The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Lewis’ space trilogy is populated with many memorable characters. The eldila are among the most delightful and intriguing aliens ever created for science fiction and fantasy, and Lewis’ villains, Weston and Devine, convincingly embody a thoroughly diabolical nature. Ransom, the protagonist in Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, is Lewis’ most fully developed character. Though he steps to the background in That Hideous Strength, he emerges later in the narrative as a catalyst in the plot’s final resolution.

Ransom’s very name indicates the source and power of his mission: He ransoms and redeems individuals and whole races in his battle against the forces of evil. His role is most clearly focused in his battle with the Un-man on Perelandra; like the deliverer prophesied in the third chapter of Book of Genesis, he succeeds in “bruising” the “Bent One’s” head, while suffering a bitten heel. Ransom’s injured heel comes to symbolize his preparedness for his advisory role in the climactic confrontation in That Hideous Strength when N.I.C.E. is finally destroyed.

Lewis’ other characters are generally less developed, serving primarily to further the themes he wishes the plot to explore. Mark and Jane Studdock, for example, lack the depth that Ransom and even the Oyarsa of Malacandra evince. The one exception to this generalization may be the Green Lady of Perelandra. Here Lewis takes on the difficult task of depicting a character who has been given knowledge of good and evil without experiencing the Fall. Lewis’ most successful effort, within the constraints of science-fiction writing, is commendable and is one of his more significant achievements.