With the exception of the immensely popular seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, written for children, the trilogy is Lewis’ only major long fiction. His well-known Christian views (which he proclaimed across three decades of religious writings), his enormous literary scholarship, and the major intellectual and social currents of the time provide a convenient, if somewhat simplistic, framework for interpreting the trilogy.
Although the novels’ Christian subtext is veiled in references to “Maleldil” and “dark eldils,” the outlines of the cosmic struggle are clear. The rebellion of the earthly oyarsa suggests the rebellion of Satan—which, Ransom learns, was redeemed by the sacrifice of Maleldil the Young (Christ). On Perelandra, Ransom himself becomes the Christ figure, enduring his own Passion; at the climax of Ransom’s internal struggle, the voice of Maleldil makes the parallel plain by telling him, “My name is also Ransom.” As Christ paid for humankind’s sins, so will Ransom pay—in advance—to redeem the new Eden.
The struggle for the soul of England in the final volume brings Christianity face to face with some of the principal political and intellectual forces of mid-century. The N.I.C.E.’s secret police deal ruthlessly with dissent; powerless locals are rounded up for “experimental” use; and even the institute’s leaders are cannibalized as the scheme of conquest progresses. This it-can’t-happen-here evocation of Nazism might seem trite, but Lewis makes the scenario compelling by linking the specter of fascism with notions current in contemporary intellectual circles, notably the doctrine of creative evolution espoused by Henri Bergson and amplified by George Bernard Shaw.
(The entire section is 714 words.)