Out of the Silent Planet

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The Heavens Symbol Analysis

The Heavens Symbol Icon

Over the course of the novel, Lewis’s protagonist Dr. Elwin Ransom encounters many new things on his journey to Malacandra (Mars) that complicate the way he approaches the unfamiliar and the unknown. Through his changing perspective on space itself, Ransom is shown that those things that can seem disturbing at first might prove to be good when Ransom gives them a chance. After seeing the great marvels and beauties of the heavens (space), Ransom decides that the “old thinkers” – referring to philosophers and astronomers in the ancient world who had such reverence for this celestial place – are more accurate in their assessment of what the space is like. Rather than the dark and empty void Ransom expects from the conventional scientific conception of space, Ransom finds that space is actually full of light and life. By his return flight to Earth, Ransom actually hopes to be scattered throughout the heavens when he dies to become a part of that life when he dies, becoming a part of all that vitality rather than remaining chained to a dead rock of a planet.

More than representing Ransom’s changing beliefs about things he originally finds horrifying, Ransom’s journey through the heavens is also the start of his spiritual awakening. While gazing at the heavens, he feels far better and healthier than he ever has on Earth. Dr. Weston and Mr. Devine, Ransom’s more scientifically-minded companions, explain this away as the effect of solar rays on their bodies, but Ransom gives it a more spiritual significance. While on Malacandra, Ransom also learns that the entire heavens are the home of the Old One and Maleldil the Young, Lewis’ analogues for God and Jesus in this fantastic world. Lewis thus inserts the Christian ideal of “heaven” as a paradise where men are perfected. Lewis frames the heavens as the site of religious salvation, aligning this place with the beautiful and peaceful depictions of Christian heaven and the site of all men’s hopes and aspirations for a better world.

The Heavens Quotes in Out of the Silent Planet

The Out of the Silent Planet quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Heavens. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of Out of the Silent Planet published in 2003.
Chapter 5 Quotes

He had read of “Space”: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now—now that the very name “Space” seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. He could not call it “dead”; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean the worlds and all their life had come? ... No: space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens—the heavens which declared the glory…

Related Characters: Lewis (The Narrator) (speaker), Dr. Elwin Ransom
Related Symbols: The Heavens
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

As Ransom gets to know the true beauty of space, he is no longer able to demean this wonderful place by considering it in coldly scientific terms. Where he expected to find nothing but silence, darkness, and death, Ransom finds that space is actually the source of all life itself. His initial fear of this unknown place turns to joy as he reconsiders the marvelous celestial bodies. Lewis frames this in specifically Christian terms, renaming space “the heavens” and tapping in to the notion of heaven as the home of God, the creator of the universe according to Christian thought. Lewis also subtly quotes the Bible, not finishing the phrase “the heaven which declared the glory” with “of God,” as it is found in Psalm 19 in the Bible. This is another example of how Lewis uses Christian ideas throughout the novel, but does not make them explicit. The references are readily available in the text for those who would like to look for them, but not so transparent as to put off readers who would rather not engage with this religious content. Just as Ransom finds the heavens to be wonderful, despite his preconceived notions, Lewis hopes that his readers will see the amazing acts of God – such as creating these heavens – in a new light.

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Chapter 21 Quotes

He could not feel that they were an island of life journeying through an abyss of death. He felt almost the opposite—that life was waiting outside the little iron egg-shell in which they rode, ready at any moment to break in, and that, if it killed them, it would kill them by excess of its vitality. He hoped passionately that if they were to perish they would perish by the "unbodying" of the space-ship and not by suffocation within it. To be let out, to be free, to dissolve into the ocean of eternal noon, seemed to him at certain moments a consummation even more desirable than their return to Earth.

Related Characters: Lewis (The Narrator) (speaker), Dr. Elwin Ransom
Related Symbols: The Heavens
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

On the trip back to Earth, Ransom prays that he will not die by suffocation in the space ship due to lack of oxygen, but that Oyarsa’s promise to magically destroy the space ship after 90 days will catch them still in space and allow Ransom to die in the freedom of the heavens. Rather than fearing space, which he used to consider a blank, empty void, Ransom now feels how the heavens connect the whole universe. Ransom has embraced the communal nature of life on Malacandra, in which the inhabitants of the planet are in communication with the spiritual beings that live in the heavens and with the ultimate rulers of the universe. Ransom too wants to join that society, rather than remaining cut off from everything in the “iron egg-shell” of the spaceship. This feeling also applies to life on the planets. While Ransom had previously considered Earth the only bright spot in an otherwise dead universe, he now sees that Earth is the silent planet – the one place outside of the true vitality of the universe. As Ransom changes his perspective, he embraces the more meaningful life of joining with the heavens, no longer selfishly trying to control his own fate.

