August 8, 2011
GREG JINKERSON writes:
In his novel Perelandra, C.S. Lewis provides a splendid retelling of the Eden story, transferring that mythos to the planet Venus. The hero Ransom has been sent there by angelic beings to perform an unknown task related to the fate of mankind. On Perelandra, the true name of Venus, Ransom encounters an inhabitant known to him simply as The Lady, who is evidently both superhumanly intelligent and entirely morally innocent, with no knowledge of either death or evil.
Their new friendship is threatened by the evil Weston, an English scientist who has followed Ransom to this unknown world, and who is on a contrary quest there of his own. (Ransom takes to referring to Weston mentally as the Un-man.) Among the usual stunning truths in Lewis’ story is an implicit critique of feminism, an ideology that Lewis casts as being decidedly Satanic.
Although The Lady enjoys telepathic guidance from Maleldil, the founding Spirit of her world, she experiences temptation at the hands of Weston who is urging her to embrace true freedom by transgressing Maleldil’s only explicit forbiddance, never to go and inhabit one area of the planet that is known as the Fixed Island. Ransom’s assignment is to prevent The Lady from succumbing to Weston’s temptation. Could the following narrative not serve admirably as a precise and prophetic description of the feminist lie?
The Lady seemed to be saying very little. Weston’s voice was speaking gently and continuously. It was not talking about the Fixed Land nor even about Maleldil. It appeared to be telling, with extreme beauty and pathos, a number of stories, and at first Ransom could not perceive any connecting link between them. They were all about women, but women who had apparently lived at different periods of the worlds’ history and in quite different circumstances. From the Lady’s replies it appeared that the stories contained much that she did not understand; but oddly enough the Un-man did not mind. If the questions aroused by any one story proved at all difficult to answer, the speaker simply dropped that story and instantly began another. The heroines of the stories seemed all to have suffered a great deal—they had been oppressed by fathers, cast off by husbands, deserted by lovers. Their children had risen up against them and society had driven them out. But the stories all ended, in a sense, happily: sometimes with honours and praises to a heroine still living, more often with tardy acknowledgment and unavailing tears after her death. As the endless speech proceeded, the Lady’s questions grew always fewer; some meaning for the words Death and Sorrow—though what kind of meaning Ransom could not even guess—was apparently being created in her mind by mere repetition. At last it dawned upon him what all these stories were about. Each one of these women had stood forth alone and braved a terrible risk for her child, her lover, or her people. Each had been misunderstood, reviled, and persecuted: but each also magnificently vindicated by the event. The precise details were often not very easy to follow. Ransom had more than a suspicion that many of these noble pioneers had been what in ordinary terrestrial speech we call witches or perverts. But that was all in the background. What emerged from the stories was rather an image than an idea—the picture of the tall, slender form, unbowed though the world’s weight rested upon its shoulders, stepping forth fearless and friendless into the dark to do for others what those others forbade it to do yet needed to have done. And all the time, as a sort of background to these goddess shapes, the speaker was building up a picture of the other sex. No word was directly spoken on the subject: but one felt them there as a huge, dim multitude of creatures pitifully childish and complacently arrogant; timid, meticulous, unoriginating; sluggish and ox-like, rooted to the earth almost in their indolence, prepared to try nothing, to risk nothing, to make no exertion, and capable of being raised into full life only by the unthanked and rebellious virtue of their females. It was very well done. Ransom, who had little of the pride of sex, found himself for a few moments all but believing it. (Perelandra, MacMillan, 1958; pp. 129-30)