'Voyage to Venus' and Transcendence


Of course, the opening chapter of Voyage to Venus, discussed earlier in this blog, is only that - the start of the adventure. Having drawn his readers into the framework of an Epic and out of the silent planet framework that they normally inhabit, Lewis sets off on the epic quest which is the basis of the novel.

As the novel proceeds, the protagonist Ransom journeys again to another world, but this time transported by the angels in a coffin-like vessel, a symbol of death in a Dantean world - a shifting from one world to the next, rather than an actual dying. Once there, Lewis, through Ransom, paints one of the better described worlds in all of science fiction:

At Ransom's waking something happened to him which perhaps never happens to a man until he is out of his own world: he saw reality, and thought it was a dream. He opened his eyes and saw a strange heraldically coloured tree loaded with yellow fruits and silver leaves. Round the base of the indigo stem was coiled a small dragon covered with scales of red gold. He recognised the garden of the Hesperides at once. 'This is the most vivid dream I have ever had,' he thought.

Unlike his arrival in Malacandra, Ransom is not afraid but enchanted; he no longer has to overcome the mental habits of a modern man, but because of his past experiences, can occupy the heavenly world with relative ease. It is not until Chapter Seven, when the antagonist Weston makes his first appearance, that the nature of Ransom’s visit - and Lewis’s purpose - starts to become clear: having made the transition from Irony to Epic himself, Ransom must now defend that position against the onslaught of the twisted physicist Weston, who is progressively possessed by demonic forces and who has been sent to Perelandra to corrupt the otherwise completely innocent Green Lady, that world’s Eve.

The bulk of the novel then consists of Ransom’s attempt to out-argue the demonic visitor, to persuade the Queen of that world that she should not listen to Weston as he presents the case for an Ironic world. It is a battle that Ransom slowly begins to lose, as the possessed and increasingly degenerate Weston, a creature better described as the ‘Un-man’, is able to dodge and weave and exhaust Ransom over a period of time. But in terms of Lewis’s purpose and the portrayal of that great transition from the ordinary, mortal and silent world with which we are familiar as readers to the heavenly, immortal and fulfilled world which Lewis is attempting to reach, the moment of realisation occurs when Ransom sees that intellectual argument will not be enough: