“Imputable Acts in Regards to the Fate of a World”
An act is called imputable when the person committing the act is in possession of both knowledge and consent in regards to the action at hand. Imputability is a thing that is always completely possessed or completely not possessed by a person. Imputability causes accountability. Accountability has degrees upon which it is based and these degrees depend on whether or not the person was influenced by some modifier of either the intellect or the will. Imputability’s requirements, knowledge and consent, have to do with the relationship between the act in question and whether or not it is a good or evil act. An act is either objectively, morally good or evil. To the degree that the person committing the act is aware of this in the form of either knowledge or consent is the degree to which the act itself is imputable and thereby also the person is accountable for the act. The characters in C. S. Lewis’ novel, “Prelandra”, make choices and perform acts that drastically effect the outcome of the world in which the novel takes place. Some of these acts are wholly imputable while others are not. However, all of the acts are either good or evil. As a result of this, the novel illustrates the importance of being able to distinguish the difference between good and evil acts in the consequences that befall its characters from their own actions within the novel.
The novel’s protagonist, John Ransom of Thucalandra (Earth), is sent by Maleldil (God) to the planet of Prelandra (Venus) in order to stop the Bent Oyarsa (Satan) from corrupting that planet as he did with Earth though Ransom has no knowledge of the exact purpose of his journey upon leaving or even once he is there on the planet. Once he arrives on the planet, he encounters the person he deems “the Green Lady.” Lewis’ character, the Green Lady, is Prelandra’s counterpart to the Eve character in the Genesis story of creation in the Bible. After meeting her and realizing who she is, Weston the villain from the first book appears in Prelandra. He is there on a new “mission.” This new mission is no longer for the survival of the human race as it was on his journey to Malacandra but is now for the survival of the “Human Spirit.” At first he does nothing in regards to the Green Lady and he only mentions her to Ransom in suspicion of her and Ransom’s conduct. However, after getting into a long argument about morality, God, and the existence of good and evil, Weston undergoes a change that is shown in a horrific seizure and facial contortions. After this he ceases to be Weston but is now described as the Un-man. Right before this transformation, Weston was telling Ransom about him being “prepared” by forces and that he was opening himself up to them in order for him to be their instrument in the perpetuation of the “Spirit.” This preparation turns out to be quite real in that the eldila (angels or in this case, demons) from Thucalandra are for lack of a better term, preparing him for possession so that they can enact out the Bent Oyarsa’s plan for Prelandra. This plan is to cause the first inhabitants, the Green Lady and the King, of Prelandra to disobey Maldil and fall just as Adam and Eve did in the Genesis story of Earth. The Unman is the tempter and at this point Ransom understands why he is there, to fight the Un-man in one way or another to ensure that what happened on Thucalandra does not happen again on Prelandra.
Amidst this story line, there are countless acts and choices that the characters make. However, there are four choices in particular that greatly determine the outcome of the story. The first of course is Ransom’s decision to go to Prelandra as Maleldil has asked him to. He freely consented to this. In no way was he physically forced by Maleldil to got to Prelandra and while there was fear present, Ransom did not fall into a state of dread which could have damaged his consent to going. His knowledge of going was clear in that he knew what going would entail though not what would happen once he got there. This made the action imputable and he is accountable for it, though it was a good action to make.
The other choices and actions are much more complicated. The choices and actions are first, Weston leaving himself open to the forces of the Bent Oyarsa of Thucalandra thus allowing the Unman to come into the story. Another major factor in the story is what the Un-man does once it comes into being. The third and arguably the most important choice, is Ransom deciding to stay in Prelandra and to fight the Un-Man despite all of his rationalizing.
Weston only existed as far as the reader can tell, for the first few hours he was in Prelandra. In the middle of explaining his new purpose for interplanetary travel, he goes through a horrible transformation that frightens Ransom. At the end of it he passes out and Ransom leaves him thinking him dead or at least in the process of dying. However, not too much later he runs into him while the Un-man is talking to the lady. This is the first time he realizes that what he sees only appears to be Weston but inside is something else, something that he describes as diabolical and pure evil. Here Ransom begins to understand why he is in Prelandra. At the beginning of their talk while Weston still truly existed, he mentioned to Ransom about being guided and prepared by something greater than him in order to carry on his “work” or continuing the “Spirit.” It is not a bad inference to make that these tutorial forces were the eldila who followed the Bent Oyarsa in his rebellion against Maleldil. This act is an evil act. It is choosing to let oneself follow evil and perform evil, and pure evil at that. It is also the act that brought about the existence of the Unman. However, to the degree to which he is accountable for both of these acts is not as easy to see. While he was fairly certain forces were guiding him he had no idea what forces they were. He surly could have himself as to whether or not the forces guiding him where heading him in the right direction. However, the direction they were heading him, as far as he knew, was the one he was seeking. He believed that good and evil were conventional thoughts that were outdated and wrong. He believed that they actually went together, one sort of causing the other. Weston believed that what people called evil was the dynamic force that changed things while good was the result that came from these changes. He also believed that the people everyone else identified as villains where actually martyrs of some sort or another, allowing mankind to progress via their dynamic force. This view is obviously contradictory in that to say good and evil are actually counterparts and neither one actually exists means that nothing else would matter anyway do to the lack of purpose or meaning. Weston deals with this by saying that they are there but not as everyone perceives them to be. He then gives the “two forces” explanation of things. While this may be wrong, Weston honestly believes that this is how things are. As a result of this, his knowledge is effected and thereby his imputability. He is still accountable for allowing the forces to get so far into his life as well as for bringing the Un-Man into existence. However, he had no idea that these actions would bring about the possession of his body and the destruction of his character by the evil eldila. In fact, at one point, Weston seemed to Ransom to have reappeared and was asking him for help and not to let them get to him. Ransom was not sure what to make of this. But if it was truly Weston, he seemed to have been sorry for what he had done though it may have been simply because he saw where he was heading towards which would be painful to him not because he realized it was wrong. The actions that the Un-man took and the choices that he made in no way in and of themselves directly effect Weston’s accountability. This is because of the understood fact that Weston is in a state of spiritual possession once the Un-man is in the story, thereby making Weston’s will and knowledge and even entire person no longer present. In other words, Weston could not be responsible directly for the Un-man’s actions because it was only his body, not his will that Un-man was using. However, Weston is responsible for them indirectly because he allowed himself to follow the wrong path and never listen to the truth that he was being told. He allowed himself to be deceived and this is where he fails as a person (aside from being arrogant, pompous, and an intellectual snob). His actions are imputable in that he freely chose to do them and he had knowledge of some kind in regards to what he was doing. However, he did suffer from some type of ignorance. As to what type of ignorance it was is only speculation. The only person who could truly answer that question would be Weston (or Lewis because he wrote the character) but as an educated guess it would either have to be vincible ignorance or affected ignorance. If it was vincible ignorance then Weston is not as accountable for his actions but is still accountable in some way or another. If the ignorance was affected than Weston is even more accountable for his actions because he knew the truth, and failed to follow it for some reason or another. From what is seen of Weston’s character in both “Prelandra” as well as in the previous work, “Out of the Silent Planet,” it is very possible that is was affected ignorance that he suffered from though it is not provable.
