That Hideous Strength – Chapter 3 – Section 2

SUMMARY

Here we follow Mark for an hour or so at the NICE, separated from Feverstone and trying to make his way. He begins by awkwardly sitting at a dining table next to two NICE members “talking shop,” – lots of acronyms, little that Mark comprehends.

He then happens into a fellow fellow at Bracton – a real scientist – Hingest, a scientist of some renown who has decided to part ways with the NICE. He seems to see the group as powerful – “The NICE would have the Wood in any case. They have powers to compel a sale” (56) – and misguided – “there’s nothing extraordinary in the fact that the NICE should wish, if possible, to hand over to Bracton the odium of turning the heart of England into a cross between an abortive American hotel and a glorified gas works” (56). (I regret only that my country is held in such low regard. I’m quite fond of it.)

He then is introduced to Steele (by Hingest), a man who is nominally in charge of sociology at NICE and is in no way pleased to find that Studdock has been let into his department my Wither without even letting him know. It is unclear to the reader, or to Mark, if this is even the case. Mark tries to explain this but seems as impotent here as he did with Wither (who is known often as D.D. – deputy director).

He is saved from the ordeal with Steele, at least temporarily, when he meets Professor Filostrato – a true NICE believer – who holds Feverstone in low regard, much as in the way Feverstone thinks of Curry. Mark naturally gravitates to him, who explains “the NICE is serious. It is nothing less than the existence of the human race that depends on our work: our real work” (58). He explains that Mark need not worry himself with the Steeles and Feverstones so long as he is in good with the D.D. and the Fairy – Miss Hardcastle.

Lastly Mark meets Miss Hardcastle, the leader of the Institutional Police, “a terrible Inglesaccia.

Longer Summary this section. I felt like several important (Filostrato, the Fairy) or semi-important (Hingest, Steele) characters were introduced.

DISCUSSION

Mark’s primary goal in life is to fit in with the best crowd available and yet he never seems to fit in at all, at least so far. I would say that, given the crowds he pursues, it bodes well for him that he doesn’t fit in, yet speaks poorly that he tries so hard to do so. The desire for popularity and prestige or status is common among people. It is not a desire or pursuit that is spoken highly of in scripture. Jesus commanded us not to fear man but to fear God. In James we are cautioned against showing favoritism to certain people based on outward characteristics. We are to seek acceptance with God and not men.

Hingest is known derisively by the Progressive Element at Bracton as Bill the Blizzard. He is presented as a legitimate and true scientist, though out of step with the Progressive Element. This is a good thing, given how the Progressive Element has been presented. I would say Hingest could be reasonably aligned with the “good guys.” Whatever the goals of the NICE, Hingest cares nothing for them.

At this point I dont think we are to know what to make of the Fairy Hardcastle. She is very much out of step with the social mores of the day in the way she dresses and carries herself and with the very fact that she leads the police department. All very feminist I am sure.

NOTES:

The Almanac de Gotha (55) is a record or directory of European royalty published in Germany. I doubt Bill the Blizzard actually perused this book as Curry said it behind his back as a jab.

Filostrato uses some foreign terms (58): Canaglia is a troublesome person. And Inglesaccia I think is an insult to an Englishman or lady.

It seems that this de Broglie (55) is an actual historic person, a physicist who studied quantum theory, contemporary of Lewis. He has a wikipedia page that does not mention a link between the two.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter 3 – Section 1

SUMMARY

Upon arriving at the NICE, Mark meets the deputy director, Mr. John Wither. His conversation with Wither is anything but fruitful as Wither’s way of communicating is so obtuse and circumspect. He seems not to want to answer Mark’s questions but perhaps is merely missing the point of the questions. Mark does not find out what it is he is supposed to do at/for NICE. He is instead lulled into almost hypnotic agreement with Wither. He is told that the NICE is like a family, that he will be happy there, that he can live where he chooses, that he will be appreciated at NICE. He seems to forget Mark’s name at times, though this is hard to say given his “style.”

