That Hideous Strength – Chapter Nine – The Saracen’s Head

“If you two quarrel much more,” said the Director, “I think I’ll make you marry one another.” (197)


Jane sees the Head – Mark’s reaction – The morning after – Mark’s letter interrupted – the Fairy strikes – DD? – Mark makes a break – Foiled! – Talking with McPhee – A brief summation of parts one and two – Meeting of the company – Merlin – A junction between two kinds of power


Marriage and Sexuality

The lead quote above just kills me. CS Lewis was not married when he published THS and wouldn’t be for some years later (15ish). But it would appear he had eyes in his head and saw that married people fuss at each other. And why not? We are all sinners after all. Time and sanctification (mostly sanctification but that takes time) changes the amount of quarreling, the object of the quarreling, and the nature of the quarreling, but it does not eliminate it.

This passage reminds me of a passage out of Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy:

Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.

Lewis takes a high view of marriage and sexuality in THS, but that does not stop him from poking fun at those things from time to time, in a good-natured way.

On a more serious note, we see Mark struggling along. We’ve already established that neither Mark nor Jane loved each other very much at all (87), that they each predominantly loved themselves and wished to be admired. (And who can’t see him or herself in that picture?)

Now we have Mark, seeking to write to Jane… about what, exactly? He wanted her to come to Belbury, because that’s what the NICE wanted. He considered it a matter of life and death – his own. He seems afraid that they may just kill him if he fails to get Jane. But as he tries to write to Jane, he wonders what they would want Jane for. He found the letter “almost impossible” to write. He wanted Jane to come for his own sake but worried about her safety and well-being at Belbury.

Formless fears stirred in his mind. And Jane of all people! Would they take her to the Head? For almost the first time in his life a gleam of something like disinterested love came into his mind; he wished he had never married her, never dragged her into this… (183)

Wishing he hadn’t married her is love? Well, Lewis doesn’t say it is pure perfected love, just that it is a gleam. Mark has a desire for Jane’s well-being and not just his own. And it is well-being for her sake, and not just his own. Sure, it seems like bringing Jane in would increase his status at Belbury, but at what cost to Jane. He is hesitant. The Fairy ends up interrupting such that Mark doesn’t write the letter though he doesn’t consciously decide against it. That’s for the better as I’m not sure he’d have decided to do the right thing.

But the Fairy, who Mark (to his credit) “hated and dreaded” (183) interrupted and pushed Mark to what looks like an increased love and concern for his wife. Alarmed that she could be in trouble, he resolves to go and see about her. All good for Mark and his journey through this time of his life, his journey toward salvation.

Wither Weirdness

What is going on with Wither in his office? (185) His body is there. His mind? He speaks but is it Wither? He seems confused as to who Mark is. Then he’s outside on the edge of the grounds wandering about when Mark is on his way to Edgestow. Its previously been shown that he’s always showing up at inopportune times and puttering about.

Is this some type of Astral Projection? Does Wither “channel” other… beings. Has it anything to do with the eldila.

I don’t recall if there is an answer later in the book or not, but I think there is. We’ll press on for now, only noting the weirdness.

Mark and Jane

Two of the trails I’ve tried to follow in this blog are the journeys of Mark and Jane toward their salvation, the happy endings. After all this is a modern fairy-tale for grown-ups. The main characters are bound to come out on top. So lets take a quick look at them.

Regarding Mark, as I’ve already discussed, he feels his first disinterested love. That’s a good step, along with hating the Fairy, as she’s quite “hatable” and was someone he admired at first, at least on some level. His reaction to the Head is in his favor. He couldn’t “take it” (182), however that was a point of shame for him, when it should have been pride. But progress if progress; we’ll take it in any form.

Then he simply had to get away from Belbury to check on Jane, and though it wasn’t explicit, I got the feeling it was for Jane’s sake, not simply concern that she would make him look bad in front of his progressive friends. Sadly his conviction fails him. We must wonder how many chances he will have.

He also has the general feeling that he needs to be cleansed and thinks Jane might be a part of that:

He was devoured for a longing for Jane which was physical without being at all sensual: as if comfort and fortitude would flow from her body, as if her very skin would clean away all the filth that seemed to hang on him. (186)

It would be a mistake to think that Jane could clean him in some spiritual way. I don’t think Lewis is arguing that she could. (But I’m not sure. His view of the divine in erotic love seems to have been somewhat off, maybe heterodox.) It is not, however, a mistake to think that he could derive some “comfort and fortitude” from his wife. That would be appropriate. For though husbands and wives often quarrel, they also reap great benefit from each other.

Regarding Jane, there is less in this chapter regarding her. She has done well to help the Company at St. Anne’s in sharing her “dreams” (178). She is not yet a member but seems to be accepting the underlying realities as being important, true, and worthy of fighting for (192).

Merlin and Logres

Now I had never heard the term “Logres” before coming to this book. But the concept has been brought up – by Camilla, no less: “[Ransom is] a man, my dear. And he is the Pendragon of Logres. This house, all of us here, and Mr Bultitude and Pinch, are all that’s left of the Logres: all the rest has become merely Britain” (192).

I don’t even know how to say Logres. But I can look it up on Wikipedia and then make some inferences into Lewis’s novel. Keep in mind that Lewis was a good friend of JRR Tolkien who was working on the Lord of the Rings and all that, sort of constructing a modern-ancient mythology of England, a mythology Lewis mentions in this chapter (198). Logres comes from a Welsh word and refers to southern England and involves the idea of King Arthurs governed realm. That was before the invasion from France and all the Normans and what-not. (I’m not up on early medieval British history either).

At any rate, we are talking early British legendarium/mythology which involves King Arthur – hence the idea of the Pendragon (Uther Pendragon was Arthur’s father) and Merlin. Merlin, as you may recall from an earlier conversation (back around page 29) between Jane and the Dimbles, is suspected to have been buried below Bragdon Wood. And some say that he is not quite dead. Here’s Dimble:

Has it ever struck you what an odd creation Merlin is? He’s not evil; yet he’s a magician. He is obviously a druid; yet he knows all about the Grail. He’s ‘the devil’s son;’ but then Layamon goes out of his way to tell you that the kind of being who fathered Merlin needn’t have been bad after all… [Merlin is] buried but not dead, according to the story. (29-30)

Ransom connects, conceptually, the Head at Belbury to “whatever is under Bragdon Wood” (196) which he suspects has to do with Merlin, or is Merlin. He wants to prevent the meeting of the “new power” at Belbury and the “old power” of Bragdon (197).

Middle Earth

As I referred to above, Lewis mentions Tolkien’s work in this chapter. He’d previously mentioned it in the preface. He describes Merlin’s magic as something “brought to Western Europe after the fall of Numinor” (198). We can forgive his misspelling as LOTR was not published until about ten years after THS. Numenor was an island home of men many years prior to the main events of LOTR, and was translated Dunedain by that time, Aragorn was one of the few men left who was descended from the Dunedain. But lets not get into that. Lets just say Lewis gave a shout-out to his good friend JRR Tolkien, and lets wonder if Tolkien appreciated it. (He seems rather a curmudgeon to me.)


