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Unit 17 – Sci Fi with C.S. Lewis

Decided to change the numbering on the units from here on out because that old method made far too little sense…


Difficulty: Medium

Time: 6 minutes


The passage below has been adapted from That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis.

‘It was the worst dream I’ve had yet,’ said Jane the next morning. She was seated in the Blue Room with the Director and Grace Ironwood.

‘Yes,’ said the Director. ‘Yours is perhaps the hardest post: until the real struggle begins.’

‘I dreamed I was in a dark room,’ said Jane, ‘with queer smells in it and a sort of low humming noise. Then the light came on – but not very much light, and for a long time I didn’t realise what I was looking at. And when I made it out… I should have waked up if I hadn’t made a great effort not to. I thought I saw a face floating in front of me. A face, not a head, if you understand what I mean. That is, there was a beard and nose and eyes – at least, you couldn’t see the eyes because it had coloured glasses on, but there didn’t seem to be anything above the eyes. Not at first. But as I got used to the light, I got a horrible shock. I thought the face was a mask tied on to a kind of balloon thing. But it wasn’t, exactly. Perhaps it looked a bit like a man wearing a sort of turban … I’m telling this dreadfully badly. What it really was, was a head (the rest of a head) which had had the top part of the skull taken off and then … then … as if something inside had boiled over. A great big mass which bulged out from inside what was left of the skull. Wrapped in some kind of composition stuff, but very thin stuff. You could see it twitch, Even in my fright I remember thinking, “Oh kill it, kill it. Put it out of its pain.” But only for a second because I thought the thing was real, really. It was green looking and the mouth was wide open and quite dry. You realise I was a long time, looking at it., before anything else happened. And soon I saw that it wasn’t exactly floating. It was fixed up on some kind of bracket, or shelf, or pedestal – I don’t know quite what, and there were things hanging from it. From the neck, I mean. Yes, it had a neck and a sort of collar thing round it, but nothing below the collar; no shoulders or body. Only these hanging things. In the dream I thought it was some kind of new man that had only head and entrails: I thought all those tubes were its insides. But presently – I don’t quite know how, I saw that they were artificial. Little rubber tubes and bulbs and little metal things too. I couldn’t understand them. All the tubes went into the wall. Then at last something happened.’

‘You’re all right, Jane, are you?’ said Miss Ironwood.

‘Oh yes,’ said Jane, ‘as far as that goes. Only one somehow doesn’t want to tell it. Well, quite suddenly, like when an engine is started, there came a puff of air out of its mouth, with a hard dry rasping sound. And then there came another and it settled down into a sort of rhythm – huff, huff, huff – like an imitation of breathing. Then came a most horrible thing: the mouth began to dribble. I know it sounds silly but in a way I felt sorry for it because it had no hands and couldn’t wipe its mouth. Then it began working its mouth about and even licking its lips. It was like someone getting a machine into working order. To see it doing that just as if it was alive, and at the same time dribbling over the beard which was all stiff and dead looking … Then three people came into the room, all dressed up in white, with masks on, walking as carefully as cats on top of a wall. One was a great fat man, and annother was lanky and bony. The third …’ here Jane paused involuntarily. ‘The third .. I think it was Mark … I mean my husband.’



1. The Director’s comment (line 3) seems to be:

  • A      Meaningless
  • B      Intentionally subversive
  • C      Something only the Director understands
  • D      Meaningful, but devoid of explanatory context.


2. Based on Jane’s description of what she saw, why did she find it shocking?

  • A      Because it appeared gradually
  • B      Because it was grotesque
  • C      Because it looked like it was in pain
  • D      Because it looked real


3. Based on Jane’s description, which of the following did the head not have?

  • A      A neck
  • B      A tongue
  • C      A turban
  • D      Green pigment


4. Jane is portrayed as:

  • A      Empathetic
  • B      Vulnerable
  • C      Insane
  • D      Forgetful
  • Q1: D
    It doesn’t seem meaningless. Even out of context we can extract some meaning from it; the director appears to be trying to empathise with Jane. Why is not explained, ‘the struggle’ is not explained, and neither is the ‘hardest post’. It looks like we will need some more context from the story to finish translating this, so D.

    Q2: B
    The light appearing gradually was not the issue, it was what it revealed: “But as I got used to the light, I got a horrible shock. I thought the face was a mask tied on to a kind of balloon thing.”
    “Oh kill it, kill it. Put it out of its pain.” But only for a second because I thought the thing was real, really.” – she only thought it was real for a second but remained disturbed by the grotesque nature of the thing.

    Q3: C
    ‘it looked a bit like a man wearing a sort of turban’. It’s easy to spot that this is therefore the correct answer. Watch out for questions that are easily solved but which are potentially time consuming.

    Q4: A
    She felt sorry for the head because it couldn’t wipe its dribbling mouth and when she thought it was in real pain her response was to kill it and put it out of its misery. This paints a picture of a very empathetic woman (being able to understand/feel the feelings of others)

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    May 28, 2012

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