DISCUSSION

John Wither. I’ve never been one to often think that a character’s name was a direct comment on his character, though with Lewis I think this might come in to play at times. I can’t think of a better name for this character than Wither. Its like his insides have wasted away. He had “something rather vague and chaotic” about his face (50). Then there is his general mode of communication, or rather speaking without really communicating anything at all. The bulk of the chapter is centered around Wither’s words which never really come to a point. Is there a point to come to? Who does he literally represent in the story – this “committee” (52)? And is he just an odd man or is there something deeper going on?

Mark, all the time, is continually seduced by his desire to be a part of this “atmosphere of vague, yet heavily important confidence” (52). Mark is obviously unsure of what he is getting himself into, yet wants to be a part of whatever it is. In the end he has not found out what it is, nor if he is a part of it. He has, however, found out that if he wants to be a member of the “the NICE club,” the easiest way is to fork over 200 pounds as a life member. But he is going to have a hard time affording that, unless he accepts the position, which hasn’t been formally offered, which pays fifteen hundred per year.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Two – Section Four

SUMMARY

This sections recounts Mark’s journey to the NICE at Belbury and Janes journey to St. Anne’s. Mark rides with Feverstone in his car; Feverstone is a bit frisky at the wheel. Jane goes quietly by train.

DISCUSSION

I find the description of the drive to Belbury quite comical. It seems, to me, that the Dick Devine of OOTSP, would drive this kind of car in this manner. Its so modern-man-ish. I feel that I pick up that this is a non-traditional form of transportation especially for that time and place. I think that’s what stands out the most, and I imagine it stands out much less to me – growing up in post-muscle-car America than it would to a contemporary of Lewis.

Contrast that to what seems to be a slow, calm and peaceful journey for Jane on a very traditional mode of transportation. And its not that trains had been around for several generations, but they had been embraced as a major means of mass-transit, not unlike the automobile is in contemporary USA. I can’t speak for other parts of the world where I know trains and buses are quite common, likely moreso. Jane’s timidity in approaching St. Anne’s is contrasted with Mark’s almost racing to Belbury.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Two – Section Three

SUMMARY

The following morning Jane and Mark communicate poorly as Mark leaves with Lord Feverstone to go see Mr Withers at the NICE for a few days. He offers to stay if Jane needs him. She declines. Feverstone arrives to pick up Mark and mistakenly thinks the maid – Mrs Maggs – is Mark’s wife. Jane thinks little of Feverstone and seemingly little more of Mark. She leaves the house and decides to visit Miss Ironwood.

DISCUSSION

Ah, more marital bliss. Jane wants – or at least thinks she wants – Mark to treat her like a modern woman, very independent and self sufficient, not needing a man but merely choosing to have a man in her life. A wife in need, in true need, of her husband is “what she most detested” (44). The thought of that need and vulnerability has made her very angry. Yet she communicates none of this to Mark – at least not in a way he can understand. How often this applies to the human condition – this desire to be seen as strong and invulnerable. Consider Adam and Eve, our first parents, and how their relationship was upended with sin. The first thing they did was to cover themselves with homemade clothes. They hid from each other – both physically and emotionally. And we have been doing that ever since. This has been called “social alienation” (recently by my own pastor though I think he mentioned having picked it up in reading somewhere). Further, this applies to both sexes, not just women. Men are probably worse.

Mark is obviously aware there is some problem, but hasn’t a clue what it is, nor can he be bothered to find out. He merely wants some type of permission to go away to the NICE for the weekend. He asks if Jane would like him to stay. But he knows the type of woman she is and the type of answer he will get. If she asked him to stay, would he? Probably so, but – if I know men – he would be a nuisance all weekend and hold it over her head. But if he thought she would admit to wanting him to stay, he probably wouldn’t ask in the first place.

