That Hideous Strength – Chapter Seventeen (Last) – Venus at St. Anne’s

Those who call for Nonsense will find that it comes. (370)

I won’t belabor this last chapter. After all, long goodbyes are “neither good mirth nor good sorrow” (375).  But I’ll probably come back around in the next few weeks and do some followup essays on some of the broader themes which I’ve tried to treat in some detail during the course of this blog. I also want to touch on The Abolition of Man at some point. But for now…

51wLuLgUd8LSUMMARY

Mar hitches a ride – A warm retreat – Old enough for children’s stories at last – Hesitations – Choosing formal attire – Mother Dimble – Feverstone and a stranger – Swallowed up – Venus held sway over all – Trouble on the Train – Many partings – Mark drawn to St Anne’s – Jane and Mark reunited.

DISCUSSION

Marriage and Sexuality

Well, its Venus at St. Anne’s after all. I guess you can expect all that she brings. Love, fruitfulness… All these animals – bears, elephants… all romping about. MacPhee claims its becoming indecent:

“On the contrary,” said Ransom, “decent, in the old sense, decens, fitting, is just what it is. Venus herself is over St. Anne’s.” (374)

What do you expect when Venus arrives. Goddess of love. You know what’s going to happen. The Dimbles. The Dennistons. Ivy Maggs husband is finally able to return home. And then Jane’s husband shows up. Its all too much for that old infidel MacPhee though he considers returning to Presbyterianism.

Mother Dimble’s dress on page 361. She’s specifically called Mother. And she has no children. Why? Her dress “was that tyrannous flame colour which Jane had seen in her visiondown in the lodge” on Perelandra’s wraith.  She, dressed, was “a kind of priestess or sybil, the servant of some prehistoric goddess of fertility – an old tribal matriarch, mother of mothers, grave, formidable, august.” Mother Dimble embraces, spiritually, the fruitfulness of sexuality more than any other character. True, she’s not, by God’s providence, been able to bear children herself, but she still manages to embody that fruitfulness that Venus represents.

I will say that Lewis is a little freer with paganism than I prefer, but I can see what he’s doing, broadly, and I think he does it well.

Then there is Mark and Jane. Mark, Mark, Mark… He is unsure about approaching Jane now, with all he’s learned. He sees his former ignorance, arrogance, impotence. He sees it and is rightly disgusted by it.

The coarse, male boor with horny hands and hobnailed shoes and beefsteak jaw not rushing in – for that can be carried off – but blundering, sauntering, stumping in where great lovers, knights and poets, would have feared to tread. (379)

I’m not going to say anything about that line. There’s nothing that I could say.

And then Mark makes his way to the cottage where Jane finds him, his clothes strewn about. Its a mess already – setting up the book’s closing line: “How exactly like Mark! Obviously it was high time she went in” (380).

So. A lot of stuff here in this chapter.

Abolition of Man

I haven’t really highlighted all the parallels and demonstrations of ideas from Abolition. I think everyone should read it. A fine essay. I will come back to it at some future date. Even Lewis himself says that THS and Abolition make a lot of the same points. “This is a ‘tall story’ about devilry, though it has behind it a serious ‘point’ which I have tried to make in my Abolition of Man. ” (Preface, first paragraph). The lead quote above – that when you ask for Nonsense, you get it – is a major point of Abolition. I’ll just leave it there for now, but will come back and touch on this again in the near future.

High Paganism

I really respect what Lewis does, bringing in non-Christian sources for Christian ideas and demonstrating natural law or common grace. He wrote once about other religions pointing to Christianity as complete. I can’t find the exact quote. I think its in Mere Christianity or Surprised by Joy. Anyway, it was along the lines that Christianity was more believable because it completes what all the other religions point to. All the others contain part of the truth and point to the whole Truth. This helped Lewis accept Christianity more than if all the other religions were completely false.

This idea is demonstrated in both Mere Christianity and Surprised by Joy, but also here in THS, as well as many other works. Til We Have Faces, Pilgrim’s Regress, and The Last Battle spring to mind.

But sometimes I think he takes it too far, as I think he does here:

When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China – why, then it will be spring. (369)

Logres is, if I were to sum it up, the deep Christian soul of Britain that modern Britain and other enlightened influences are constantly at war with. The order of Heaven… well I know little of China but my guess is that is a concept of Chinese folk religion or Confucianism. If it were truly ordered as is Heaven – “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – then things would run aright there – or anywhere. But this goddess Reason of France for me is too far. They put up a statue of this goddess in Notre Dame, a Christian place of worship, and worshiped it instead. This is high blasphemy. It is exactly the kind of thing Lewis is talking about when he says that if you ask for Nonsense, you get it. So he misses here. I see his point. True reason will point to Christ. But that French goddess is not true reason. I just can’t go along with that.

Mark

A quick note on Mark and then I’m calling it a day.

In fact, he was going to see Jane in what he now felt to be her proper world. But not his. For he now thought that with all his life-long eagerness to reach an inner circle he had chosen the wrong circle. Jane was where she belonged. He was going to be admitted only out of kindness… (358)

Mark and his inner circle. Well, he’s finally come “full circle” and realized the circle he needed was right in front to him all along. I think the reader can be assured that he will be admitted without any hesitation, with more than kindness, with full welcoming and rejoicing. And that is a good note to end on for dear Mark.