Lastly, I want to discuss the scientism of Belbury again and bring in some outside sources. And I’ll use the St. Anne’s discussion of Belbury for my starting point. Here is Ransom speaking of Belbury’s “Head,” their reanimation of Alcasan:

“It means that if this technique is really successful, the Belbury people have for all practical purposes discovered a way of making themselves immortal.” There was a moment’s silence, and then he continued: “It is the beginning of what is really a new species – the Chosen Heads who never die. They will call it the next step of evolution. And henceforward, all creatures that you and I call human are mere candidates for admission to the new species or else its slaves – perhaps its food.” (194)

Indeed, Straik and Filostrato have already been describing the Head as “the first of the New Men,” and “Man Immortal.” (174-175). It is the next step in evolution, as some would see it.

This is much of the major issue which the Company at St Anne’s has been brought together to fight, or prevent. The arising of this new man, this new power, this next step in evolution.

With my first reading of THS, the cosmic and cataclysmic nature of the events at Belbury escaped me. It felt like a few little people trying to do their little experiments and being foiled. This was in part my fault, but in part it was Lewis’s. I think he could have emphasized the scope of Belbury’s plans – and its effect on all humanity – a little more. But he lived and wrote before the Marvel movies, among other films, where the whole world and humanity is obviously at stake for two hours (Terminator, Armageddon, 12 Monkeys, Independence Day…) So people were probably tuned in to the more subtle details and implications. They were used to thinking instead of having everything spelled out in a couple of minutes’ exposition.

I would like to turn now to the writings of Ray Kurzweil, noted American inventor and futurist. I don’t wish any ill will toward Mr Kurzweil. I wish him the best, and that is mostly that he would know Christ. Still, he is brilliant. I have learned a lot from his writings and benefited from his ingenuity. Still, I have reservations with certain of his ideas and that is what I wish to pick at here.

Turning to his The Singularity is Near (a great read), he recounts the history of information in six epochs (his title and my summaries as follows):

Epoch 1 – Physics and chemistry – the physical properties of the elements in the chaotic universe bring molecules together.

Epoch 2: Biology and DNA – the complexity of the molecules advance until DNA is formed.

Epoch 3: Brains – DNA encodes life which advances to the point that the human brain has formed.

Epoch 4: Technology – Humans use our ingenuity to invent tools to aid us; the complexity of those tools grow to the level of modern computers (the iPhone appears! Yay!)

Epoch 5: The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence – the ability to blend our minds with computers increases our abilities and computers abilities; think enhanced brains and AI.

Epoch 6: The Universe Wakes Up – We break out of our solar system and spread our intelligence to the far reaches of the galaxy and universe; this involves surpassing the speed of light.

One underlying thread here is that the speed at which information is advancing is continually speeding up. Take Moore’s Law as your paradigm.

Now, with Ransom’s words that Belbury will call their work the “next step in evolution” (194), let me quote Kurzweil on the 5th Epoch:

Looking ahead several decades, the Singularity will begin with the fifth epoch. It will result from the merger of the vast Knowledge embedded in our own brains with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our technology. The fifth epoch will enable our human-machine civilization to transcend the human brain’s limitations of a mere hundred trillion extremely slow connections.

The Singularity will allow us to overcome age-old human problems and vastly amplify human creativity. We will preserve and enhance the intelligence that evolution has bestowed on us while overcoming the profound limitations of biological evolution. But the Singularity will also amplify the ability to act on our destructive inclinations, so its full story has not yet been written.  (Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, pp 20-21)

The Singularity is Near is really an interesting book. Kurzweil is a compelling and interesting guy, a self-described futurist who has plans of some type of immortality. His How to Create a Mind is also a really interesting look at how our brains work and how that can contribute to AI. (A mad scientist? Striving for immortality? hmm… maybe he’s a modern fairy-tale.)

So Belbury truly plans to revolutionize life on planet earth. This is not some small group piddling around in a science lab. These guys are bringing about a Singularity, a fundamental change in life. The people who live on this side of the Singularity cannot imagine what life will look like on the other side. Artificial intelligence. All human intellect swollen into one hypertrophied brain. Eradication of life that doesn’t contribute to this intelligence. Sterilization of our planet. Advancing to other planets and stars.

I don’t think Lewis foresaw these computer advances. I know he personally disliked typewriters and cars in general. He approved of a simpler life. But I think the technological singularity lines up well with Belbury’s plans.

That Hideous Strength may well be a modern fairy-tale for grown-ups, but it deals with things that could become reality, or at least things that come people want to become reality. Lets consider it a fable as well. Lewis definitely considers the subject material worthy of serious consideration.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Eight – Moonlight at Belbury

My friend, you have already separated the Fun, as you call it, from fertility. (170)

Whereas chapter 7 concerned Jane and St. Anne’s almost exclusively, chapter 8 focuses primarily on Mark and the goings-on at Belbury.


Wither discusses Jane with the Fairy – The Fairy to see the Head – Mr Bultitude – Mr McPhee – Mrs Maggs – “In” at Belbury? – A conversation with Wither about Mrs Studdock – Back on Wither’s bad side – On trees – Filostrato explains – Lunacy – Enter the mad parson – Mark to see the Head


Marriage and Sexuality

This chapter doesnt have a lot specifically designated for this chapter. But its addressed and there are some gems here if you read between the lines.

The first and most obvious point is the way the household chores are divided between the men and women at St. Anne’s. The explanation is from Mother Dimble, who explains that “Men can’t help in a job, you know. They can be induced to do it; not to help while you’re doing it. At least, it makes them grumpy. (164)”

This is because men are so awesome… I kid. Men aren’t good at helping women. Men are created to be leaders. God saw that Adam needed a helper and so he created Eve. Now I think it is painting with too broad a brush to say that men can’t help, especially on something like household chores. Though I’ll be the first to admit that women are often more detail oriented. Men just aren’t good at getting things done without help. I clean the kitchen happily, and then my wife spends 10 more minutes cleaning the kitchen. There are just things to do that I don’t see. I take the kids out. I remember the diaper bag, I just forget to make sure the diaper bag is “loaded.” Its the details. And I can learn to do a good job on things. But remembering the details is not my forte. I am good with the big picture. I find this is generally true of men. Big picture. More romantic. Women – details, more practical.

Now before anyone tries to tell me I’m a chauvinist, let me just say that God never said a woman couldn’t get a job done and needed help. He said it about the man. Men aren’t better than women. Men are incomplete without women. Men need women. Don’t call me a chauvinist for saying that men are better than women because that is not what I am doing. (But if you want to call me a chauvinist for saying men are leaders, go ahead.)

And poor Mark. Lets look at him for a minute where sexuality is concerned. The paragraph that begins at the bottom of 167 and ends midway down 168. I won’t quote it all. The DD has asked Mark to bring his wife to Belbury and Mark has declined. His reasoning is that there are so many things at Belbury that Jane wouldn’t understand, so many conversations that would seem silly to her, even gutless. He could not face trying to get Jane to keep the DD in a good temper.

Mark is a doormat at Belbury. He knows his wife would not be willing to see that. Mark’s cowardice, his desire to be in the inner ring, his effeminacy can only go so far. He would not be able to perform appropriately in front of his wife. It is to Mark’s credit, and Jane’s, that this would be a bridge too far. His effeminacy on that kind of display before his wife is unthinkable. He would not ask her to do such a thing as partner in his not “showing himself a man.” I have heard stories of men who ask their wives to sleep with someone else in order to sweeten a business deal. Disgusting. This is the same type of thing, though not to the same degree.