Jane sees through Feverstone straightaway. We could call this women’s intuition if we wanted to, but lets also consider Jane’s dreams. She sees things that others do not see. She has a second vision. Why she sees through Feverstone is not revealed and probably not important. What I want to note is that she sees Feverstone for what he is and sees Bracton as “a horrible college” (46) and yet she would never tell Mark this, even in a subtle feminine kind of way. These are two people living in close proximity. They are not two people living as one. Jane is so guarded as to not be a true wife and Mark is really not into being a husband either. He likes her guarded and cares not to break that down and truly know her. He has abdicated his role as her husband and so she has let go her role as wife. Things aren’t going well for the young Studdocks.

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?

That Hideous Strength – Chapter 2 – Dinner With the Sub-Warden – Section 1

SUMMARY

Mark Studdock, Feverstone and the Bursar – Busby – have dinner at Curry’s house. During the course of the conversation Feverstone challenges Curry on what the NICE even does or plans to do. Curry really doesn’t know, but is excited about the nuts and bolts of the thing. Busby takes a similar line. Curry must leave to speak with Bracton’s Warden – Charles Place. Once he’s left, Feverstone takes Studdock into his confidence and tells him that he thinks Curry and Busby are hopeless and will never really get what the NICE is all about. He says that they are aiming at solving three main problems – Interplanetary travel (here he mentions Weston by name and says that he was “murdered” by Ransom who he does not name), conquering “our rivals on this planet” (essentially those who would oppose the NICE; people such as Ransom), and finally taking charge of mankind, using science to direct man’s evolution into “a new type of man.” Finally Feverstone tells Mark he could have a place at NICE, which would be a big step up from his place at Bracton, publishing what we might call propaganda (though Feverstone avoids the term) for the government’s consumption.

DISCUSSION

First I want to again note Mark Studdock’s constant desire to be a part of the inner circle. He previously felt that he had arrived, but now there’s a new inner circle. This one includes Feverstone but not Curry or Busby: “Mark was silent. The giddy sensation of being suddently whirled up from one plane of secrecy to another…” (38). He now sees them as underlings to the real inner circle. They are useful as “pawns.”

Secondly there is this thing of the “war.” Feverstone is initially a bit perturbed about the death of Weston (39) – we know much about this which is covered in Perelandra. But then he turns around and discusses the problem of man. He uses no such term as murder here, but speaks of mass murder, the “liquidation of backward races,” forced sterilization, re-education(40). And these other people, the other side – Ransom and his lot – are in the way. Obstructionists, getting in the way of “a new type of man” (40).

Third, note that there is a desire to take control of the language – that’s what Mark’s roll is to be. Feverstone likes the way he writes and thinks it would be useful to the cause. He’s careful not to cast Studdock as merely a useful pawn, but his description of what he sees Studdock doing is obviously that at its core. And that’s part of his use of language. No one wants to be a merely a pawn, but if you dress it up, then it may become quite inviting to fill a need. Feverstone spells out quite simply that the way language is used, the way the message is given to people, will determine whether or not they accept it: “odd thing is – the word ‘experiment’ is unpopular, but not the word ‘experimental.’ You mustn’t experiment on children; but offer [them] an experimental school attached to the NICE and it’s all correct” (41).

And Feverstone constantly comes back to questions of money. He assures Studdock that he will get a modest salary and reports that a man named Jules attached to the NICE “draws a whacking salary” (42). You may recall that in OOTSP, Feverstone was mixed up primarily for the purposes of getting rich quick. That he keep jumping to salary may be that same impulse. Is he associating with the NICE because he thinks it will make him rich? Does he think that is the motivation of the others? He talks more like a true believer. Maybe he is just going to salary to skirt around the real question of what Mark will do at the NICE long-term when really he is just a pawn writing for them. At this point I’m unsure about his motives.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter 1, Section 5

SUMMARY

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.

DISCUSSION

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.