As his human characters explore the alien world of Malacandra, Lewis explores the ways in which humankind can either accept things that are different, or lash out in fear of the unknown. While recognizing that discomfort at what is strange is a natural feature of mankind’s animal biology – stemming from the instinct to be careful and keep oneself alive – Lewis argues that life is made more fulfilling and meaningful when humans are able to overcome their fear and react more positively to new situations.
Though the human characters must face the unknown at every turn in Malacandra, Lewis also uses these situations to explore the larger implications of how humankind on Earth should react to new circumstances or people who are different from themselves. When Dr. Weston and Mr. Devine, the Englishmen who first start the expeditions to Mars (called Malacandra in the language of the planet), arrive on Malacandrian soil, they are so terrified of everything there that they cannot see all the beauty that Malacandra has to offer. Their fear then creates more problems for themselves and others, both keeping them from experiencing the wonders of Malacandrian life and embroiling their fellow human Dr. Ransom in a plot to offer a human sacrifice to appease the alien sorns—which Weston and Devine believe are hostile. Likewise, Lewis suggests that humans often become distracted by their own fears and do not appreciate the good things in a new situation. They can even make things worse for themselves and others by becoming intolerant of those who are different, as Lewis compares his characters’ hatred of alien species to the human history of hating cultures that are foreign to their own.
After condemning the trouble that fear brings, Lewis advocates for acceptance and honest communication with those who are different. Ransom lives this out through his gradual movement from distrust to affection for the new beings that he meets on Malacandra. To that end, Lewis shows how Ransom too wishes to stay in his comfort zone at first, but eventually his curiosity wins out and enables him to move past his fear. Ransom is at first terrified of all the species he sees on Malacandra, expecting the sorns to be cold in their super-human intelligence and another species, the hrossa, to be ferocious after seeing their animal-like features. Yet when Ransom is able to make friends with a hross named Hyoi and a sorn named Augray and open his mind to their place as fellow rational beings, he finds that they are kind, generous beings who only want to help him. Ransom even becomes empathetic to the species of Malacandra, despite their odd appearances, and feels more affinity for these good-hearted beings than for his fearful fellow humans by the end of his time on Malacandra. Lewis shows how Ransom appreciates the strengths of these new cultures, comparing him to people in the real world who are able to embrace those who might seem foreign or strange. At the end of the novel, Lewis upholds the Malacandrians as good for welcoming the humans to their planet and condemns the humans Dr. Weston and Mr. Devine as evil for repaying that kindness by killing hrossa and threatening the Malacandrians. In doing so, Lewis suggests that the unfamiliar is not always scary or bad, and that those who are able to accept new things rather than fear the unknown are better able to meet new circumstances well and avoid causing pain for everyone. Ransom uses this lesson to find his purpose in a world full of potentially frightening, yet also thrilling experiences.
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown ThemeTracker
Acceptance and Curiosity vs. Fear of the Unknown Quotes in Out of the Silent Planet
Ransom was by now thoroughly frightened—not with the prosaic fright that a man suffers in a war, but with a heady, bounding kind of fear that was hardly distinguishable from his general excitement: he was poised on a sort of emotional watershed from which, he felt, he might at any moment pass into delirious terror or into an ecstasy of joy.
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…
The sorns would be . . . would be . . . he dared not think what the sorns would be. And he was to be given to them. Somehow this seemed more horrible than being caught by them. Given, handed over, offered. He saw in imagination various incompatible monstrosities—bulbous eyes, grinning jaws, horns, stings, mandibles…
But the reality would be worse: it would be an extra-terrestrial Otherness—something one had never thought of, never could have thought of.
The creature was talking. It had a language. If you are not yourself a philologist, I am afraid you must take on trust the prodigious emotional consequences of this realization in Ransom's mind. A new world he had already seen—but a new, an extra-terrestrial, a non-human language was a different matter. Somehow, he had not thought of this in connection with the sorns; now, it flashed upon him like a revelation. The love of knowledge is a kind of madness. In the fraction of a second which it took Ransom to decide that the creature was really talking, and while he still knew that he might be facing instant death, his imagination had leaped over every fear and hope and probability of his situation to follow the dazzling project of making a Malacandrian grammar.
I will tell you a day in my life that has shaped me; such a day as comes only once, like love, or serving Oyarsa in Meldilorn. Then I was young, not much more than a cub, when I went far, far up the handramit to the land where stars shine at midday and even water is cold. A great waterfall I climbed…Because I have stood there alone, Maleldil and I, for even Oyarsa sent me no word, my heart has been higher, my song deeper, all my days. But do you think it would have been so unless I had known that in Balki hneraki dwelled? There I drank life because death was in the pool.
He was one with them. That difficulty which they, accustomed to more than one rational species, had perhaps never felt, was now overcome. They were all hnau. They had stood shoulder to shoulder in the face of an enemy, and the shapes of their heads no longer mattered. And he, even Ransom, had come through it and not been disgraced. He had grown up.
They thought I wanted one of your race to eat and went to fetch one. If they had come a few miles to see me I would have received them honourably; now they have twice gone a voyage of millions of miles for nothing and will appear before me none the less. And you also, Ransom of Thulcandra, you have taken many vain troubles to avoid standing where you stand now.
Through his knowledge of the creatures and his love for them he began, ever so little, to hear it with their ears. A sense of great masses moving at visionary speeds, of giants dancing, of eternal sorrows eternally consoled, of he knew not what and yet what he had always known, awoke in him with the very first bars of the deep-mouthed dirge, and bowed down his spirit as if the gate of heaven had opened before him.
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.