Ransom is sure that the Lady’s resistance will be worn down eventually. He wonders why Maleldil doesn’t intervene to work a miracle. Yet even as he wonders this, he perceives that fullness in the atmosphere which signals Maleldil’s presence. As “blasphemous” as it seems, he realizes that he is Maleldil’s representative. In other words, his coming to Perelandra at this time is itself a miracle.
Ransom knows some kind of intervention is needed to stop Weston’s relentless temptation. He thinks it presumptuous to take this role, assuming it requires a miracle, but at last realizes this is exactly why he’s been brought to Perelandra.
Ransom wonders what else he can possibly do to stop the Un-man—his arguments have failed over and over. He comforts himself with the belief that as long as he does his best, Maleldil will work out the final result—Perelandra’s fate, in other words, is in God’s hands. But just as quickly, Maleldil’s presence weighs on him again, and he knows he’s making excuses. “God’s hands” means himself and the Green Lady; the planet’s fate rests on their behavior. Even though this seems deeply unfair to Ransom, he remembers that, at this very moment, young men on Earth are fighting and dying in a war.
At first, Ransom assumes that his defeat of the Un-man will involve logic and argument. As an academic, that’s where he typically shines. But this is an example of Ransom’s own remark to Lewis at the beginning of the novel—God’s choice of someone for a task isn’t necessarily for an obvious reason. Ransom realizes that, for whatever reason, God has appointed him to defeat Weston by other means, no matter how ill-equipped he feels. This passage also reminds readers that World War II is still raging on—both in the world of the novel and in the real world at the time Lewis was writing.
It suddenly occurs to Ransom that he might be called upon to physically fight the Un-man, which perhaps terrifies him more than anything. Briefly, he tells himself that any such fight would “degrade the spiritual warfare” of the situation, but just as quickly, he reconsiders. He knows that whatever the conflict involves here on Perelandra, it might be of the character that people on Earth would call “mythological.”
Again, Ransom’s earlier arguments to Lewis are thrown back in his face. He’d teased Lewis for describing the warfare in overly spiritual terms, but that’s exactly what he’s tempted to do here, shrinking from a literal fight as somehow unsuitable. But that sense of mythic literalness—which he’d first noticed when he met the dragon upon arriving on Perelandra—is still in play.
As Ransom continues to engage in mental arguments, the Presence silently waits. Ransom realizes that the story of the Incarnation is far more complicated than he knew. One of its purposes was the future salvation of Perelandra—and somehow, he was the person chosen through whom Maleldil would do the saving. Looked at from this perspective, Earth is not the center of the universe but merely a preparation for what would later take place on Perelandra.
Here, Ransom adjusts his perspective. Unlike Weston, who sees humanity as rightfully dominant, Ransom realizes that though Earth’s inhabitants play a crucial role, they aren’t the center of Maleldil’s work in the universe as a whole.
Already, what’s happened on Perelandra is different from what happened on Earth. For one thing, unlike Eve, the Lady has so far resisted temptation. Here, it seems, Maleldil envisions an altogether different story—one in which it’s up to Ransom to put an end to the Un-man’s relentless assaults. Ransom keeps looking to Genesis for clues, but Maleldil seems to keep drawing him back to the present.
Despite his adjustment in perspective, Ransom keeps reverting to the reference points he’s familiar with, like the biblical story of humanity’s fall and redemption. But Perelandra’s fate isn’t simply a recapitulation of what happened on Earth.
Ransom wonders how a middle-aged scholar like himself could possibly defeat an immortal enemy. He figures that Weston’s body is the Enemy’s foothold in Perelandra, and if that body is destroyed, then the Enemy will be expelled. The thought is still horrifying—Weston has never won a physical fight in his life—but he supposes it’s a winnable match. He wishes Maleldil would offer him some assurance, but he doesn’t.
This is an example of an occasion when Ransom must act faithfully despite his fear and distaste for the task at hand. Maleldil does not promise him that things will work out as he hopes. He has to trust Maleldil and act anyway.
The Voice of Maleldil tells him, “It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom.” Though this seems like a mere pun to Ransom—whose name derives from “Ranolf’s son”—he realizes that it’s not an accidental resemblance at all. In fact, he’s caught up in a larger pattern in which there’s no meaningful distinction between “accident” and “design.” The Voice adds, “My name also is Ransom.”
Ransom’s point is that everything is part of a greater plan, with small, seemingly coincidental things—like his surname—reflecting a much bigger reality. The New Testament sometimes refers to Christ’s death as a ransom, or payment, for humanity’s sin. In some way, Ransom’s role on Perelandra identifies him with Christ.
Ransom comes to understand that, if he fails in his task, Maleldil will redeem Perelandra in some other way. Yet it won’t happen exactly as it did on Earth; Maleldil doesn’t repeat things. Before, Ransom had merely felt like Peter; now he feels like Pilate.
Even if Ransom fails, evil won’t ultimately win. But that’s not a safety net for Ransom. He’d felt like Jesus’s disciple Peter who denied knowing Jesus multiple times and was forgive, but now he feels like the Roman governor Pontius Pilate who condemned Christ to death, which is a much heavier burden.
Ransom feels no reassurance from Maleldil to relieve him of this thought. Yet, gradually—even as he feels “psychologically incapable” of facing what must be done—he feels an objective certainty that, by this time tomorrow, he will have accomplished what seems impossible. Ransom no longer asks “Why me?” He knows it might as well be him as anyone else. Following Maleldil’s direction, he retreats into the woods to sleep.
Again, fear remains a heavy burden, yet it’s not an obstacle to genuine faith—Ransom obeys Maleldil despite his fear and his inability to know exactly how things will work out. He also overcomes his preoccupation with self in order to trust Maleldil’s will. In the novel, this is the essence of faith.