25 August 2012

Quotes from That Hideous Strength

I’m about halfway finished with C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.  I’ll have a review of it when I’m finished with it.  In the meantime, here are some excerpts that I found to be enjoyable and/or insightful.

On the flaws of the social sciences:
“I should want to pull it to bits and put something else in its place.  Of course.  That’s what happens when you study men:  you find mare’s nests.  I happen to believe that you can’t study men; you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing.  Because you study them, you want to make the lower orders govern the country and listen to classical music, which is balderdash.  You also take away from them everything which makes life worth living and not only from them but from everyone except a parcel of prigs and professors.”
That basically sums up most economists, especially those who are Keynesians or, worse, behavioral economists.

On women talking:
“Husbands were made to be talked to.  It helps them concentrate their mind on what they’re reading…”
On young couples:
And so, all evening, the male bird displayed his plumage and the female played her part and asked questions and laughed and feigned more interest than she felt.  Both were young, and if neither loved very much, both were anxious to be admired.
On politics:
“Don’t you understand anything?  Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and terrified of the other?  That’s how we get things done.  Any opposition to the N.I.C.E. is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers.  If it’s properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us—to refute the enemy slanders.  Of course we’re non-political.  The real power always is.”
On submission in marriage:
[Speaking to Jane] “They never warned you.  No one has ever told you that obedience—humility—is an erotic necessity.  You are putting equality where it ought not to be.”
On submission:
Her beauty belonged to the director.  It belonged to him so completely that he could even decide not to keep it for himself but to order that it be given to another, by an act of obedience lower, and therefore higher, more unconditional and therefore more delighting, than if he had demanded it for himself.
On the differences in how the sexes communicate:
“The cardinal difficulty,” said MacPhee, “in collaboration between the sexes is that women speak a language without nouns.  If two men are doing a bit of work, one will say to the other ‘Put this bowl inside the bigger which you’ll find on the top shelf of the green cupboard.’  The female for this is, ‘Put this in the other one in there.’  And then if you ask them, ‘in where?’ they say, ‘in there, of course.’  There is consequently a phatic hiatus.”
On certain types of men:
“I want you to like him if you can.  He’s one of my oldest friends.  And he’ll be about our best man if we’re going to be defeated.  You couldn’t have a better man at your side in a losing battle.  What he’ll do if we win, I can’t imagine.”
On matchmaking:
“If you two quarrel much more,” said the director, “I think I’ll make you marry one another.”
Thus far, I’ve found the book to be quite engaging and well-written, and more humane than most of Lewis’s other writings.  His prose can be quite enjoyable at times, and he never feels like he’s trying too hard to make a point, which is what I think made the two prior installments in this series trilogy feel considerably more inferior.  At any rate, this book is a highly recommended read.


  1. It's one of the best books I read. I like Out of the Silent Planet though I was not a big fan of Pelendra.

    Lewis hated economics and all social sciences. He seemed to actively avoid knowing anything about them. Of course this did mean he could make little comment about them.

  2. @Anon.- it's definitely the best of the three.

    I can't say that I blame Lewis for hating economics. Many of his critiques are similar to mine. It's as if economists get so caught up in their fancy models that they neglect to ask themselves how people actually behave in the real world.