off by her being a woman. Jane kept thinking and worrying about her dream and a strange quality to “Mother” Dimble’s voice so that she became worse and worse and greeted Mark in a very unguarded way, with which he was unfamiliar.

DISCUSSION

What we have here is not a picture of a thriving marriage. When Mark arrives home he is met at the door by his “frightened, half-sobbing” wife. “There was a quality in the very muscles of his wife’s body which took him by surprise. A certain indefinable defensiveness had momentarily deserted her” (42). This would be something we would call openness or vulnerability. This is something that should be common in a marriage. But, we learn, for the Studdocks, it is “rare.”

Previously in the Trilogy, Lewis has touched upon masculinity and femininity quite a bit. Even the symbols for certain planets (symbols Ransom noted while on Malacandra) conveyed the qualities of gender. Specifically the symbol for Perelandra – Venus – was very feminine. You have excellent pictures of gender with the King and Queen of Perelandra. These qualities have their ultimate display in marriage. I think Lewis appreciates gender and wants to show it. I think he appreciates marriage and wants to show its importance. He does this at first by showing a marriage that is not in good repair. We’ve already seen Jane’s unhappiness on the first page (page 11 in my book – yippee!) We’ve seen that Jane does not want children, or at least thinks she doesn’t. When asked about physical affection by Mother Dimble, she breaks down crying.

Marriage itself is a fundamental building block of society – not just ours but all society. The NICE desires “a new type of man” (40). Strong marriages are traditional and antiquated. They go against what the NICE is striving for – selective breeding, prenatal education and biochemical conditioning (40). A weak failing marriage plays into their hands but a strong marriage – the Dimbles – are a problem.

Let’s consider Jane’s “spiritual” state as well just for a moment. Written by a devout Christian, of course, the Space Trilogy incorporates the Christian God as well as an actual Jesus Christ who was crucified, dead and buried, then resurrected, all as an atoning sacrifice. Lewis doesn’t get overly explicit with that history, nor does he need to for the purposes of the book. The “divine” is understood a little bit differently here than we commonly understand it. It (He) has a physical presence. Angels and the spiritual realm are basically (oversimplifying here) another aspect of our physical realm. Knowing God is different in the Space Trilogy than in real life, but it is not less important.

With that in mind, lets consider a couple of illuminating bits about Jane. First his her response to the Dimbles with how they seemed to have handled Jane’s problems and dream. They have cared. They have tried to help. And maybe that help has been imperfect. Maybe they could have done better in how they spoke, but they’ve done no wrong by her. And yet she is unsettled by it all. Her response: “Damn the Dimbles!” (44). She quickly takes this back but more of “fear” (of what? some revenge from the Dimbles or this Miss Ironwood?) than in remorse (44). And then she begins to pray “though she believed in no one to pray to” (44). Now it is good that her fear and anxiety is driving her to the God she doesn’t yet know (somewhat reminiscent of A Horse and His Boy). Maybe she has a small bit of faith yet. The size of a mustard seed?

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