In the year 1625, Francis Bacon, a famous essayist and poet wrote about the influences of fear on everyday life. He stated, “Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other” (Essays Dedication of Death). Clearly, external surroundings affect perceptions of fear as well as human nature in general. Although C.S. Lewis published the novel, Out of the Silent Planet, over three centuries after Bacon wrote his theory on fear, Lewis similarly portrayed external surrounding to manipulate perceptions of fear. From the first chapter of the novel, Lewis revealed fear to be a weakness that leads to ignorance. It was this ignorance that apparently fueled the cycle of corruption and immorality on “The Silent Planet.” Using the character Ransom to reveal the affect of memory and morality on fear, C.S. Lewis demonstrates that fear is a quality of the “bent” race (humans), and only by eliminating fear in our lives can the human race become hnau.
Throughout Out of the Silent Planet, memory, in particular, appears to have a tremendous impact on Ransom’s perception of fear. The influence of memory on fear was noticeable since the early abduction of Ransom in this novel. After spending mere hours on the spaceship, Ransom reveals his ignorant notion that space was a “dark and cold abyss (29).” While Weston contemptuously corrects him, asking, “Forgotten the sun?” it is clear that Wellsian novels such as The Time Machine created this pessimistic view of space. This “Wellsian” ideology continues to influence the thoughts and actions of Ransom throughout his journey on the spaceship. When overhearing the conversation between Weston and Divine about the sorns, Ransom instinctively envisions these creatures as “the bogies” he read in the novels by Wells (37). Ransom later reiterates this idea when assuming that key words including “Giants, ogres, ghosts, and skeletons” represented the sorns or, “the horrors of my imagination” (47). When arriving at Malacandra (Mars), Ransom’s memories of Sci-fi novels causes him to instinctively categorize the living animals on the planet as savage beasts. Believing Weston and Divine’s ignorant notion that he would be tortured and consumed by the sorns, Ransom resists “donkey-fashion” when being handed over to them. Resulting to childish behavior, such as kicking and screaming, Ransom allowed fear to completely dictate his beliefs and actions. In fact, until Ransom spends a great deal of time with the hross, Ransom sees differences between the human race and hnau as risks and dangers. He only advances towards the hross because its appearance was comparable to that of the animals of Earth. While Ransom never fully eradicates his fear of Malacandra, he eventually comes to the realization that differences between Earth and Malacandra does not represent evil within the Malacandrian world. In fact, he corrects many of his misperceptions, including that of the sorns, which he originally described as “Ogres.” After meeting Augray, a compassionate and intelligent sorn, he felt “Titans or Angels would have been a better word” to describe their species (101). As Ransom’s fear slowly dissipates, he slowly began to think of Malacandra as a “home” rather than a danger (107). Moreover, Ransom began to realize that differences between Earth and Malacandra represented the evils of human society. “War, slavery, prostitution,” events and institutions only present in “The Silent Planet,” outraged Oyarsa and all of the hnau (that appeared incapable of sin). This realization ultimately marked Ransom’s deep understand of fear and the ignorance of mankind.
Although memory played a profound role in Ransom’s perception of fear, throughout Out of the Silent Planet, morality also played a decisive role in Ransom’s perception of fear. While in almost every case, Ransom’s morality allowed him to overcome fear, in the beginning of the novel, Ransom’s fear hinders him in fulfilling a moral task. Journeying through dark and unfamiliar territory as a pedestrian, Ransom questioned whether he should continue to “The Rise” to help Harry or continue to Sterk to seek shelter. Although Ransom desires to seek shelter from the darkness, he feels inclined to fulfill the “troublesome duty on behalf of the old woman” (10). Thus, Ransom’s fear caused him to be less devoted in fulfilling the moral task of aiding Harry. Ransom again experienced an internal battle between morality and fear when arriving at Malacandra. While desiring to prove his status as a hnau by killing the hnakra, Ransom proves to be very fearful of the outcome. In fact, he “was not so sure of his courage” and “felt instant relief” when the hross nearly abandoned their mission (80). However, while fear undermined his commitment to this moral task, Ransom eventually overcame his fear to become a hnakrapunti. As Ransom experienced the innocence and virtue of the hnau, he increasingly learned to use his morality to overcome fear. In particular, Ransom learns to question his morality whenever he is encountered with fear on Malacandra. When traveling on the shoulders of Augray, “Ransom could not restrain a shudder at the touch of the sorn’s hand” (98). However, by subconsciously reminding himself of his safety, Ransom is able to overcome his fear and continue traveling to Meldilorn. Ransom further showed his ability to overcome fear with morality when completely submitting himself to Oyarsa. Stating, “Bent creatures are full of fears. But I am here now and ready to know your will with me,” Ransom accepts his fault and willingly offers to perform any task to for Oyarsa, an archetype of morality. During this encounter with Oyarsa, Divine and Weston reveal more strongly that they lack a strong sense of morality that could be used to overcome fear. By refusing to believe that the hnau were civilized creatures, it was clear that Divine and Weston would leave the world as they had enter it: fearful and ignorant of Malacandra’s inhabitance. While Ransom proves to gain a very sophisticated understanding of fear in the presence of Oyarsa, learning to view death as an aspect of life to be respected, rather than feared, it is not until Ransom leaves Malacandra that he truly grasps fear in its most complex form. By declaring, “dangers to be feared are not planetary but cosmic, and they are not temporal but eternal”, Ransom ties all of his experiences on Malacandra together and learns that trivial aspects of life should not be feared (153). Instead of fearing life and death, mankind should fear ignorance and inequality (imbalance). Through this mere statement, Ransom proved his understanding that through the use of morality, a greater understanding of life (especially fear) may be attained.
In conclusion, while Ransom journeyed to Malacandra as an ignorant young man, fearful of the unknown, he was completely transformed by the end of the novel by his complex understanding of fear. Although memory primarily inhibited any development in Ransom’s character during the first half of the novel, following Ransom’s understanding that initial reactions are often erroneous, Ransom’s memory allowed him to see the problems of Earth clearly. On the other hand, Ransom additionally learned to use morality to overcome fear rather than the converse. While modern dictionaries describe fear as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by expectation or awareness of danger,” Ransom would define fear as ignorance, the possibility of lost opportunities, and most importantly, inequality within the world.