That Hideous Strength – Chapter Three – Section 3


Jane arrives at St Anne’s and is shown in to Miss Ironwood. She was expected due to Dr Dimble’s call. Jane curiously finds that she knows a line from a book that is at St. Anne’s, a book that she hasn’t read yet, not until she arrived there. She shares her dreams with Miss Ironwood in hopes that she can be “cured” of these dreams. Miss Ironwood tells Jane there is no cure because she isn’t ill. Miss Ironwood is under the impression that Jane is seeing true events in a somewhat mixed-up dream-like manner, that Jane is having visions, not dreams. Further, Miss Ironwood thinks these visions are of utmost importance in some type of battle between good and evil (and, of course, Miss Ironwood sees herself on the side of good). She encourages Jane to join her “company” and help their side, for if the other side were to get hold of her, it would be bad for Jane and the rest of humanity. Jane initially rejects Miss Ironwood’s opinion and takes her leave.


Here Lewis begins to introduce the truly fantastic into this “Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups.” The dreams have been present before, and have been strikingly odd. But they have still been only dreams. Now we have the idea that Jane has “vision – the power of dreaming realities” (63). This adds another layer to the story. More is going on than meets the eye. What was that in the dream about a head being removed from a man, a man covered in dirt brought back to life? What about that bit about Merlin supposedly being buried but not dead? And in Bragdon Wood, recently acquired by the NICE? And if Jane Studdock is in the center of the whole affair, Mark cannot be far from it himself.

Let’s note Jane’s maiden name of Tudor – the House of Tudor, the Royal Family? And Merlin has been mentioned – he goes back further than that. This is a distinctly British fairy-tale. It will become more British as the tale progresses.

And shall we consider the stakes of this fair-tale? We have had Lord Feverstone speaking of the goals of NICE in chapter 2 and then Filostrato in chapter 3. Now we have a word from the other side of the conflict. Miss Ironwood tells Jane, “If you [help us] you will be much less frightened in the long run and you will be helping to save the human race from a very great disaster” (66).

Jane seems conflicted in where her allegiance lies, but, in her defense, she has just learned of the two camps, and little of them at that. It is easier for us with a bird’s eye view of the NICE to see that Jane should align herself with St Anne’s than it is for Jane who is caught up in it and is personally and emotionally invested. To believe Miss Ironwood, at this point, would take something not unlike faith in what she is saying. None of this can be proved without a doubt though there is mounting evidence. This is not mere “blind faith” but it would take acting on faith to join with Miss Ironwood in her mission, whatever exactly it may be. Still that faith, if Ironwood is to be believed, may save Jane her life. I am reminded of the verse from Habakkuk, the righteous shall live by his faith. The question of salvation is before her, though she doesn’t understand it as such, and it is not quite presented as such, at least in a religious way.


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