It’s been forever since I posted anything! I’ve really just been too busy with kids and school to work on much else. I’ve been reading a bit in the essays, as something I could leave and come back to while answering school questions, but haven’t had time to concentrate on Perelandra itself, especially as I’m working through the section with complicated arguments between the Un-man, Tinidril, and Ransom. I started this post a long time ago but tried to go right into the Bible study and, well, that’s going to take a while. I do have a bit more written, but we’ll see if school goes more smoothly or I can get away to work on it a bit. Quiet is hard to come by these days!
[Tinidril] “The King is always older than I, and about all things.” . . .
[the Un-man] “This time, when you meet the King again, it is you who will have things to tell him. It is you who will be older than he and who will make him older.”
[Tinidril] “Maleldil would not make a thing like that happen. It would be like a fruit with no taste.”
I’m not sure I really paid attention to the above quote before this read through. I’ve had some conversations lately about gender roles in society and the family, and this time it struck me in a new way. I don’t think Lewis is just saying something about Tor and Tinidril – he’s trying to make us think about something, knowing him. So, was he saying here that men are always more mature than women? That men are more mature than their wives? I don’t think he’s really doing either one, given what I’ve studied so far. I’ve established that Perelandra and Malacandra are on the same level, and both Jane and Ivy in THS seem to be more mature than their husbands, so that would contradict what his characters actually portray. So maybe he’s saying that in an unfallen world like Perelandra husbands, or perhaps more broadly, those in authority, would be more mature than those responsible to submit to them? That makes a bit more sense. Perelandra and Malacandra are feminine and masculine, but on the same level of hierarchy and presumably maturity. In an unfallen world, perhaps a person would never need to be in the difficult position of needing to submit to someone less mature than s/he. It does seem that way on Malacandra – the eldil Malacandra is much longer lived and more mature than the species over whom he rules. And the indication in the text is that all the eldila took part in the creation of the planets over which they rule. So, maybe, Lewis is playing with the idea that in an unfallen context, those with greater wisdom or maturity would always be higher in the hierarchy than those less mature or less wise. It’s pure speculation, but it is an interesting idea, anyway, and it makes more sense in the larger context of Lewis’s writing than the simplified and misogynist ‘men are more mature than women’ interpretation.
Thinking about these issues of roles and authority and maturity, especially in the context of the family, has made me want to take another look at gender roles in Scripture. A recent Facebook conversation with a friend and some friends of hers make me want to dig into the topic a bit more deeply than I have before. And it could be enlightening to take note of where I think Lewis got things right, and where I think he didn’t. Why did God make two sexes – why not one, or three, or seven? Is God gendered, as Lewis thought? Which is more important – gender or sex? Where do cultural concepts of gender match up with what shows up in Scripture, and where do they not, both in Bible times and in our own? One question I’ve found very interesting lately is about how much of our interpretations of gender roles in Scripture have been influenced by cultural understandings of gender and hierarchy and how much is really in the text.
I realize that those are some really big questions, and I’ll never be able to come to a full understanding, well, while I’m on earth! But I do think it’s worthwhile to at least ask some questions and take a look at what I see in the Scriptures so far. I’m going to start at the beginning, with Creation, and then move on from there. Here’s hoping it won’t be quite so long before I get to put up another post!
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