And little does Mark know that it is actually Jane they want, and not himself.

Then there is the conversation that begins with the destruction of the trees. It is an effort to sterilize the area around Belbury, and eventually the whole world. But trees are only the early stages. Eventually… “There will never be peace and order and discipline so long as there is sex. When man has thrown it away, then he will become finally governable” (170). Filostrato makes this argument. He wants to rid the world of the organic, and make it mind only. The organic has done its work via evolution in producing the mind, but it is time for men to take over and refine the mind. We no longer need the evolution. We no longer need the fruitfulness. We no longer need the sex. The “Fun” lasts, for now at least. But we will eventually shed even that.

This is a weird modern gnosticism. I will return to that shortly. The point here is the sex. Man is innately sexual. We are made as two different sexes. Male and female. We are made to be fruitful. Like the rest of creation we will not survive without fruitfulness. Everything lives and grows and reproduces. It is who we are.

The Moon

CS Lewis was big on the planets. I previously mentioned Jupiter – sometimes called Jove (149). The Moon is discussed on page 172 and 173. Lewis brings the Moon into his fiction here and moreso toward the end. The thing to take away from this portion is the Moon’s dual nature. One side faces us, while the other is always facing away, obscured from our vision. In the medieval worldview, because of Earth’s sin, the visible, close, side of the moon was barren, empty, dead, but the far side was vibrant and life-like. Lewis borrows that idea here, giving the Moon two natures.

Filostrato prefers the “lighted” side of the moon because it is clean and sterile. No eroding organic life. He also mentions the “savages” of the far side with their ever-shrinking territory. (Like the cleaning of “tarnished silver.”) Lewis seemed to have an (unhealthy?) fascination with paganism. These savages fit perfectly. Ransom visited Mars in OOTSP, but never the Moon. I think Lewis draws a bit from HG Wells’s The First Men in the Moon as well.

Lewis revisits the moonlight on 175: “In that disastrous light [the faces of Straik and Filostrato] looked like masks hanging in the air.”

Mark’s Journey

Poor, poor Mark. He’s finally getting to do some work for the NICE. He seems to be “in.” Way past some others that had previously made him feel “out.” He’s doing work. He’s involved in the library conversations. He’s getting somewhere. He’s in. Or is he?…

If a mere arrest could have secured the – er – good will and collaboration of Mrs. Studdock, we should hardly have embarrassed ourselves with the presence of her husband. (158)

So this whole thing with Mark is just to get to his wife. He’s been completely used. They care nothing for him. He is means to an end. They despise him. They tolerate him, but for how long?


It really gets mixed up here. Filostrato’s science. Straik’s religion. I can’t hope to do it justice; you really must read the last few pages for yourself. The big reveal is that Alcasan – the executed French scientist – is being brought back… or rather his head is being reanimated. He/It will be kept alive with a bunch of science-y machines and it will be purely intellectual, purely logical. It will absorb other intellects to gain more and more knowledge. It will be a god.

(Hence the name of the book – reference to the Tower of Babel – men striving for divinity.)

“It is the beginning of Man Immortal and Man Ubiquitous,” said Straik. “Man on the throne of the universe. It is what all the prophecies really meant.” (175)

For Straik this is the “real resurrection” (78). He had previously told Mark he would see it for himself.

Filostrato takes a less religious attitude – at least on the surface – regarding Alcasan, the Head. Its all about progress for him. Its about sweeping the world clean of the dirt of life and making way for pure intellect. Its less religious for him, but its no less eschatological. He desires progress, universal change, what one might call a heaven on earth.

Still, he is OK with realizing the dreams of certain forms of religion: “does it fallow that because there was no God in the past that there will be no God also in the future?” (176).

Using science to change all of society, to invent God, to revolutionize the world – that is scientism. Using science to attempt what science cannot do and should not try.

And Mark is to go and meet the Head? But why? We’ve established they don’t care anything about Mark. What could they want?


That Hideous Strength – Chapter Seven – The Pendragon

For the first time in all those years she tasted the word King itself with all linked associations of battle, marriage, priesthood, mercy, and power.

Jane’s transformation has begun.


Arrival at St. Anne’s – Mr Bultitude – A Conversation with the Company – Jane meets the Director – A trip back to Edgestow – Jane and the Fairy – Calm after the storm


Marriage and Sex

On the marriage front, it really gets heavy in this chapter. Fisher-King really drills down into Jane’s marriage. And its quite good for her. She’s never actually thought about marriage from any place resembling a good starting point. Marriage to Jane was some extraneous institution she was (probably temporarily) involved in. She calls her own marriage a failure. And she certainly doesn’t think anything Mark says or does should affect her. Just because they’re married and all…

Fisher-King, for his part, says that its not really his views that are important, but his “Masters.” The authorities on high. They take these things very seriously. By that he means the eldila, the oyarsa and I guess Maleldil (Christ).

If Jane and Mark are married, and are one flesh, then Jane coming to St. Anne’s while Mark has joined their enemy at Belbury would be very complicated. There may be a point where Mark was wholly given to Belbury and wanted to make Jane their prisoner. At that point it would probably be appropriate for Jane to leave Mark. But up until things get very bad, she should submit to him as his wife.

Now this is not a popular way to speak in our feminist day and age. Am I saying that women are worth less than men or cannot think for themselves, make their own decisions? No. But within marriage, a wife is to submit to her husband. That much is clear, scripturally. Within the church their are duties for men and women that differ, in what they do, though not in how important. And outside of the church and home there are differences in leadership duties, though that gets more complex.

For the Company at St. Anne’s, there are parallels to the church. I’ll grant that this is only a modern fairy-tale for adults, but there are parallels. And since there are, the Company can only have Jane who is married, who is one flesh with Mark, assuming that Mark approves. And he would not approve of her joining a Company bent on the defeat, if not destruction, of his own company. Therein lies the rub.

Jane first wants to know if she can join the company and avoid the question of her husband altogether. This is when Fisher-King explains that it would depend on the circumstances of the danger, how much danger, how deep her husband was. He further explains that she needs to get Mark out of Belbury and she meets this with dismissal, saying it would be impossible. Fisher-King replies, “Do you not want to save him as well as yourself?” (143). Does Jane want to save him? She doesn’t love him. She doesn’t care much for him. He and the marriage have only been a problem. Best not to think too much about whether she wants to save him. So…

Jane ignores this question and instead begs to stay, due to her fear of the “dreams.”

Jane then begins to explain, inadvertently – though obviously – that she doesn’t love her husband. And she says its no one’s fault, that there marriage was just a mistake. Ah, but Fisher-King has an answer here:

“You do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience.” (145)

(I like the way Fisher-King never hesitates just to move to the main point. It reminds me of Jesus’s conversations in John.) This hits Jane like a sack of bricks. And she likes it. She likes it to the point that she likes the man who uttered it:

Obedience – though certainly not obedience to Mark – came over her, in that room an din that presence, like a strange oriental perfume, perilous, seductive, and ambiguous…” (145)

Fisher-King rebuffs her immediately. Jane had previously said she didn’t want to become a part of the Fisher-Kings group of adoring women. Now she is contemplating that very thing in the worst possible way. But it goes nowhere. Fortunately. Jane, Jane, Jane.

