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1. The Tower Babel story in That Hideous Strength
1.1 Good VS Evil in the Tower Babel Story
The story about the Tower of Babel tells about the arrogance of ancient people. Their pride made them think they can build the city with a high tower that reaches the heaven, e.g.:
A storm, or even a river-flood would be of little avail against our present enemy. Your weapon would break in your hands. For the Hideous Strength confronts us and it is as in the days when Nimrod built a tower to reach heaven.” (THS, p. 266).
When God understood their intentions and saw what they were doing, he broke up the unified society by confusing their tongues. People began to speak the different languages and could not understand each other, so their common work became impossible. This theme of confused communication runs about That Hideous Strength. God wanted to close people to him, not to distant them, by confusing their tongues.
First of all, Mark and Jane Studdock being a married couple don’t understand each other. Speaking one tongue they are unhappy because they are spiritually weak at the beginning of story. Secondly, N.I.C.E. executors constantly compete inside circles. However, all of them are insignificant. Oppositely, St. Anne’s organization reminds “friendly family”. At N.I.C.E., the executors in the ruling circles are incapable to find a member among them able to speak and understand ancient languages, so they are incapable to communicate with the tramp, who they believe is the reincarnated magician Merlin whose power they hope to use in their evil efforts, e.g.:
The tramp had spoken again. “Forgive me,” said the man in the cassock, “I must follow what he says. The words are not mine. He forbids you to talk in his presence in a tongue which he cannot, even through me, understand (THS, p. 308).
Babel them symbolises poor communication in That Hideous Strength. The idea is that true communication to God is crucially important to be really happy. The communication skills must grow in parallel with growth of the person as a Christian.
Consequently, communication in That Hideous Strength is shown as a tool that is used either for good (N.I.C.E.) or evil (inhabitants at St. Anne’s).
1.2. The battle: bent angels vs eldils
The description of bent ones and eldils correlates with the Christian beliefs about angels. Thus, in the modern Christian culture angels are depicted as energy creatures, often consisted of light. People believe that angels have wings and can move as quickly as the light. Similarly as in Christianity, in C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, angels are divided into good and evil. This idea finds reflection in the Christian beliefs about the fallen Angel Lucifer; he was the first angel who refused to accept mankind and subdue to people.
In That Hideous Strength both dark and light eldils are angels, consisting of energy controlled by the superman intelligence, e.g.:
I have now to inform you that there are similar organisms above the level of animal life. When I say, ‘above,’ I am not speaking biologically. The structure of the macrobe, so far as we know it, is of extreme simplicity. When I say that it is above the animal level, I mean that it is more permanent, disposes of more energy, and has greater intelligence (THS, p. 235).
Eldils have no corporal needs, i.e. they do not require bread or sleep to support their existence. As the Biblical angels they are immortal and are old as the Universe itself. The similarity of eldils with the biblical angels is also seen in that they live in the interstellar space.
Eldils in That Hideous Strength are bent (fallen, dark) and unfallen. The dark eldils are battled by a special caste of the unfallen or light eldils, who represent the angels of Heaven. The bent eldils are called “oyarsa”; they symbolize Satan forces. In That Hideous Strength Ransom met bent ones from both Venus and Mars, e.g.:
There is no Oyarsa in Heaven who has not got his representative on Earth. And there is no world where you could not meet a little unfallen partner of our own black Archon, a kind of other self. That is why there was an Italian Saturn as well as a Heavenly one, and a Cretan Jove as well as an Olympian. It was these earthly wraiths of the high intelligences that men met in old times when they reported that they had seen the gods (THS, p. 293).
As Taylor Dinerman says, “The identification of angels with planets, and thus with the pagan gods for which they were named, is proof that Lewis was no puritan. He was the product of a typical English (though born in Northern Ireland, he was culturally a complete Englishman) education, dominated by the languages and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. He would have found it hard to look upon Olympian gods as simple abominations. Trying to reconcile his Christian faith with his intellectual training he once wrote, “Monotheism should not be regarded as the rival of polytheism, but rather as its maturity.” The Oyarsa in these novels do not ever pretend to a divine status, they explicitly acknowledge their subordination to Maledil, the Christian God” (Dinerman, 2011, without pagination).
