Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thoughts on That Hideous Strength

I've given up on writing a proper review, since I think I'd need to read the book several more times before I could put down my thoughts coherently. There's a lot going on in this book. So here's some thoughts on various elements in the book.

I found a lot of reviews criticize Lewis for his views on women as presented in That Hideous Strength. I, on the other hand, thought his ideas were spot on. Lewis seems to understand the feminine in a way that most male writers don't. So not only does he write some really great female characters, he presents some really great ideas from the female perspective. For example, Lewis argues that women can appreciate female beauty just as well as men, while men don't seem to appreciate masculine good looks in the same way. That certainly explains why I can list any number of beautiful female celebrities, but can't come up with a single comparable actor. (Well, there's Jimmy Stewart, but he's a bit old for me.) Lewis also has gender relations figured out to an extent I've not really seen before. When Jane, one of the characters, explains to Ransom (the hero of the trilogy) that she no longer loves her husband, Ransom explains that's because Jane does not try to obey her husband. A good marriage is made to be built on a certain type of foundation, and Jane and her husband's attempt to have a "modern" marriage built on emotion and not much else, is doomed to failure. Without sacrifice, without surrender (from both, not just Jane), it's not going to work.

At several points Lewis addresses the use of birth control. These are great passages, because Lewis explores the problems that occur when we separate fertility from sexuality. Personally, I believe that birth control is fundamentally wrong because it puts man in the place of God. Besides, if we really believe that children are a gift from God, why do we tell Him not to send us more of them? I don't see anyone asking for less money, health, or wisdom. (For the record, I'm not advocating that all married women should be more or less continually pregnant for all of their childbearing years. I believe that God opens and closes the womb, and that no one will end up with one or two or five or ten or twenty children unless it is His will.)

Finally, I love the idea of St. Anne's on the Hill. It's long been a dream of mine to turn my home (when I get one) into a sort of St. Anne's/Last Homely House where people can find rest and peace and whatever they're looking for, whether "food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness." (Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring), or, as M. F. K. Fisher said, "... but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world." Essentially, I want to feed people, in every sense of the word. I don't know if I'll ever be able to pull it off, as I'm not the most hospitable person, since I prefer to be alone, and I'd really need a big house to do anything useful, and I'm firmly an apartment-dweller unless I ever get married, which may or may not ever happen.

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