Home
Loading
  Contact Us    
That Hideous Strength

C. S. Lewis at his best.

by Everett Wilson
September 10, 2005

Bookmark and Share
That Hideous Strength
We are in the  sixtieth anniversary year of the publication of   That Hideous Strength, the concluding novel in C.S. Lewis's space trilogy.  The first two volumes were about space trips by an Oxford don to Mars and Venus —the first trip because he was kidnapped, and the second because he was the willing draftee of a benevolent and alien of extraordinary power. 
 
I was in seminary when I read the first two novels. They were my first experience of Lewis as a writer of narrative fiction; I was not yet aware even of The Narnia Chronicles, then in the early stages of their long popularity.  Because I had Lewis fixed in my head as a Christian apologist and Oxford intellectual, I thought his sci-fi fantasies were oddities, that  Lewis was  goofing off  or   showing off:  "Look, guys, I'm good even at this!"
 
These two books in   length and style are more like novels designed for older children.  They are short, straightforward narratives, and the violence is g-rated.  This is not a criticism, but a fact; I love good books written for older children.  
 
I discovered That Hideous Strength, much later, some twenty years after its initial publication.  It is not about space travel as such, but completes the story of the space traveler.  While its prose is as accessible as all of Lewis's popular writings, it is no children's book. Lewis's subtitle is "A Modern Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups."  The unwholesomeness of evil is strong in every chapter.  One of its chief villains is a lesbian sadist.  The bad guys who are her bosses are masters of euphemism, but they do not fool the good guys and Lewis sees to it that they don't fool the readers either.  As one of the good guys says to a young man who has been taken in by the bad guys, "You are (at least to some degree) the accomplice of the worst men in the world." 

In sheer gruesomeness, the climax of the novel leaves little to the imagination.  It is definitely not a children's book.
 
The jacket blurb quotes the Time critic, who called it "well-written, fast-paced satirical fantasy." If seen as satire, it satirizes post-modernism as Lewis could foresee its consequences and before it became an academic topic.   But the satirical elements are secondary.  In satire, the point hangs on the success of the author's joke.  In a fairy tale, the story makes the point by being the point. 
 
The title is a reference to the tower of Babel, taken from an obscure (to me, at least) Renaissance history of the world, with "strength" used to mean "stronghold." The biblical tower expressed the motive of its builders, which was to challenge God in his own realm.  In the novel, the tower is not a building, but a scientific and philosophical enterprise run by "the worst men in the world" from its base in a small English university city.   If Babel is its symbol, then the curse of Babel is its doom.  At the climax one of the good guys utters in Latin the triumphant cry:  "They that have despised the Word of God, from them shall the word of man also is taken away." 
 
How and why that happened   is for you to read.  You may or may  not like Lewis's point of view, but if you are a serious reader you will probably agree with The Saturday Review anyway"No one in the least susceptible to Mr. Lewis's conjurations... can drop the book at all."

(0 Comments)
Post a Comment

Send Us Your Opinion
(Comments are moderated.)
Your Name:*


Your E-Mail Address:*
(Confidential. Will not be published.)


Location:


Comments:*
Note: In order to control automated spam submissions, URLs are no longer permitted in this form.



Verification:
Please type the letters you see above.

  Printer-Friendly

Bookmark and Share


PO BOOKS BY EVERETT WILSON
Real Things
A novel.
Published January 2, 2008
Temporarily Unavailable

Real Things first appeared in serialized form on the Partial Observer in 2001. It is now available in print for the first time.

Over thirty years after a senseless crash redefined his life, Greg Thompson and his family finally learn why.

More Information
RSS FEED
RSS Feed for Everett Wilson: RSS Feed for Everett Wilson
EMAIL ALERTS
Sign up to receive an e-mail notice when new articles by this author are published. Your address remains confidential, and you may cancel at any time. A confirmation email will be sent.

Your e-mail address:
po Books
Now Available!

Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

More by Everett Wilson
Necessary Things, A Companion and Sequel to Real Things
Available from Amazon Books, Amazon Kindle, and Me!
by Everett Wilson, 2/16/15
Until Barrett is Free, Neither Are We
Freedom of the Press is not a whim of the state
by Everett Wilson, 2/26/14
Why the United States Will not Get Competent Universal Health Care in my Lifetime
Six Obvious Reasons
by Everett Wilson, 11/15/13
An Open Letter to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Clean Sweep Time
by Everett Wilson, 10/2/13
An Open Letter to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Clean Sweep Time
by Everett Wilson, 10/1/13
Excerpt from my new novel, Scoundrels and Fools
Chapter 5: Ellis Johnson
by Everett Wilson, 7/12/13
The Rev. Marjorie Drickey's Last Message to a Dying World
And all the trumpets sounded for her on the other side.
by Everett Wilson, 2/14/13
» Complete List (151)


RSS FEED
RSS Feed for Everett Wilson: RSS Feed for Everett Wilson

Recently Published
View Article May I Be Frank, Mr. President?
Challenging a double standard in the Oval Office
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/15/17
Salvator Mundi
Not the painting but the Person
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/7/17
When the Newsman Becomes News
Lamenting yet another fallen hero
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/1/17
Let's Hear It for Moms and Pops
Celebrating Small Business Saturday in a very personal way
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/22/17
An Earthquake in La La Land
Examining what's been exposed in the rubble
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/17/17
Where is God?
Reflecting on the tragedy in a little Texas town
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/10/17
An All Saints Day Tribute
Remembering those who left us
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/3/17

Get the Partial Observer's
'recently published' headlines via RSS.


RSS Feed for Recently Published PO Articles    What is RSS?
Reproduction of original material from The Partial Observer without written permission is strictly prohibited.
The opinions expressed by site contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors.
Copyright ©2000-2017 partialobserver.com. All rights reserved.
Home · Site Map · Top