Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Perelandra

Thanks to a long flight, I finally finished reading Perelandra, the second book in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. It was phenomenal, and I have to agree with Deb that it is better than the first, although I love the first for entirely different reasons.

Perelandra is beautiful. Kelly said that the imagery is what she remembers most from the book, and I can understand that. The description of the planet (which, by the way, is Venus) is incredible. Unlike Malecandra, Perelandra is more muted in its colors, but in no way less rich. Ransom explores more of this planet and sees a wider variety of creatures and places.

The central conflict is perhaps less suspenseful than the first, but it is more crucial than the first. Ransom is sent to Perelandra by Maleldil (God), but he does not know why. He meets a woman (who happens to be green), who is one of the two "humans" there. They are the king and queen, and function as the Adam and Eve of Perelandra.

The conflict begins once Weston (one of the men from the previous book) arrives on the planet. Ransom soon recognizes that Weston is not himself; he appears to look the same, but it is someone controlling Weston, the very being that ruined Earth, the Un-man (as Ransom calls him). The Un-man's purpose of being there is to ruin the queen who has been separated from her king and lead her to question and doubt Maleldil and her king.

The Un-man is not omnipotent and is instead very limited in what he can do. His main offensive attack is through the mind: he attempts to sway the queen through logic and what seems to be a logical questioning of what Maleldil has asked of her. (Sounds familiar, right?) At one point, the Un-man says it was good to break God's commandment because it brought Jesus to us; Ransom can take his lies no longer.

"I will tell you what I say," answered Ransom, jumping to his feet. "Of course good came of it [the fall]. Is Maleldil a beast that we can stop His path, or a leaf that we can twist His shape? Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him. That is lost for ever. The first King and first Mother of our world did the forbidden thing; and He brought good of it in the end. But what they did was not good; and what they lost we have not seen. And there were some to whom no good came nor ever will come." He turned to the body of Weston. "You," he said, "Tell her all. What good came to you? Do you rejoice that Maleldil became a man? Tell her of your joys, and of what profit you had when you made Maleldil and death acquainted."

This theme--that Maleldil, in his infinite power, can make good come of anything--and the parallel theme--man's sin is still unacceptable--permeates the story. When Ransom realizes it is he who has to kill the Un-man, he tries to talk himself out of it, knowing that no matter what, Maleldil will make things right. This is the most shocking moments of the story because what Ransom initially thinks makes sense: he can only do his best, and the rest is up to God. However, he realizes this is a lie straight from the Un-man. It is not enough to simply "do his best"; he has to succeed. He has to give all. He has to fight until his death.

He was in God's hands. As long as he did his best--and he had done his best--God would see to the final issue. He had not succeeded. But he had done his best. No one could do more. He must not be worried about the final result. Maleldil would see to that. And Maleldil would bring him safe back to earth after his very real, though unsuccessful, efforts. [. . .] It was in God's hands. One must be content to leave it there. One must have faith...

It snapped like a violin string. Not one rag of all this evasion was left. Relentless, unmistakably, the Darkness [Maleldil's presence in the dark night] pressed down upon him the knowledge that this picture of the situation was utterly false. His journey to Perelandra was not a moral exercise, not a sham fight. If the issue lay in Maleldil's hands, Ransom and the lady were those hands.

Ransom finally recognizes his role and his purpose. Later in the chapter, the Darkness (Maleldil's presence there) says, "It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom." When the weight of this falls upon Ransom, the voice says, "My name is also Ransom." And finally--after all his hesitation and arguments and fear--Ransom willingly walks into the fight.

His fear, his shame, his love, all his arguments, were not altered in the least. The thing was neither more nor less dreadful than it had been before. The only difference was that he knew--almost as a historical proposition--that it was going to be done. [. . .] The thing was going to be done. There was going to arrive, in the course of time, a moment at which he would have done it. The future act stood there, fixed and unaltered as if he had already performed it. It was a mere irrelevant detail that it happened to occupy the position we call future instead of that which we call past.

There is such beauty in Ransom's recognition. This is what I always love in books: the moment when the character recognizes what he must do, and, in spite of his fears (because there always is a fear), he walks in it. There is more to the story than this--much more--but I wanted to write about this because it reminds me of Christ. He says in John 12:27, "Now My soul is troubled. What should I say--Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!"

Perelandra is just a book, just a fictional account, but it draws me to Christ and leads me to pray that God would strengthen and empower me--and all of us--to walk in what he has set before us. God has given us all we need--His very presence--to do just that.

1 comment:

  1. Perelandra is so great! I love the parts you pointed out. I cried when Meleldil tells him that his name is Ransom too. I also loved the part toward the end when Ransom realizes that the myths of old where just mistaken angels.
    That Hideous Strength is really great too! I can't wait for you to read it. Lewis has a perfect description of what a deified Saint looks like!

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