Out of the Silent Planet | Study Guide

C. S. Lewis

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Out of the Silent Planet | Postscript | Summary

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Summary

The final chapter is a postscript to a letter Ransom wrote to the fictionalized version of Lewis, the narrator and author of the novel. The letter opens in the middle with Ransom grudgingly agreeing to make a couple of corrections. Otherwise, he says the manuscript should stand as is. He writes wistfully about the things that don't come through in the story, like the smells of the alien world and the background sounds. Ransom says he is homesick for Malacandra. He complains that the structures of fiction force them to minimize the importance and the length of time he spent in the hross village. He wishes they could add small facts like the body temperatures and lifespan of the aliens, and the fact that they don't keep pets. He also points out that there is great difference in appearance within the alien races.

Ransom wants to make suggestions about how the spirits may relate to things in earthly beliefs, like angels and fairies, but admits that they don't have enough information to do so. He mentions scenes that he wishes could be included in the book: one of Hyoi's funeral, and another of him swimming with his alien friend.

Ransom closes by sketching out some of a conversation in which he and Hyoi talked about other planets such as Glundandra, or Jupiter. The final paragraph states that he's trying to read everything he can on space, not in the current scientific literature but rather in old books. He is finding tantalizing hints about space in them, hinting that he hasn't given up on returning there some day. It may have to be through time travel, however, since the Oyarsa of Mars has forbidden space travel to them because of Weston's "transgressions." The book ends with the tantalizing words, "The way to the planets lies through the past."

Analysis

This final chapter both continues the earlier narrative and reflects on it. It admits that some details have been left out of the story and fills in some of those that don't neatly fit into the structure of the novel. It brings the book close to metafiction, that is, fiction that comments on and is aware of itself as a crafted work of art. Perhaps Lewis was gently mocking himself and all authors here. Ransom's almost querulous complaints about what Lewis did and did not include in the final novel may echo those of any writer unhappy with the changes their editor has made.

The postscript is also a commentary on how reader expectations of fiction shape the material—which in turn extends the theme of interpretation. In the novel the human interpretation of the world is not only fundamentally different from that of the aliens, but it is revealed to be a distortion of the way things truly are. This reinforces the point that humanity's isolation as the sole sentient species on a silent planet has narrowed their understanding of the universe.

The final paragraph of the postscript seems to set up the premise of the next book in the trilogy, Perelandra (1943), an allegory about the Old Testament figure of Eve. From that line about how the journey to the planets might be through time rather than space, readers might reasonably expect the next book to involve time travel. In the five years between this novel and its sequel, Lewis seems to have abandoned that idea. Perelandra begins with Ransom making a journey to Venus neither through space nor time. Instead, he is transported there in a sort of supernatural way through a coffin-shaped box.

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