Jane responds that she thought love and marriage were about equality and companionship. Equality seems to be a word Fisher-King would vomit from his mouth. At least where marriage is concerned. I guess there is a difference in equality and being equal. Neither is very important in marriage. Equality, he explains, is important on one level due to our sin, our fallen nature, but it isn’t a virtue at heart.

We were made to wear clothes for the same reason. But the naked body should be there underneath the clothes, ripening for the day when we shall need them no longer. (145)

Just as equality is a short-term benefit, so are clothes. A necessary evil. Good for protection for our fallen nature. But at its core, it is just waiting for a day when it can be shed. A day when no one will worry about who is equal because we will all be giving all of ourselves to everyone else all of the time. Was Christ worried about equality when he hung on the cross, a suffering servant, sinless, perfect, dying for the wicked sinful rebellious people. Equality had nothing to do with it. And it has nothing to do with any other love, certainly not marriage.

When two become one flesh, there is no longer room for equality. For they are one. They suffer together. They sing together. But they also suffer from each other. That is how you love. You sacrifice. You give of yourself for another’s good, another’s happiness. There is no time to think of equality.

(I love this book! Such a convicting passage. You should really read it.)

Courtship knows nothing of [equality.] Nor does fruition. What has [equality] to do with that? Those who are enjoying something, or suffering something together, are companions. Those who enjoy or suffer  one another, are not. Do you not know how bashful friendship is? Friends – comrades – do not look at each other. Friendship would be ashamed… (145)

Jane had never even considered love, marriage, in such a way. I fear many of us do not. Lewis is so good, sometimes, on marriage and love and sex. To this, Fisher-King crowns his argument, his explanation, of love and marriage:

Obedience – humility – is the erotic necessity. (146)


And I don’t think Lewis means this as a description of a floor-mat wife. I don’t think he is even talking specifically of a wife’s obedience to her husband, but each of their obedience to Christ. Obeying their sex and demonstrating to the world – the visible and invisible – the  loving relationship between Christ and his Bride, Mother Kirk.

(Paul tells us that this is a great mystery. It is certainly profound. What a great book.)

Jane’s Journey

One thing I want to highlight are Jane’s and Mark’s spiritual journeys. I have written on this previously. Chapter seven really doesn’t say anything about Mark but it has a lot to say about Jane in her meeting Fisher-King.

I will go ahead and say that Fisher-King is Ransom from the previous books. It should be obvious. His travel, his communications with his “Masters,” his foot wound that will not heal. So Ransom is a representative, on Earth, basically of Maleldil, or Christ. (I’m tired of writing out Fisher-King. So now I will call him Ransom.)

(Now, I don’t want to go too far and say Maleldil is Christ. I just mean that in this world he represents who we know as the Second Person of the Trinity. I will probably say Maleldil mostly when talking about the events within the book and refer to Jesus specifically when talking about real life. But I may mix it up some. Please forgive. I’m trying not to be blasphemous here.)

When Jane meets Ransom, there is a flash of her understanding the transcendence of Christ the King. It is a flash that only lasts a moment. But its a fissure in her armor, her understanding of herself. She’s no longer the most important person in her life – just for a second. This article’s lead quote above refers to this moment. Ransom emanates kingliness, royalty, even divinity. For he has been with the divine.

This brings about a major change for Jane:

But her world was unmade; she knew that. Anything might happen now. (140)

And why not? Its a modern fairy-tale for grown-ups, isn’t it? The sentiment is echoed almost word for word on the following page and we see a change in Jane soon – as regards her concern for Mark. It takes time for the truth to sink in, but the important thing is that it is sinking. This unmaking of her world is a blend of joy and fear. Much as the ladies who had visited the tomb of Jesus. (But He was not there, of course.)

You see this change in Jane on her train-ride home. There were now four Janes, or, rather, four different mindsets. The third Jane, though, was really grappling with the directors words.

…a resolution to give Mark much more than she ever had before, and a feeling that in so doing she would be really giving it to the Director (148)

This shows Jane has had a fundamental change. She really wants to give to Mark.

The second part of the statement – that she is really giving to the Director (Ransom) – is in my opinion a swing and a miss from Lewis. I think the underlying idea is Jesus’s words that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for God. This is a good and fine teaching from our Lord. (I can’t say my affirmation of it adds to Jesus’s words, though.) But I will say that applying this to Ransom is overstepping. Lewis wants to achieve more here than he can, at least in this way. It may have worked if it weren’t for the quasi-romantic feelings Jane had for Ransom earlier (145). That just ruins it. Its a “home-run swing” but its a strike-out. The strike-out continues on page 146, but I won’t belabor it.

After returning to Edgestow and being detained and nearly abducted to Belbury – which would have been disastrous for Jane – she ends up back at St. Anne’s. Maybe the unpleasantness in Edgestow raises the danger level enough for the Director to admit her. Witness protection and all.


A quick point here:

Ransom looks young, though he is actually quite a bit older than Jane. He has met face-to-face with heavenly beings and spiritual beings and even human beings who are not marked with original sin. I am reminded of two things: One is Moses. He would meet with God his face shone and he had to veil it in front of the people. The second is a reference to Moses’s veiled face in 2 Corinthians (pronounced “Two” Corinthians). When we see Christ we are transformed into glory. Well, Ransom has seen much, if not Maleldil Himself, and he is golden and young, yet old at the same time. I enjoy Lewis’s description here. It is of one who is close to Maleldil and not one who embodies or represents Maleldil (as he seems to in Jane’s mind). Though he does have that foot wound.

Mr. Bultitude is mentioned for the first time (136). I like it.

Jove is mentioned during Jane’s trainride back to Edgestow:

She was in the sphere of Jove, amid light and music and festal pomp, brimmed with life and radiant in health, jocund and clothed in shining garments. (149)

Lewis liked the planets, the medieval cosmology. The different planets had different characteristics. Much of this was based on the old Greek and Roman pagan imaginings of the gods that the planets represented. Lewis even wrote an interesting poem about the planets. Jove, or Jupiter, basically represents the happy king. The characteristics of all of the planets tell us, in Lewis’s imaginings, of the different aspects of God’s nature. So where the Greeks imagined different gods, Lewis sees incomplete reflections of the real God. Fairly interesting. A lot could be said of this understanding as its shown in the Ransom Trilogy, as well as Lewis’s other fiction. (In fact a lot has been said in the recent past.) I won’t belabor it here. I will only point out that it was Jove, who Ransom saw sailing through that strange western galaxy – in Out of the Silent Planet. It is Jove who is Lewis’s favorite of these pagan views of God and Jove will make an entrance later in the book. The description here of music, light, pomp, and good health are very characteristic of Jove. I will close with a portion of his poem:

                                 …Of wrath ended
And woes mended, of winter passed
And guilt forgiven, and good fortune
Jove is master; and of jocund revel…

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Six – Fog

She wanted comfort but she wanted it, if possible, without going out to St. Anne’s, without meeting this Fisher-King man and getting drawn into his orbit. (121)

Oh, how familiar she seems.


Mark tries to clear things up with Wither, again – “Do what you’re told” – Changes in Edgestow – Jane dreams of Frost – Rehabilitation of Alcasan – Hingest interred – Conversations in the library – Engineering a crisis – Preemptory damage control – Two letters – Mark joins the dark side – Jane heads to St. Anne’s


Marriage and Sexuality:

Not a lot on the Studdock marriage in this chapter. Lewis has already shot it up pretty well. I suppose its in the ICU on a ventilator at this point. There’s little more to this marriage than a legal document.

