So — at the suggestion of my wife, after reading Atlas Shrugged I am reading That Hideous Strength. The first observation I make is that, when compared with Lewis’ writing depth, Rand writes on a elementary level. That Hideous Strength is hideously difficult to read. And they say it’s the easiest of Lewis’ Space Trilogy. Ha!
There are times, when reading a book, that something stands out to you in grand form and you have to re-read it to grasp what is being said. Such was the case for me when I read these words. Jane is speaking to the Director concerning her grievances in her marriage with Mark. She speaks concerning the distance between them, and the more she speaks, the more she realizes her own self-centeredness in the whole scene. The Director’s final statement below is what stood out to me, but please, read the context to get the feel for Jane’s thought process and her sense of shame for her own sin.
“Mark never takes any notice of what I say,” answered Jane. She and Mark each thought that of the other.
“Don’t send me back,” she said, “I am all alone at home, with terrible dreams. It isn’t as if Mark and I saw much of one another at the best of times. I am so unhappy. He won’t care whether I come here or not. He’d only laugh at it all if he knew. Is it fair that my whole life should be spoiled just because he’s got mixed up with some horrible people? You don’t think a woman is to have no life of her own just because she’s married?”
“But is it really necessary?” she began. “I don’t think I look on marriage quite as you do. It seems to me extraordinary that everything should hang on what Mark says about something he doesn’t understand.”
“Child,” said the Director, “it is not a question of how you or I look on marriage but how my Masters look on it.”
“Someone said they were very old fashioned. But -”
“That was a joke. They are not old fashioned; but they are very, very old.”
“They would never think of finding out first whether Mark and I believed in their ideas of marriage?”
“Well – no,” said the Director with a curious smile. “No. Quite definitely they wouldn’t think of doing that.”
“And would it make no difference to them what a marriage was actually like – whether it was a success? Whether the woman loved her husband?”
Jane had not exactly intended to say this: much less to say it in the cheaply pathetic tone which, it now seemed to her, she had used. Hating herself, and fearing the Director’s silence, she added, “But I suppose you will say I oughtn’t to have told you that.”
“My dear child,” said the Director, “you have been telling me that ever since your husband was mentioned.”
“Does it make no difference?”
“I suppose,” said the Director, “it would depend on how he lost your love.”
Jane was silent. Though she could not tell the Director the truth, and indeed did not know it herself, yet when she tried to explore her inarticulate grievance against Mark, a novel sense of her own injustice and even of pity for her husband, arose in her mind. And her heart sank, for now it seemed to her that this conversation, to which she had vaguely looked for some sort of deliverance from all problems was in fact involving her in new ones.
“It was not his fault,” she said at last. “I suppose our marriage was just a mistake.”
The Director said nothing.
“What would you – what would the people you are talking of – say about a case like that?”
“I will tell you if you really want to know,” said the Director.
“Please,” said Jane reluctantly.
“They would say,” he answered, “that you do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience.”
Often this is the case, both in marriage and in life.
We don’t fail to obey because we lack love. We fail at love because we refuse the path of obedience.