2. That Hideous Strength. To what or to whom does it refer?
In That Hideous Strength, the theme of apocalypses mentioned above concerns not only the physical destruction of the world, but the internal collisions and death. The hideous strength is a force to oppose evil. It is an inner source of great faith that allows the heroes to find the right way – the way to God. One of the N.I.C.E. executors called Frost being in a moment from his end demonstrates the battle between Good and Evil inside his soul. When the plans of N.I.C.E. failed, many of Frost’s colleagues have died horribly. The following passage shows the apocalyptic terror and hideous strength of human soul, even if takes to side of Evil, e.g.:
… walked back into the Objective Room, poured out the petrol and threw a lighted match into the pile. Not till then did his controllers allow him to suspect that death itself might not after all cure the illusion of being a soul – nay, might prove the entry into a world where that illusion raged infinite and unchecked. Escape for the soul, if not for the body, was offered him (THS, p. 333).
Frost was offered to repent. Repentance in Christianity is a way to salvation. As Thomas Watson says, “Repentance is purgative; do not fear the working of this pill. Strike your soul, said Chrysostom; strike it and it will escape death by that stroke. How happy it would be if we were more deeply affected with sin, and our eyes swam in their orb. We may clearly see the Spirit of God moving in the waters of repentance, which though troubled, are yet pure. Moist tears dry up sin and quench the wrath of God. Repentance is the cherisher of piety, the procurer of mercy. The more regret and trouble in spirit we have first at our conversion, the less we shall feel afterwards” (Watson 2011, p. 6).
Despite repentance was a chance for Frost to save himself, he refused it. His hideous strength lies in understanding he was wrong, but he preferred to remain faithful to his nature and beliefs. Thus he doomed himself to eternal tortures without new kingdom of heaven or resurrection after death, e.g.:
He became able to know (and simultaneously refused the knowledge) that he had been wrong from the beginning, that souls and personal responsibility existed. He half saw: he wholly hated. The physical torture of the burning was not fiercer than his hatred of that. With one supreme effort he flung himself back into his illusion. In that attitude eternity overtook him as sunrise in old tales overtakes trolls and turns them into unchangeable stone (THS, p. 333).
The title That Hideous Strength can be appealed to the two-faced nature of N.I.C.E. Satan and his devilish servants dominate over the Earth after a man was expelled from the Garden of Eden. Their long-term existence gave them a hideous strength, because some people went away from God, being ensnared by the devils, e.g.:
The Hideous Strength holds all this Earth in its fist to squeeze as it wishes. But for their one mistake, there would be no hope left. If of their own evil will they had not broken the frontier and let in the celestial Powers, this would be their moment of victory. Their own strength has betrayed them. They have gone to the gods who would not have come to them, and pulled down Deep Heaven on their heads. Therefore, they will die (THS, p. 271).
Since the devils have no physical bodies they are not subjected to aging. Certainly, being out control during thousands of years, they perform their evil deeds and even develop strategies to trick people to have their souls.
That Hideous Strength is a story about skills of Evil to take the mask of Good upon itself. The novel That Hideous Strength was written in 1945. In the novel the true battle is run. The dark eldils (angels) want to conquer the Earth, acting by means of the scientific institute – N.I.C.E. This totalitarian organization is a tool of Evil.
That Hideous Strength is a fantasy with the Christian motives. The author
C. S. Lewis appeals to the Christian images of God, Jesus Christ, Satan, Devils and Angels etc. Also the author mentions the biblical motives of the sin fall of the biblical Adam and Eve and their temptation by the Satan. In That Hideous Strength following after the scientific progress leads to the destruction of the natural course of life. The executors of N.I.C.E. turns out to be the weapon of evil forces, dark eldils. In That Hideous Strength C. S. Lewis does not reject the rationalism and science, but he calls the characters and readers as well to fill the spirituality and morality. The characters of the novel That Hideous Strength obtain victory of the forces of evil. Due to the unbreakable unity of three types of plot, including the rational fantasy, irrational fantasy and mythological conventionalities, C. S. Lewis’ trilogy reveals before the reader the multidimensional world. The reader morally grows with the main characters, feeling themselves as “God’s warriors”. They pass the phases of the growth of human intellect, soul and spirit. Consequently, the traditional problems in C. S. Lewis’ novel are represented in the philosophical sense.
Summarizing the above-said, the trilogy includes the motives of the scientific fantasy, showing what awful and inhuman weapon a science can be in the evil hands.