We do see Mark’s effeminacy writ large. “Mark in [Wither’s] hands was a mouse” (116). After being humiliated he blame-shifted: “if he were not a married man he would not have borne it” (118). Mark absolutely lives and breathes for his dear wife. (I hope you pick up the sarcasm there.) Neither Jane’s happiness nor her emotional or spiritual health has ever been of the least concern to Mark. And then, as a child, he is lead to his next task by the Fairy.

There is also a short bit on p 130 regarding the female police officers of the NICE – who would rather not be called “police officers” at all, but “officers of the Institue,” its “Sanitary Executive.” We should be asking how appropriate it is to send our women out to deal with societies riff-raff.


Nothing specifically eugenicist here. Its just that term above, “Sanitary Executive.” THS has already had discussed eliminating the less desirable people from our world (40). Its all about cleaning up the population. Eliminating the undesirables. Forced sterilization. We’ve got to “decrease the surplus population” as Dickens’s Scrooge put it. (Ahead of his time, Scrooge.) The signs of this are everywhere though. Modern Americans have bought into “climate change” as another driving force. When Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was recently asked his thoughts on encouraging abortions as an effort to curb the population and limit climate change, he was very much in favor of this satanic idea, this bloodthirsty mechanism of this hideous strength. Eugenics have not been overly visible in this book so far, but its principles are just below the surface, driving the NICE.

The Spiritual Realm:

The previous entries in the Ransom Trilogy (And where is Ransom?!) have involved these spiritual or angelic like beings, the eldila. They have been absent thus far from THS. But there is a spiritual, almost mystical side to this book so far, chiefly in Jane’s dreams. They aren’t actually dreams but rather a type of second sight, or maybe astral projection. Call them what you like, but she is seeing actual things or odd representations of actual things and not only things in her memory, as dreams work, but things of which she should have no knowledge. (Not quite occultic and that’s good. For Lewis probably had an unhealthy fascination – obsession would not be the right word – with the occult.)

Her dreams in this chapter (I will call them dreams for simplicity’s sake; plus Lewis calls them dreams in the narrative though he’s explained they aren’t dreams as we know them) dealt with the recurrence of Frost – an officer of the NICE – observing her. Then there is the dead body underground and the coming bright person – “someone all golden and strong and warm coming with a mighty earth-shaking tread down into that black place” (133). Very odd. And I will say that it relates to Logres and to Merlin, though there’s little more, if any, of Logres in this chapter.

And Wither… He is everywhere. And he always seems to know what’s going on, though he never really says what’s going on or clarifies what’s going on. He seems always to appear whenever something important may be near – for example when Mark is about to find solidarity with Stone and maybe do something positive. Wither breaks that up.

Other Thoughts:

There is a lot more in this chapter regarding the dastardly deeds of the NICE, the way they play politics, attempt to manipulate the public opinion. There is a nice section on Hingest’s funeral and a concise description of him being a “proud old unbeliever” (123). At least he believed something, though not the doctrines of the Christian funeral he was given. It makes me think Hingest’s character could be based, in part, on Lewis’s teacher, Kirkpatrick, as described in Surprised By Joy.

But I would like to say a bit about Mark and Jane individually and then close.

I led the article with a quote about Jane above. She’s been invited into St. Anne’s. She would like comfort, but she isn’t so sure about their strange leader, this “Fisher-King man” or the “Pendragon.” She wants the help but not the danger that may come with it. “But I must keep my own life” (71). She is truly “counting the cost” of joining St. Anne’s. It reminds me some of Lewis’s description of Aslan as being “good” but not “safe.” But unlike Aslan, this Pendragon is no image of Christ, no more than any of us are when we suffer for the good of others. Still, joining him is, ultimately, joining Christ’s disciples, at least in the world of this “Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups.”

Jane reflects all of us who follow Jesus. We want to have all of the good that comes with being one of his disciples, but we don’t want the sacrifice. We want to walk closer to Him but we don’t want to get mixed up with the religious people, what with their Bible studies and passing up tattoos and what-not. Who wants to be that religious freak? Still, for Jane, there is no half-way. Either she joins up with the “Fisher-King man” or she is on her own. And sooner or later the NICE may get her – only she doesn’t know its the NICE. She only knows that, when she see Frost, “something’s gotta give.”

At this point, she jumps on a train and heads for St. Anne’s. Lewis remarks that it is a “childish” instinct that drives her, “She wanted to be with Nice people, away from Nasty people” (134) – and that was “Nice,” not “NICE.” This reminds me of the short bit in Perelandra where Lewis remarks that a child really understands fear, when he understands that a cruel hideous face is the most fear-inducing image that can be imagined. A child knows right and wrong – not perfectly for he is still a sinner at heart. But he hasn’t learned to rationalize evil – abortions to save the planet and what-not. He’s only a beginner at sin, hasn’t yet honed his talent. Jane is following that child-like instinct. That may be part of what Jesus meant when he said we must become like children to enter the Kingdom. Or maybe not.

That brings me to Mark. He is honing that skill. He is trying go further and further in with the “Nasty people.” And he is making good headway.

This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. (127)

Then a few pages later on 132, Mark admires his handiwork with pride. He has written up, or rather written down, a major civic disturbance which, 1) has not yet taken place and 2) will take place soon at the instigation of his good friends and fellow-officers at the NICE. Mark can only gloat that he’s finally made it pretty far “in.” He could possibly stop the “disturbance,” which, it seems, is bound to take several lives. He could at least put up a fuss about it. Oh, but we excuse sin for the greater good. Thinking ourselves wise, we become fools, suppressing the truth with our own unrighteousness.

Mark jumps into the deep end, not only doing evil but approving others who do. And the rationalizations flow – this will make him old and wise, give him great stories to tell; writing for the big papers is so exciting; if Mark didn’t do it, someone else surely would have; and it’s only a joke after all, tongue-in-cheek.

He’s finally made it “in.” And yet… It feels to me, though it isn’t explicit, that the inner ring has made him their fool, a scape-goat, someone so eager to be accepted that he can easily be manipulated and abused. And set out the next morning like some sack of trash for the garbage collector to haul off. Poor, poor Mark. But I have hope for him.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Five – Elasticity

“Do you mean I’m to ask Mark’s permission?” said Jane with a strained little laugh. (114)


Mark tries to clear things up with Steel – Mark tries to clear things up with Wither – The Fairy tries to clear things up with Mark – Animals at Belbury? – Mark tries to clear things up with Wither again – Letter from Bracton – Letter to Bracton – Speaking with Stone – The ubiquity of the DD – Mark tries to clear things up with Feverstone – Jane and the Dennistons – A proposition and an agreement


Marriage and Sexuality

Mark is such a soft gutless wimp. CS Lewis wrote this. I dont see this ivory tower academic as someone who naturally has a grasp on masculinity. And maybe he didn’t but he absolutely nails Mark’s effeminacy to the wall. And he does it brilliantly:

He put [the bill] in his pocket after a hasty glance with a resolution that this, at any rate, should never be mentioned to Jane. Neither the total nor the items were of the sort that wives easily understand… Then he finished his second cup of tea, felt for cigarettes, found none, and ordered a new packet. (100-101)

Jane, of course, sees right through Mark. She may be a budding feminist and far from what Mark ought to want in a wife but she at least isn’t as blind has her husband:

She thought Mr. Curry a pompous fool and Mark a fool for being impressed by him. (81)

Mark goes on to be educated by the Fairy and then to write the most spineless letter of all time. He’s just trying to muddy the water, to say a little without saying much and to leave his reader guessing. Further proof of his refusal to put on his big-boy pants.