Chapter 22 Quotes

It was Dr. Ransom who first saw that our only chance was to publish in the form of fiction what would certainly not be listened to as fact… "what we need for the moment is not so much a body of belief as a body of people familiarized with certain ideas. If we could even effect in one per cent of our readers a change-over from the conception of Space to the conception of Heaven, we should have made a beginning."

Related Characters: Lewis (The Narrator) (speaker), Dr. Elwin Ransom
Related Symbols: The Heavens
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

When Ransom returns to Earth after his adventure on Malacandra, he becomes partners with a fictionalized version of Lewis himself in order to publish this experience as a science fiction novel and educate the public about the things he learned on Malacandra in a subtle way. In doing so, Lewis (the author) reveals his real goal for Out of the Silent Planet. Just as Ransom hopes to offer the fictional England a way to find out about Oyarsa and the Bent One so that they are aware of what the universe is really like, Lewis attempts to plant the seed of Christian theology in his readers. Changing the public opinion of Christianity, which Lewis believes is seen as a relic of a by-gone era in modern England, does not happen by instructing people with boring sermons or hounding them with exhortations to change their behavior. Lewis does not give people the facts and condemn them to hell if they do not believe, but he instead appeals to their emotions and their imaginations by specifically hiding the truth of Christian faith in a fictional novel. Lewis wants to show his readers the wonders that Christianity has brought to his life, such as replacing the depressing vision of space as an empty void with a new idea of Heaven as the source of all life. Ransom was able to change his mind through the journey to Malacandra, while Lewis lays the groundwork for his readers to accept Christianity after seeing it through the fantastic lens of a science fiction novel.

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The Heavens Symbol Timeline in Out of the Silent Planet

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Heavens appears in Out of the Silent Planet. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
...afraid of space, Ransom finds that he can’t feel anything but wonderful while meditating on the gorgeous views outside the ship. All the planets, constellations, and meteorites in the heavens are... (full context)
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
Ransom eventually rejects the modern scientific image of space as a cold, empty void. It seems blasphemous to him... (full context)
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Civilization and Utopia Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
Ransom creeps back to his room, dreading the descent from the heavens to face becoming a human sacrifice for the horrible monster that... (full context)
Chapter 6
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
Ransom mourns the loss of the heavenly light as they enter Malacandra’s atmosphere. Ransom realizes that he can... (full context)
Chapter 9
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
Ransom gets startled when a large multitude of yellow shapes appears around the next group of trees. They are tall, furry, and somewhat giraffe-like, and blink lazily while... (full context)
Chapter 11
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Civilization and Utopia Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
Ransom assumes that Oyarsa is the god who created the world, but the hrossa gathered around him laugh and tell him... (full context)
Chapter 15
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
Ransom asks Augray if the sorn rule the hrossa. Augray answers that Oyarsa rules all the “hnau” of Malacandra, and... (full context)
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Civilization and Utopia Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
...meet a visitor from a planet with no oyarsa. Ransom is confused. Augray explains that there is an oyarsa for each planet except Thulcandra (Earth), and that they live in the... (full context)
Chapter 16
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Civilization and Utopia Theme Icon
Despite the odd, cat-like gait of the sorn, Ransom finds the journey very comfortable - even fun.... (full context)
Chapter 18
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
Oyarsa tells Ransom that he was the one who sent the sorns that met Ransom his first day on Malacandra, as well... (full context)
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
Oyarsa explains that Earth was not always cut off from the heavens, but that the oyarsa of Earth became “bent” many years ago and tried to... (full context)
Chapter 19
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Civilization and Utopia Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
The hrossa in the stone circle all begin to sing, and Ransom is finally able to appreciate the strange... (full context)
Chapter 21
Christian Imagery and Thought  Theme Icon
Civilization and Utopia Theme Icon
Human Nature and Morality Theme Icon
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
As the days of oxygen tick down, Ransom hopes that they will be killed by the disappearance... (full context)