The Un-man’s actions are not as hard to determine. They are completely imputable. He had totally knowledge of what he was doing. He is entirely accountable for all of his actions. He is accountable for his tempting the woman to disobey Maleldil and for trying to ruin a world in doing so. He is an embodiment of pure evil. He does nothing but destroy. The entire time he is on Prelandra he is killing animals as well we even ripping up the turf. All of these violent actions are completely arbitrary. The Un-man is not mortal but is preternatural. He has a higher intellect by nature. At one point in time, he knew the choice and freely chose the opposite, thereby completely making himself evil. Because of this, he is accountable for all of his actions. He knows exactly what he is doing the entire time. He is choosing freely to do the evil and is intending all of its consequences.
Ransom’s decision to stay is arguably the most important in the entire book. At the point in occurs, he has just realized that he is there on Prelandra to prevent what had previously happened in his own world. He also realizes that the tempting going on between the Un-man and the Green Lady has to end. The entire time he is talking to himself and listening to what he calls “the Voice.” This is interpreted to be the voice of Maleldil within him. At first he thinks that he is too small to be the sole savior of Prelandra and that he must be suffering from some sort of egomania. Then he realizes that just as a single stone changes the course of a river, he is to change the course of the world he is in. After this he wonders how Maleldil could ever expect him to outwit the Unman because he knows he cannot. The Unman is not mortal and therefore does not need rest and the like while Ransom does. At this he gets the idea that maybe Maleldil has intended him to fight a physical battle with the Un-man and out of fear, he immediately dismisses this idea. Then after thinking on it long and hard he realizes that he must do just that. Out of dread he thinks of several different reasons why he does not need to fight the Un-man. At first he says all he has to do is “his best” and that is all Maleldil wants of him. He soon realizes that this is not true and that also this is his job to do. He realizes the Un-man will never stop because the Green Lady had already refused his propositions several times over yet he still persisted. After this revelation, Ransom comes to understand his entire purpose in the story that Maleldil has put him into. He realizes that, ” It lay with him to save or to spill.” (148) However, at this point he still does not want to do the action because he is scared and knows he cannot fight the Un-man. But, at some point the narrator says that without any movement of the will Ransom realized that the act would be complete by sometime the next day. Ransom adds to that by thinking that, “Predestination and freedom were apparently identical.” (149) This seems to say that in some way Ransom did not will his staying to fight the Un-man. This would make the act a non-imputable act because there was no consent. There was no consent because there were was no exercise of the will. Also the statement that predestination and freedom seemed the same adds to this. In the end, Ransom describes it as being something that depends on the person’s point of view. This leaves the fact of whether or not Ransom’s choice in staying is even a choice at all. Though it appears that the act of him staying to fight was an imputable act because it seems that Lewis is saying that Ransom is so in accordance with Maleldil’s will as well as the situation that it seemed that there was no other choice to make.
Ransom is aware of his situation and realizes the effects that his actions have. This is the reason that he does things that he does. Before any major decision he makes he thinks of what he should do. In the instance of refraining from trying the fruit again or drinking another bubble of water from the trees in the forest, he stops before he does it and thinks if it would be the right thing to do or not. When he decides that it is not, he refrains from doing it. Weston is aware of his situation though his awareness is not in continuance with reality. He is accountable for his actions in regards to the bringing about the existence of the Un-man by opening himself to the evil eldila. However he is not responsible for what the Un-man does because the Un-man is using its own will, not Weston’s. That is to say that Weston has no say in what the Un-man does despite the fact the Un-man is in Weston’s body. The Un-man is in the same situation as Ransom though he is on the other side. He has a set goal, a mission and he executes every act in regards to this mission, the corruption of the Green Lady as a victory against Maleldil. These instances all illustrate the importance of recognizing god and evil acts because the human person is not just a temporal being. It is more than just matter and therefore lives on in some way after the extinction of that matter. As a result of this, what a person does in its life has an effect on not only what it is to become but also what will happen to it later. The ongoing existence gives meaning to life. “Prelandra” illustrates the effect acts and choices have on life now in all of its characters. It shows what happens when one acclimates one’s self to evil in the instance of Weston and what happens when one resists evil as with Ransom and the Green Lady. One is obliterated while the others prosper, all as a result of their choices.