Out of the Silent Planet Analysis
by C. S. Lewis

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Out of the Silent Planet Analysis

  • On Malacandra, three races live in perfect harmony under the rule of the benevolent spirit Oyarsa. Lewis contrasts the happiness on Malacandra with the turmoil on Thulcandra, or Earth, where racism has led to widespread discord.
  • The novel employs many common science fiction tropes, such as space travel, the discovery of extraterrestrial life, and language barriers between aliens and humans. Malacandran society may seem simplistic in its harmony, but it contrasts with the evil on Earth.
  • The inhabitants of Malacandra share a common language, which allows for harmonious interactions between residents, emphasizing the power of language and communication in promoting peace.

Analysis

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

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Setting

Thulcandra

Thulcandra. Martian name for Earth, meaning “Silent Planet,” where the narrative begins and ends. Ransom, a Cambridge philologist, is a solitary bachelor starting out on a walking tour, savoring the charms of his native England. Like a classic epic, this tale begins and ends on the native green. Before Ransom has gone far, he is hijacked to Mars by two villains he knows. While on his adventure, Ransom discovers that Thulcandra is presided over by a perverted Oyarsa (demoniac being), who has revolted against Maleldil the Younger (Christ), and therefore has been placed under planetary quarantine. Though Ransom clearly sees why the universe must be protected from the poisonous practices of Earth, when given the opportunity, he does not hesitate to return home.

Decades before the first photos of Earth from space were made, Lewis provided a vivid and accurate description of the planet as seen from Mars. Even as he views that radiant agate ball hanging in the sky, Ransom nostalgically tries to spot England and thinks of the tiny plot where he left his backpack.

Malacandra (Mars)

Malacandra (Mars). Martian name for their own planet. While epic adventures, such as the hnakra (vicious monster) hunt take place, suggesting that not all is paradisiacal on this planet, Ransom discovers that three intelligent species live here in harmony, with a neat division of tasks. These are the intellectual sorns, the artisan pfifltriggi, and the hrossa, skilled in navigation and agriculture. By allowing Ransom to anatomize Malacandrian culture in the manner of an anthropologist, Lewis is able to make, by implication, further comments on the failings of human societies, always competitive and suspicious. For example, Ransom learns that not all hrossa are alike; they exist in different colors, a treasured diversity.

Lewis has sometimes been criticized for his scientific carelessness, especially by readers who prefer “hard science fiction.” Though the careful mapping of Mars would take place decades after this book was published, Lewis knew that telescopic observations had demolished Percival Lowell’s theory of a carefully engineered network of canals on Mars. However, since canals were part of the popular beliefs about Mars, Lewis chose to retain them in his book.

Lewis felt that fantasy writing should not merely expand experience, as all good literature may do, but should actually enlarge understanding of the range of possible experience. Early critics praised Lewis’s Miltonic or Dantesque love of light, which made his descriptions of Malacandrian landscapes exciting. Lewis wrote about how, throughout his life, he had enjoyed conjuring visions of imaginary landscapes while lying in bed at night. With his setting on the still unexplored surface of Mars (in 1938), Lewis was able to describe wonderfully strange scenes, filled with diffused light, aromatic perfumes unknown to Earth, and resounding with panegyric hymns issuing from alien throats deeper and more varied than any known at home.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As is the case with any fantasy novel, Lewis must establish verisimilitude as the work begins and sustain it throughout the narrative. He uses psychological verisimilitude, analogies, vivid imagery, mythic allusions, and an epilogue in order to gain...

(The entire section is 1,675 words.)