That Hideous Strength Review
With themes including morality, marriage, Christianity, faith, love, and obedience, That Hideous Strength is a good, deep read as a stand-alone book, and a worthy conclusion to Lewis’s Space Trilogy. The themes follow closely those of the first two books and the fantastical element remain, though is this volume they are not as easy to see, being overshadowed by an earthly war and interpersonal relationships. However, there is some magic and an appearance by a mythical member of King Arthur’s court.
The novel, as the final book in a trilogy, follows an earlier character, Dr. Ransom (though it is not apparent for some time that it is Ransom we’re observing), as he tries to repel the forces of evil with help from a group of friends. These friends include a man named Mark Studdock, who appears to be the central character for much of the book, Mark’s wife, Jane, the Dimbles, the Dennistons, Mrs. Maggs, and Grace Ironwood. Some of these have lost their homes due to the war and all have come to dwell together at a place called Belbury. The evil is another vestige of the earlier books and comes in the form of beings known as bad eldils (which are taken to be devils). These eldils now control certain aspects of earth, including a technocratic organization known as the N.I.C.E. (National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments). I am not sure if this was a direct reference to Nazi experimentation in WWII, but it is worth noting that Hitler and his subordinates were obsessed with technology, improving the human race, human experimentation, and the occult. The correlation, to me, seems obvious, especially when one considers that this book was published in 1945, and written during the period of that war. The aim of the N.I.C.E. is to reeducate man, with its end goal being to eradicate most of humankind and rid the world of all organic life. The N.I.C.E. slowly takes over local government and, from Belbury, enacts a diabolical plan to bring about its goals. Dr. Ransom, with his band of friends and followers, tries to thwart this plan from the manor at St. Anne’s. Dr. Ransom is in contact with celestial eldils (which are taken to be angels), whom he has met in the previous books of the Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. The celestial eldils know of the N.I.C.E.’s true plans, and who’s behind these plans, and they want Dr. Ransom to help stop the calamity.
Also, there’s a bear called Mr. Bultitude. I think this bear serves two purposes. 1) He exists to demonstrate that Man (personified as Ransom) as regained mastery and dominion over beasts and 2) To help exemplify the confusion of languages between people (as shown through philosophical discussion and many misunderstandings throughout the novel) and the world in which people dwell. That confusion of language brought about after the Tower of Babel incident in the eleventh chapter of Genesis, as referred to in the couplet I “The shadow of that hyddeous strength, sax myle and more it is of length” in a poem by David Lyndsay, known as The Monarche.