That Hideous Strength – Chapter Ten – The Conquered City

Your revolver in your hand, a prayer on your lips… (225)


The Mystery of the Missing Wallet – Informal Accusations – Momentous decision – The presence of a lady – Ultimatum – Escape – Spectral? – At the Pub at Courthampton – Empty home – A new man – Interview with a college professor – Enlightenment – Barganing – Apprehension – Dimble – A new dream – Plan of action – Language herself – Many partings


Marriage and Sexuality

Very little in this chapter. We see Mark take an actual interest in the well-being of his wife. There is also Wither cautioning Mark about how he speaks “in the presence of a lady” (208) which happens to be the Fairy. She’s not one to consider herself “a lady.” Chuckle-worthy but little more here.

Mark’s Journey

This chapter commences with Mark being non-accused by Wither and the Fairy of murdering William Hingest, who you may recall met an untimely fate just as he was preparing to leave Belbury. Of course Wither and the Fairy know perfectly well of Mark’s innocence. The evidence was planted – if they even went to that much trouble – so that they would have something on Mark to persuade him to bring his wife in. They obviously know Jane has this ability to “see” things, and they want it. (And they may not even know why they want her, at least the Fairy may not.)

Mark is rightly indignant at this accusation. And we know he’d never have the ambition to commit murder. Further, he rightly realizes this is a police matter, a real police matter. A crime like murder should not be left to the institutional police. All of these appropriately rankles his feathers. This is good. Mark is taking some steps in the right direction – not necessarily a straight line but generally in the right direction. “He’s getting warmer.”

He comes to a somewhat appropriate conclusion about Wither “Of course, that was the way Wither managed things: he liked to have something hanging over everyone. It was only a way to keep him at Belbury and to make him send for Jane” (214). But Mark consider’s this manipulation an excuse for Wither, not another reason to distrust him.

He works all his frustration up into a reason to be mad at Dimble. Typical. His conversation with Dimble is quite remarkable. The whole conversation wounds his pride. But he does come to a serious moment where he strongly considers leaving the NICE and going with Dimble. But he’s not willing to take that step. He needs to think it over. Dimble warns him there may not be another chance but Mark does not heed this warning and instead goes out for some whiskey and is promptly arrested by the NICE for the murder of Hingest.

I would say this almost certainly will show Mark the error of his ways and birth in him some remorse. But will that lead him toward fruitful repentance or rotten bitterness? Lets trust Lewis on this one.

As Mark is on his way to speak to Dimble, Lewis describes him as feeling that he’s “a different man” (214). Lewis says that from here on, he would be many different men, all “skidding violently” at war with each other. Finally he would “begin to be a person.” This seems hopeful, and I like the way Lewis describes it. What has he been until this point? Not a person? In some ways a person, but certainly not a man. He’s taken no responsibility for himself or for others around him. He’s only been trying to get “in” and he doesn’t even know why.  The paragraph on pp 220-221 illustrate these different people within him push, pulling him in different directions.


Dimble also is somewhat at war with himself, questioning himself, asking if he was right in his conversation with Mark or was he just trying to “hurt and humiliate” (221). His words were harsh at times, stern, indignant and angry. But he meant well. Still Dimble wonders if there is a “whole Belbury” inside of him. I think this illustrates the Romans 7 man quite well. We always have a war within us, between the flesh and the Spirit. If we are in Christ the Spirit wins out, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t trouble getting there. Christ himself struggled, though not sinfully, in going to the cross. How much more will fallen man struggle and in such a sinful manner. We will never be sinless this side of glorification. Nor will we ever fully know ourselves. As Lewis points out in Perelandra, “only Maleldil sees any creature as it really is.” (Perelandra, 173).


In Dimble, Mark meets for the first time real actual indignant anger. Not the whining, the back-biting, the puny complaints that he has known in academic life and at Belbury. I found this quite interesting. Anger itself is not wrong, but often our expression of it is. In Dimble, anger was perfectly righteous, though we can doubt, as Dimble does, that his expression of it matched that righteousness. Just wait til Mark meets actual Love.


I’ve mentioned the planets before. Feel free to check out Lewis’s poem on the planets paying attention to Mercury. Mercury or Hermes was a messenger god. He was fast and he spoke. Those were two of his most important traits. Of course the transition metal Mercury (Hg) gets its name from this god. It is liquid at room temperature. It moves, divides, comes back together. Lewis’s description (225-226) of the Old Solar language that Dimble speaks and his association with the planet Mercury is noteworthy. It fits the Ransom Trilogy cosmology – blending the medieval worldview with modern astronomy and Ransom’s travels.

For this was the language spoken before the Fall and beyond the Moon and the meanings were not given to the syllables by chance, or skill, or long tradition, but truly inherent in them as the shape of the great Sun is inherent in the little waterdrop. This was Language herself, as she first sprang at Maleldil’s bidding out of the molten quicksilver of the star called Mercury on Earth, but Viritrilbia in Deep Heaven. (226)

He also describes the tongue as sounding “like castles” (225).

The Wanderer

I like that post-apocalyptic U2-Johnny Cash song, The Wanderer. One line states, “I went out walking with a Bible and a Gun/The word of God lay heavy on my heart/I was sure, I was the one.” I like that imagery. The lead quote of this article reminded me of it.


One criticism that gets leveled at Lewis, with reason, is that he was a Universalist. Universalism teaches, basically, all roads lead to God. A line in this chapter brings the conversation up:

“He always takes you to have meant better than you knew” (227).

It reminds me of the portion of Lewis’s The Last Battle where some of the people who followed a different god than Aslan are still welcomed into “Aslan’s country.” The logic is that the devotion and goodness they showed to Tash is meant toward Aslan instead. Others have sought to answer the question of Lewis’s belief including Doug Wilson here. I appreciate his perspective. Some are less… forgiving.

Lewis deals with this question in some of his other work, including Mere Christianity. He states that people are saved only in the name of Jesus. Lewis denied Universalism, but there is a difference between that and being “Inclusive.” And Lewis admired certain aspects of paganism.

I’m not going to hash it all out here. It has been hashed before by smarter people than me (see the Wilson link above, for an example.) I will only say that inasmuch as one may take these writings of Lewis to believe that there is a salvation apart from Christ, that is wrong. The only thing that gets you Christ is Christ. I do not think Lewis thought there were other ways to God. Though I’m happy to say that some of his writing is imprecise and points to that possibility.


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