Out of the Silent Planet

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Out of the Silent Planet Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis, one of the most famous Christian authors of the 20th century, was born in Belfast, Ireland and grew up fascinated by animals and fairy tales. After years of English boarding school and the death of his mother from cancer, Lewis abandoned the Christian faith of his family and became interested in mythology. He became a poet and focused on classic epic poetry from the Greek and Norse traditions, then won a scholarship to University College, Oxford. At Oxford, Lewis began a friendship with the writer J.R.R. Tolkien (the author of The Lord of the Rings) who eventually led Lewis back to his Christian faith in 1931. Lewis then became a staunch defender of Christian theology, writing many essays, books, and radio broadcasts that outlined the rational and emotional reasons that mankind needs Christian belief. Many of these essays and broadcasts were anthologized in Lewis’s most famous non-fiction work, Mere Christianity. Lewis also wrote several fictional novels that display the themes of mankind’s sin and need for divine grace, including the Space Trilogy (of which Out of the Silent Planet is the first book) and his most famous works, the seven Chronicles of Narnia novels for children. The Chronicles of Narnia, written between 1949 and 1954, have become a classic of children’s literature for their whimsical characters and fantastic adventures, but also for their accessible and interesting introduction to the basic tenants and theology of Christianity. Lewis remained a vocal and influential scholar and Christian apologist for the rest of his life, keeping a connection to Oxford and a post at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was married to the American writer Joy Davidman for four years before her death in 1960. Lewis continued to help raise Joy’s two sons, Douglas and David, before his own health failed and he died of renal failure in 1963. His books are still widely read today, and have been translated into many languages.
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Historical Context of Out of the Silent Planet

Lewis wrote Out of the Silent Planet as a response to what he saw as a “dehumanization” of science fiction. Through a conversation with the author J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis decided that he would write a romantic “space travel” novel while adding in the aspects of morality and universal humanity that he felt science fiction had lost. The novel is also steeped in the traditions of English academia, referring to the dons of Oxford, and arguing against the rise of secularization among the scientific community in England. Lewis saw himself as uniquely suited to reach out to those who had abandoned religions and Christian faith in England, himself struggling with questions of atheism after his experience in World War I. Many who fought in WWI suffered a loss of optimism and became known as “The Lost Generation” for their new search for meaning in a world that suddenly seemed much less clear or good than previous generations believed. Church attendance in Great Britain declined somewhat during this time, as clergy were unable to provide adequate explanation for the senseless horrors of the war. Lewis then attempts to offer a new way to think about the Christian religion for those who were disillusioned by their experience with the church over the course of this time.

Other Books Related to Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet includes the traditional elements of a science fiction novel, as Lewis pays homage to the novels of H.G. Wells such as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, which describe alien species and fantastic journeys to places outside of Earth. The novel also shares aspects of J.R.R. Tolkien’s and G.K. Chesterton’s work in its references and allusions to Christian thought via a fantasy or science fiction universe.
Key Facts about Out of the Silent Planet
  • Full Title: Out of the Silent Planet
  • Where Written: Oxford, England
  • When Published: 1938, by John Bane, The Bodley Head. 1943, MacMillan.
  • Literary Period: Modern
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Philosophy
  • Setting: England, Earth; Malacandra (Mars)
  • Climax: Ransom goes to meet the Oyarsa and finds out about the “bent” history of Earth, then decides to spread that message on Earth rather than siding with Weston and Devine about the exploitation of Malacandra.
  • Antagonist: Humanity’s bent nature, Weston, Devine
  • Point of View: 3rd Person Omniscient, then 1st person limited

Extra Credit for Out of the Silent Planet

Further adventures. Out of the Silent Planet is followed by two other novels to make up the Space Trilogy. Perelandra and That Hideous Strength follow Ransom as he continues to learn more about the religion of Maleldil and take on a more philosophical nature than the space adventure that comprises much of this first novel.

Background work. The language of the hrossa species on Mars that Ransom loves so much is revealed in the further books to be “Old Solar,” the language shared by all sentient creatures in the universe before the fall and isolation of mankind. Lewis thoroughly outlined the language and created an entire grammar system, though it is not fully explained in his books.