I would be remiss if I didnt’ mention Fairy Hardcastle’s assistants, who are “feminine to the point of imbecility” (94) in Feverstone’s words. Now there’s nothing remotely similar between imbecility and being feminine (and I dont want to mix feminine with feminist). The point is made, by Lewis here, that a feminist is a woman with lots of manly characteristics which doesn’t make any sense. But she surrounds herself with caricatures of actual femininity. I’m sure they look and dress just so, and are quite subservient to the Fairy, which isn’t what being feminine is. But that’s Feverstone’s idea, not Lewis’s. He took feminine characteristics to heart and showed them well in Narnia’s Lucy. Jane Studdock has them as well, though she isn’t sure about using them. They’ve been conditioned out of her through years of training, as the article lead quote above shows.

Jane is really struggling with doing the right thing. What is the right thing. How does one go about finding out and then getting on with it. She starts to realize here that she must take a side but is completely broadsided by the fact that her husband needs to at least not strongly object to the side she takes.

Well, should that matter? Women are free to make up their own minds in our modern world. But what about marriage. Have the two become one flesh or haven’t they?

We will see how things go for Jane.

Arthurian Legendarium

I probably should have mentioned this before but there is quite a tie-in to King Arthur and Logres in THS. Merlin has been mentioned previously. He’s supposedly buried below Bragdon Wood. Then there’s this ‘Pendragon.’ Pendragon means chief dragon or warrior. Its a title sometimes given to Arthur, and certainly given to Uther Pendragon, King Arthur’s father.

How much of this legendarium do you need to know to enjoy THS? Not much but its interesting. Lewis is now weaving together so many different threads – biblical Christianity, Greek or Roman pantheon, the medieval worldview, King Arthur, interplanetary travel, aliens, angels and their demonic counterparts, good old humanity with its philosophies and progressivism, whats commonly called ‘gender roles.’ All these moving parts coming together. Its really pretty cool.


Vivisection was a broad term Lewis used to discuss experimentation on animals. I guess I’m more philistine here. I feel like its permissible, though you must way the possible benefits against the harms to the animal. I wouldn’t, for example, test make-up on a dog, but maybe an anti-HIV medication. And I think some pains should be taken to stop pain in the animal whenever possible. Lewis took a stronger line than me. And maybe he’s right. It seems the NICE was into vivisection as we learn on page 100. Mark notes that in one area of the compound the place sounds like “a considerable zoo.” This wont play a major role, if my memory serves well, but it will come back around. So just tuck this idea that the NICE keeps a wide variety of animals for experimentation.

Playing Politics

Fairy Hardcastle is nothing if not shrewd. Rather worldly wise. She knows how to work the public, drum up support. She really lays it out for Mark:

“…Is it the Left or Right papers that are going to print all this rot about Alcasan?”

“Both, honey, both,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Don’t you understand anything? Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to the NICE is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us – to refute the enemy slander. Of course we’re non-political. The real power always is.” (97)

She goes on to describe how these things play out in a little more detail, but this gives you a taste.

What a great book. All these different ideas coming together. I can’t wait to see how things go.

“That’s why Camilla and I got married… We both like Weather… It’s a useful taste if one lives in England. (111)

Somehow I bet this describes Lewis to a ‘T.’

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Four – The Liquidation of Anachronisms

And so, all evening, the male bird displayed his plumage and the female played her part and asked questions and laughed and feigned more interest than she felt. Both were young, and if neither loved much, each was still anxious to be admired. (87)


NICE swallows Mother Dimble’s home – The new religion eats the old – The Blizzard blows out – Committee meeting – Small town condemned – The demise of Bracton Common Room


Marriage and sexuality first:

I like the way Lewis points out the differences in the sexes. This may be oversimplification, but it is so recognizable as to be described as true despite exceptions.

Mark often help; but as he always tookthe view – and Jane could feel it even if he did not express it in words – that “anything would do” and that Jane made a lot of unnecessary work and that men could keep house with a tithe of the fuss and the trouble which women made about it (80).

We get a peak at Mark and Jane together in chapter four and it is only too sad, summed up by the lead quote. We also see that Jane decides “to tell [Mark] nothing about the dreams or St Anne’s.” (87)

Overall the picture of marriage here is sad, but it is sad primarily because it is so recognizable. If the Studdocks were an oddity, that would be encouraging. But how many of us purposefully keep secrets from our spouses? I’m not talking about deep dark secrets of infidelity and the like. I’m talking about little things: oh, she doesn’t need to know about that, it will only upset her, and what good would it do to tell her? We constantly live with an image of the spouse we have instead of the actual person and we constantly paint an image of ourselves, instead of being who we actually are. Oh, sin, how deep you have run. Theologians will tell us that our sin has broken, first, our relationship with our Creator, and, second, our relationships with each other; and chief among these is the marriage relationship. If two have become one, as symbolized (note that I am not calling it only a symbol) in the sexual act, then should we not truly be one in mind, in spirit? We would prefer anything but to be fully known. And why? I’ll let McCarthy tell us:

A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he dont want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there. It aint the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian.


This must be the Mad Parson that Bill the Blizzard was talking of. (76)

The Reverend Straik has his own views on religion. His is a form of Christianity but its twisted and warped from actual Christianity. I don’t want to drive too hard and Nazi comparisons here because I flatly don’t know the details. I know that Third Reich used Christianity – a form of their on making – to bolter their statist philosophies and support their plans. Lewis lived through WWII and I presume he wrote THS during that time (it was published in 1945). We could accuse Lewis of having his own syncretized form of Christianity but we know it was nothing like Straik’s.

Here is Straik on the doctrine of heaven:

With every thought and vibration of my heart, with every drop of my blood… I repudiate that damnable doctrine. That is precisely the subterfuge of the World… (76)

On the “Kingdom”

The Kingdom is going to arrive: in this world: in this country. The powers of science are an instrument. And irresistible instrument. (77)

On science being an “instrument:”

The are an instrument because they are an instrument in His hand. An instrument of judgment as well as of healing. (77)

Straik’s religion is a strange admixture of Christianity and scientism. His view of science as some type of tool to bring bring a new kingdom to earth, to revolutionize our world. His pseudo-Christian scientismist speech goes on, I will not cover it here.

Of note also is the imminence of Straik’s message. He sees it as coming very soon. This is one thing that I hadnt picked up on as much previously. This is meant merely to be a book about a few small people in a small corner of the world, but a book about something huge happening to humanity. You get it from Grace Ironwood – “you will be helping to save the human race from a very great disaster” (66). You also get it from Straik here – “The real resurrection is even now taking place. The real life everlasting. Here in this world. You will see it. (78). Lewis is trying to express that the things he is describing in this book carry existential ramifications for the human race. He is describing a battle of cosmological significance – it is what he has been building up to since beginning Out of the Silent Planet.

