Perelandra

by

C. S. Lewis

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Perelandra: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Ransom wakes alone, to calm seas. As he walks peacefully along the beach, he suddenly comes upon a horrifying sight: a brightly colored, froglike creature has been injured. Its back has been torn open, and its legs are damaged so badly that it can no longer hop. It’s the first time Ransom has witnessed any suffering on Perelandra, and it shocks him. He is filled with pity and also with a feeling of shame.
Ransom’s sense of hope is shown to be premature—a creature has been cruelly injured, marring the incorruption of Perelandra. Though it’s not yet clear what has caused the frog’s injuries, it’s reasonable to assume Weston has something to do with it. Such suffering entails a loss of innocence, no matter its cause.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ransom feels that the creature must be put out of its misery, but the task takes longer than anticipated and sickens him. But as he finally continues his walk, he realizes that more mutilated frogs are littering the ground—dozens of them. Then he sees Weston, matter-of-factly cutting open frogs with his sharp nails. When they look at each other, Ransom is frightened by the dead look in Weston’s eyes. He realizes that some other life form is occupying Weston’s body, but it isn’t Weston himself.
The ordeal of the mutilated frog becomes a nightmare as Ransom finds that Weston is indeed responsible for this wanton cruelty against Perelandra’s innocent creatures. With this Ransom finally realizes what he had previously only suspected: that Weston is being controlled by a diabolical force.
Themes
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Whatever it is, the figure that looks like Weston smiles at Ransom. Though Ransom has seen a “devilish” smile before, this is something different. It’s not merely wicked, but it invites Ransom unashamedly into its own world—“it did not defy goodness, it ignored it,” transcending simple vice. Ransom faints. As he revives, he realizes he has seen a hint of the “Miserific Vision,” the tormenting vision of hell.
Lewis coins the term “Miserific Vision” to convey the opposite of the “Beatific Vision,” the Christian concept of seeing the face of God in heaven, a sight which gives eternal joy. By contrast, the very sight of Satan bestows torment, and a mere glimpse of Satan’s servant in the person of Weston overpowers Ransom.
Themes
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
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Weston, or the thing that looks like Weston, is gone, so Ransom goes in search of it. He’s shaking, and he doesn’t know what to do when he finds it, but he doesn’t want it to find the Lady—he now knows that some demonic or even satanic being has invaded Perelandra through Weston. After hours of walking, he sees two figures on the horizon. As he draws near, Ransom is surprised that the Lady doesn’t turn to acknowledge his presence.
Ransom’s visit to Perelandra has transformed from a paradise to a hellish quest as he tries to thwart Weston—or the being operating through Weston—from wreaking further damage to the planet.
Themes
Fear, Adventure, and Will Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
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The Lady is telling Weston’s body that she doesn’t mind the idea of stories or poetry about things that don’t exist. Rather, she resists the particular story he’s telling her—one about living on the Fixed Land. The Lady says that a story about living on the Fixed Land cannot, at the same time, be a story about Maleldil. If it were, it would mean that Maleldil had altered his command concerning the Fixed Land, or else it would mean living there against Maleldil’s will. Neither option makes sense, and she sees no point in such a story.
From this exchange, it’s clear that the matter of fictional stories is not itself the problem; these are not wrong in and of themselves. Because the Lady’s will is aligned with Maleldil’s, she can’t conceive of a story about living on the Fixed Land that neither questions Maleldil’s character nor involves disobedience to him. Neither of these holds any appeal to the Lady in her innocence.
Themes
Fear, Adventure, and Will Theme Icon
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Weston’s body says that the point is to make the Lady “older,” or wiser. He claims this is how earthly women have become great and beautiful. Ransom interjects, urging the Lady not to listen to this. When the Lady finally looks at Ransom, he sees a “hint of something precarious” in her expression. Ransom also realizes that the Lady has never held a conversation with multiple speakers before—that’s why she didn’t seem to notice him at first.
The hint of precariousness is a reminder that the Lady isn’t inevitably, unchangeably innocent. In other words, even if she remains innocent for now, that doesn’t mean that Weston’s words are having no effect. It is possible for her to step aside from Maleldil’s will.
Themes
Fear, Adventure, and Will Theme Icon
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
While Ransom is struggling with how to explain the idea of “bad” or “evil” to the Lady, Weston’s voice jumps in, arguing that Ransom’s goal is to keep the Lady from getting any older. He says that Ransom “always shrinks back from the wave that is coming” and would prefer to “bring back the wave that is past.” He further claims that Ransom wishes to return to the world before Maleldil became a man. Ransom, he concludes, is what’s called “Bad”—one who “rejects the fruit he is given for the sake of the fruit he expected.”
Weston’s body uses the Lady’s ignorance of humanity’s fall to his advantage. Ransom resists Weston’s reasoning because he knows that on earth, such temptation as Weston is using ultimately led to sin. Weston, however, twists Ransom’s words in order to pretend that Ransom is just fearful of new knowledge. He also twists the very idea of wickedness by using the Lady’s innocence of true evil to his advantage.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
The Lady replies that, in that case, they must simply make Ransom older. She asks Weston’s body if he will teach her “Death,” and he replies that he’s come for the purpose of giving her “death in abundance.” But to receive death, she must be courageous. The Lady is intrigued by his words, asking Weston to continue making her older. Ransom cuts in, imploring the Lady to let Maleldil maker her older in the way and timing that He chooses.
