I recently finished reading That Hideous Strength, and despite my great enjoyment of most of the story, I felt let down by the ending. It was so ... unsatisfying ... to resolve all the conflict by

taking advantage of a loophole in the celestial laws which enabled the foreign Oyeresu to act more directly than had been thought possible, and sending them to Belbury to slaughter everyone.

In particular, it felt as though, in the final analysis, Ransom's 'Round Table' crew (the Dimbles, the Dennistons, Mr McPhee, Miss Ironwood, and the rest) contributed nothing to the victory. Jane did, because her visions helped to give them the knowledge they needed of the N.I.C.E.'s activities, but all the rest seem like pointless bit characters, rather than (as I'd hoped) each one contributing something indispensable and all of them working together to defeat the N.I.C.E. What was the point of Ransom gathering all those comrades if they never actually contributed anything to the struggle?


1 Answer 1


I have read this book a few times (one of my faves), and although you make a compelling point, I mildly disagree with your premise that "they never actually contributed anything to the struggle". Admittedly, they were not heroic front-lines combatants against Belbury as were Merlin, the bear, and to some extent Jane. But they were behind-the-curtain assistants in the struggle. Consider the following:

  • The Dimbles helped to comfort and welcome Jane, and offered her needed advice in her marriage. Mrs. Dimble helped prepare the love quarters at the end.
  • McPhee provided a worldly/rationale backdrop against which Ransom could better explain spiritual principles.
  • Miss Ironwood helped care for Ransom.

I believe that C.S. Lewis is making a larger point in all of this: most good people don't actually conquer evil in the way that God (or a prophet) does. But in playing our little roles, and not fighting against Him, we do in fact assist in meaningful ways in the battle against evil.

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    Thank you; this is an interesting interpretation. Has Lewis championed the ideas in your last paragraph elsewhere in his writings? Since he's written a lot about religion and philosophy, I wonder if it's possible to demonstrate that this interpretation of That Hideous Strength is consistent with his views in general.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 10, 2018 at 10:04
  • I think it could be argued that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe promotes this idea. Four ordinary children go to Narnia and save the world from the White Witch. Aug 14, 2018 at 21:51
  • But those four ordinary children do extraordinary things, and each of them contributes to the overall struggle. They are "heroes" in the traditional sense. In That Hideous Strength, most of the supporting protagonist cast don't do anything heroic or take any active part in the struggle. There's a big difference between the two books IMO.
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 8, 2019 at 6:37
  • Rand: Agreed, but what were the children in the real world? Nobody at all. I think the message is that Nobodys can become Somebodys if they are willing to make heroic efforts. Jun 2, 2021 at 16:54

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