The Inner Circle

Mark sits in on a Committee meeting overseen by Wither, the DD. It quickly becomes clear that “the real work of the NICE must go on somewhere else” (78). Mark isn’t surprised. Nor is he surprised that at this early point he wouldn’t find himself a part of “the Inner Ring or whatever at Belbury corresponded to the Progressive Element” (78). He hopes he won’t be left in the dark for long.

The Workings of the NICE

Wither’s style is “tortuous and allusive” (79). I think this is Wither’s point. If we can gather from his name that he has withered away on the inside, while working for the NICE and similar projects, then we can see him as going through motions to complete his work without the mannish conviction we could look fore elsewhere. This is often the way certain ideas in our culture work. Instead of building up something we tear down. We introduce questions. We are nuanced. We never really get around to the point but we are obscure and suggestive. Wither NEVER comes to the point. He always moves around it. This cannot be done by mere accident.


The title of the chapter refers to things that get liquidated. Here is a short list of the anachronisms that are liquidated in chapter four:

  1. The Dimble Homestead
  2. Lots of trees/plants/landscaping
  3. Bill the Blizzard
  4. Biblical/historical/orthodox Christianity (planned, not actually liquidated)
  5. Cure Hardy (planned)
  6. The Common Room at Bracton and its “famous east window”

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Three – Belbury and St-Anne’s-On-The-Hill

To desire the desiring of her own beauty is the vanity of Lilith, but to desire the enjoying of her own beauty is the obedience of Eve… (61)

We roll along here, following Mark to the NICE at Belbury at Jane to St. Anne’s.


Wither – Obscuration – Bill the Blizzard – An Un-Welcome – Filostrato & the Fairy  – St Anne’s – Un-Remembered Quote – Clarification – Police Work and Sociology – Blizzard divulges his planned course – Two Mothers


I’m having a bit of fun with my summaries.

Marriage & Sexuality

I suppose I’ll have to discuss marriage and sexuality – the differences between the sexes and what-not. This is a marriage book but it isn’t just a marriage book. There really isn’t much specifically about marriage until the last page of the chapter.

Even when she had discovered that she was going to marry Mark if he asked her, the thought, “But I must still keep up my own life, ” had arisen at once and had never for more than a few minutes at a stretch been absent from her mind. (71)

This is sad and I think its even more sad because its so common. Its an idea we can all identify with. The man and wife are to become one flesh. But we are selfish. We all want to save something back. I would guess the pull is stronger for a woman. She takes on a man’s name and identity, but I can personally attest that it exists for men as well.

The quote Jane remembers before reading it is also telling. (Its the lead-quote above.) I once asked my wife why women so often dress in such a way as to “show it off” to the whole world. She explained to me, very neatly, that as men enjoy lust, women enjoy being lusted for. Now I don’t believe Lilith is a real person, but the concept here of the natural vs the subnatural is illustrative. A woman may want a man desire her or she may want him to enjoy her. One of these is appropriate for the relationship in marriage – the sexual and romantic aspects of that relationship – while the other is a dirty twisted version of the good. This is extremely enlightening.

(Lilith plays a role in Charles Williams’s novels, notably Descent Into Hell. Lewis probably draws on the Lilith legend separately.)

And part of being a woman is the ability to bear children. In times past this has been a very special part of womanhood. Not so much in our culture – to our shame. “Though [Jane] did not formulate it, this fear of being invaded and entangled was the deepest ground of her determination not to have a child…” (71). Children are certainly entangling, but I wouldn’t call them invasive. Maybe on the surface. But they are our true legacy. That is how we take control of the world, how we make a mark. The idea that they invade our lives and stop up the good we could do without them is pure selfishness. There is nothing more important than raising Christ-following progeny. CR Wiley’s The Household and the War for the Cosmos goes into this idea. Its an excellent book for anyone, especially fathers and mothers.

Then there is Fairy Hardcastle. Lewis draws on a lot from other fairy tales, mythology, medievalism and the like. I’m not sure why he calls Hardcastle the Fairy. I suppose I don’t understand because Tinkerbell from Disney’s Peter Pan basically defines what a fairy is to me. Lewis would have seen things much differently. His fairies would certainly have been darker, less benign. The fairies in TH White’s The Sword in the Stone (1938) were much more malicious than my Tinkerbell.

Hardcastle is Lewis’s depiction of the consummate feminist. And though feminism has changed, his caricature is still easily recognizable. She’s a woman, but she’s one of the guys. “Locker room talk” flows freely and easily from her. One gets the feeling that sex does as well though she isn’t attractive in a feminine way. She’s worldly wise, tough, and doesn’t need a man around to take care of her. And it isn’t that all these qualities are wholly bad… They are actually good in degrees, when balanced with other qualities. But it isn’t a lady’s place to be firm, tough and experienced. Mark, in whom there is little to admire, much to identify with, and almost as much to scorn, is quite put off by her:

Often before now Mark had shuddered at the clumsy efforts of the emancipated female to indulge in this kind of humour, but his shudders had always been consoled by a sense of superiority. This time he had the feeling that he was the butt; this woman was exasperating male prudery for her diversion. (67)

Still, speaking with her gave Mark “the sense of getting in” (67).

Should the men of the NICE expect a woman to head the police? Never mind the question of authority… should they expect her to deal with the “riff raff” of society? Of course the NICE is beyond such questions as the difference between men and women, their duties or roles, how they carry themselves, etc. But as outsiders looking in, we can certainly say, “No.”


“There are no sciences like sociology.” (69)

I suppose Bill the Blizzard’s words sum up Lewis’s thoughts on sociology.

What I really want to touch on here is criminal justice. The NICE wants to “experiment,” wants to move beyond “retributive” justice. They want to treat the offender as one would a patient, not as someone who has done something wrong, but as someone who has a problem. This type of “justice” has certainly caught on. Now I don’t want to brush aside that some people have problems or habits than need to be dealt with and sometimes a type of “treatment” can help. I also don’t want to confuse mental health with these types of problems. Mental health is important, it is disease, and it should be treated. But vandalism, larceny, murder – these are not mental health problems. These are crimes (and sins). It is the responsibility of the government to punish criminals and not to treat them.

Lewis addresses criminal justice in an essay from God in the Dock. He favors retributive justice. He argues that all justice ends up retributive, no matter how it is meant. But justice that starts as retributive is finite. It has an end that it reaches and then the punishment is done. But a restorative justice that sees the perpetrator as a patient, or victim, need never let him go.

A couple of other points:

Wither vs Ironwood

Mark’s first conversation with Wither is hilarious. An odd guy. Looks like a kind old man, maybe a little grizzled. Also “vague” and “chaotic.” He seems to have a hard time grasping the tiniest bit of information and then he gives these answers that are long and vague and never, ever address the actual question. (I’ve got to assume Lewis based him on someone specific but I’ve no idea who.) For whatever reason, he pretty much runs the NICE, referred to as the deputy director or the DD for short. (A man named Jules is the official director, but according to Feverstone, “that little mascot” just makes  them look good in public but “is no use for work” (42).)

Grace Ironwood on the other hand is incisively clear – almost too clear. Her directness is a bit off-putting for Jane. She understands Jane’s “problem” from the start and she clearly expresses what it is and what she thinks should be done. There is no trying to keep Jane in the dark and using her for Ironwood’s purposes. She states clearly that she would like Jane to join her “company” and help “to save the human race from a very great disaster” (66). This may be too fantastic for Jane to believe (but remember: this is “A Modern Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups”) but it is not kept hidden. Grace Ironwood is very clear.