The phrase “death in abundance” is a pointed reference to the New Testament’s Gospel of John, in which Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life […] more abundantly.” Falling into sin through temptation would lead to death, though the Lady doesn’t know what this means and remains ignorant of the danger.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ignoring Ransom, Weston assures the Lady that Maleldil wants her to learn not directly from His own voice, but from Weston’s—allowing her to become her own person. But Ransom, he says, is trying to hold the Lady back from this. To wait on Maleldil, instead of walking on one’s own when Maleldil wishes it, would be a form of disobedience—meaning that certain kinds of obeying are actually disobedient. The Lady compares this to what would happen if she chased an animal for fun and the animal allowed her to catch it.
Weston continues to twist the idea of disobedience by making it seem a convoluted form of pleasing Maleldil, which Weston knows the Lady still desires more than anything else. The Lady’s continued innocence is shown in the fact that she can conceive of no worse “disobedience” than a playful game being thwarted.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Building on this, Weston’s body asks whether perhaps Maleldil doesn’t always want to be obeyed. He suggests that the Lady’s growing older won’t be complete unless she seems, at some point, to disobey Maleldil by doing what Maleldil merely seems to forbid. This kind of “branching out,” Weston argues, is what Maleldil really desires. However, after thinking about this, the Lady objects that one can’t step outside of Maleldil’s will without stepping into something that can’t be desired: “to walk out of His will is to walk into nowhere.”
Weston continues to exemplify the biblical serpent’s question, “Did God actually say…?” He correctly perceives that he’ll get nowhere with the Lady unless he makes disobedience look like a form of obedience. But the Lady still can’t picture a world in which she walks apart from Maleldil.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Weston’s body continues arguing that this particular command—not to live on the Fixed Island—is an exception. After all, the Lady cannot see any obvious goodness in the command. And Maleldil wouldn’t forbid something just for the sake of forbidding, would He? The command only exists to be broken. It’s a test—an expression of Maleldil’s longing to see something besides His own image in His creatures. Maleldil can’t tell the Lady this directly, though, because then the Lady wouldn’t be acting out of her own reason and courage.
Weston tries another line of attack, suggesting that Maleldil’s command simply doesn’t make sense, and that Maleldil expects the Lady to show initiative by rejecting it on those grounds.
Themes
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Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
When Ransom interrupts again, the Lady agrees to hear him out. Ransom argues that Maleldil has established such a law out of love—because He desires obedience for its own sake, and not just because something seems good to the creature, too. The Lady is delighted by this thought and is surprised that Weston is so “young” that he doesn’t know this. At this, Weston speaks up to say that he is in fact older than Ransom by far—he has even been with Maleldil in Deep Heaven. Ransom cannot deny this, though it makes him shudder.
Ransom still has the upper hand with the Lady, in that he successfully appeals to love for Maleldil—something that the Lady instinctively understands. Meanwhile, the spirit inhabiting Weston’s body openly admits its demonic origins for the first time.
Themes
Exploration, Wonder, and God’s Plan Theme Icon
Fear, Adventure, and Will Theme Icon
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Weston continues that, although the Lady’s deepest will is currently to obey Maleldil, only the great and courageous venture beyond this, into a deeper, harder life. Ransom warns the Lady that all this has been tried before in his own world—the first woman of Earth listened to such claims and did what Maleldil had forbidden, but it did not make life more joyful, only more difficult. Weston’s voice argues that while life may have become harder, it also became more glorious, and those who excelled in knowledge became more beautiful and beloved. But at this, the Lady suddenly yawns, saying she wants to go to sleep.
Weston now argues that there’s something better than obeying Maleldil, but he makes a critical mistake—assuming that the Lady will find the idea of greater beauty and attractiveness to be appealing. The idea seems rather to bore her. She is still more interested in what Maleldil wants from her than in being desirable to other creatures.
Themes
Innocence and Incorruption Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Related Quotes
First, however, Weston tells the Lady that if it weren’t for this original disobedience, Maleldil would never have come to earth and become man. Though momentarily shaken, Ransom agrees with this. Maleldil, after all, can make good out of anything. But the original good He intended has been lost forever; the first disobedience was not good in itself, and it brought great harm.
Christian teaching is that God became incarnate in Jesus Christ in order to save humanity from their sins. Therefore, if it weren’t for human sin, then the incarnation would not have occurred. In other words, Weston tells a partial truth—disobedience indirectly brought about a greater good; yet that doesn’t mean disobedience is itself good.
Themes
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Ransom turns to Weston and asks if he is happy that Maleldil became a human being. What happened when he “made Maleldil and death acquainted?” At this, Weston’s body gives a great howl. The Lady is unfazed by this and lies down to sleep. Weston’s body sits down near the Lady; it moves in an unnatural way that makes Ransom think of it as “the Un-man.” He realizes he must keep watch over the Lady for as long as the Un-man remains here.
Here, Ransom briefly gains the upper hand. He attacks Weston by reminding him that after Christ died, he soon conquered death by rising again, overcoming sin and Satan in the process. This defeat is still keenly felt.
Themes
Exploration, Wonder, and God’s Plan Theme Icon
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
After hours of sitting silently, the Un-man speaks: “Ransom,” it says. When Ransom asks what it wants, it replies, “Nothing.” It then proceeds to call Ransom’s name again—and again, every minute, until it has said “Ransom!” a hundred times. But each time Ransom responds, the Un-man simply says, “Nothing.” In this way he torments Ransom all night long, nagging him in an almost childish, petty manner.
Earlier, Ransom had gotten a taste of the pettiness which can be exhibited by pure evil. Now, the Un-man uses this to its advantage, trying to wear Weston down. At the same time, this suggests that Ransom, by pointing out God’s ultimate victory over Satan, has struck a real blow.
Themes
Temptation and the Nature of Evil Theme Icon
Related Quotes