Mark goes to Belbury to get some clarity regarding the NICE. He receives only obscuring information – which should be enough but I’m afraid he’s lost his since of smell in academia. Jane goes to St Annes to get a cure for her dreams. She finds no cure, but only a clarity that she is not ready to accept. That’s OK. There’s hope for Jane yet.

Finally, I love Bill the Blizzard’s statement:

Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. (70)

Classic Lewis.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Two – Dinner with the Sub-Warden

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)


Progressive Conversation – An Invitation – Homecoming – A Picture of a Marriage – Going Different Ways


Lets start by looking at a previous area of interest, and then look at something new. I’ll close with a few fairly unrelated comments.


Chapter two gives us a further picture of the Studdock union. It is a marriage union. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” But it is not hard to see how far apart they are. The chapter ends with them traveling different directions to different places. It will be a long time until they reunite; many pages and changes will first pass.

The above quote illustrates the distance between them. It is so rare that she is emotionally vulnerable that he doesn’t recognize it except to realize its odd. He does however recognize something is wrong, but he doesn’t want to do the work of investigation, of understanding, of helping his wife through this time. That would be the mannish thing. But Mark is a coward.

It was a pity, he thought, that this should have happened on a night when he was so late and so tired and, to tell the truth, not perfectly sober.

The following morning he does some rudimentary investigating probably more to satisfy his leaving for the next few nights than to actually go to battle for his wife. I think this shows more cowardice on his part than husbandry.

I suppose most marriages begin with the husband being generally emotionally unaware. Growth needs to take place. And I’m not saying that husbands need to get all emotional, need to get in touch with their feminine sides. But they need to love their wives “in an understanding way.” And that is at least trying to understand them.

The Inner Circle:

We aren’t privy to much of Mark’s life prior to the start of the book. But we know Mark. He is quite happy to be a member of the Progressive Element at the college. Before he got into that circle, he wanted to be fellow at Bracton. Onward and upward as far as Mark is concerned. He really was happy in the Progressive Element…

You would never have guessed from the tone of Studdock’s reply what intense pleasure he derived from Curry’s use of the pronoun “we.” So very recently he had been an outside, watching the proceedings of what he then called “Curry and his gang” with awe and with little understanding… Now he was inside and “Curry and his gang” had become “we” or “the Progressive Element in the College.” (15)

… for a little while. But has soon as he catches even a whiff of a new inner circle, well that’s all she wrote. Following a little baiting on Feverstone’s part, Mark feels completely differently:

All sorts of things about Curry and Busby which he had not previously noticed, or else, noticing, had slurred over in his reverence for the Progressive Element, came back to his mind. He wondered how he could have been so blind to the funny side of them. (37)

Now Feverstone is inviting him to essentially audition for the N.I.C.E. (National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiements, which I will just call NICE without the periods, for the sake of ease.)


Scientism is the general idea that science can be used as a salvific influence or tool for the human race. Science as a religion. Lewis hated it. Here’s Mark speaking:

The real thing is that this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state.. (37)

And Lord Feverstone (previously known as Devine in Out of the Silent Planet – yes, he’s back.) later:

It does really look as if we now had the power to dig ourselves in as a species for a pretty staggering period, to take control of our own destiny. If Science is really given a free hand it can now take over the human race and re-condition it: make man a really efficient animal. If it doesn’t – well, we’re done. (39)

This is a very “Westonish” thing to say. (See here and here for further discussion of Weston’s scientism from Out of the Silent Planet.) Scientism will play a greater role in the narrative as it progresses but the seeds are sewn.

And which side is Mark on? Why that of science, or at least of the inner circle. Or maybe mankind’s:

“Oh, I haven’t any doubt which is my side,” said Mark. “Hang it all – the preservation of the human race – it’s a pretty rock-bottom obligation.”

So he’s on the side of the human race. One wonders though if he likes any member of the human race, outside of himself, of course.

Additional notes:

We know what Lewis thought of cars in general. And he doesn’t hold back here. He much prefers the train, though I’m not altogether sure why the train should be better than the car. Maybe its that trains have tracks while roads go nearly everywhere.

Feverstone’s three problems: First is the “interplanetary problem.” By that he may mean simply the logistics of interplanetary travel. But I think he is specifically referencing the war that must be waged against the intelligent life outside of our planet. As you may recall the Oyarsa of Malacandra commanded him not to leave his planet again.

Second is non-human earth life. We must get this placed sterilized after all. Pave it all over. No more natural organic life. Times have changed in that respect. Now humans seem to be the bad guys and we must return Mother Earth to her natural state, before she was scarred by humanity.

Third there is Man himself. Note that Feverstone has already taken the side of Mankind.  Now he reveals that it is only a certain type of Mankind whose side he has taken:

Man has got to take charge of Man. That means, remember, that some men have got to take charge of the rest – which is another reason for cashing in on it as soon as one can. You and I want to be the people who do the taking charge. (40)

And what does this look like?

“Sterilization of the unfit, liquidation of the backward races (we don’t want any dead weights), selective breeding. Then real education, including pre-natal education… mainly psychological at first. But we’ll get on to biochemical conditiong in the end oand direct manipulation of the brain…” (40)

It looks ugly to me. Eugenics. Brainwashing. It looks like Lewis had read Brave New World.


To be continued…

Long time since posting on THS. I plan to come back. There is just so much to be said about this book that I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere close to doing it justice. So I took a break. Didn’t think it would be this long. Hopefully get back to it later this year. Planning to reread the book again soon. Such a great book. The Bookening is a podcast that discusses the book here. Probably better than anything I could write about it.

The Hideous Strength – The Liquidation of Anachronisms, Section 4 (Chapter 4.4)


A committee meeting at the NICE, the deputy director presides. The only items under discussion are the acquiring of land and destruction of a church in Edgestow (this undoubtedly involved the Dimbles’s house) and the murder of William Hingest – Bill the Blizzard to Mark. The silver lining, according to Wither was that the Institutional police, lead by the Fairy Hardcastle, had taken control of the investigation. Hingest is eulogized by Wither, something for which he was “well fitted.” They share a moment of silence, each one not “thinking about death.” Mark determined that the real business of the NICE went on elsewhere, not these worthless committee meetings.


Of course Bill the Blizzard was murdered by the NICE for leaving. So of course they were first on the scene. Straik has just told us that the project of the NICE could not be carried out without violence (76).

Mark again betrays the idea that he longs for the “Inner Ring” (78) and isn’t surprised he is not yet there. If it was this easy it probably wouldn’t worth much.

Herein lies the furthering or the liquidation of the second anachronism – Hingest’s death – being the NICE’s response to it. I don’t know that it can be said that there is a new anachronism in this section, though we do get a moment of silence honoring the dead in which all involved are “not being morbid and not thinking about death” (80). Death is probably not something to long contemplate by this bunch. ‘Tis better to be in the house of mourning than the house of mirth, after all (Ecc 7:2). The house of mourning does one little good when he doesn’t contemplate death. Of course the NICE has plans for “the real resurrection” and the inheritance of the earth by the “saints.”

I’m a bit surprise, and maybe disappointed, that Straik doesn’t play a role in eulogizing Hingest.