Uncle Andrew proves cruelly adept at manipulating people (and more specifically, manipulating Digory).
The pacing in this book is almost frustratingly good for someone who has to stop at the end of every chapter to write about it. Every chapter thus far has ended on a cliff-hanger, and you feel like you have to either find out what happens next or get some explanation of what just happened.
It was so sudden, and so horribly unlike anything that had ever happened to Digory before even in a nightmare, that he let out a scream. Instantly Uncle Andrew’s hand went over his mouth. “None of that!” he hissed in Digory’s ear. “If you start making a noise your Mother’ll hear it. And you know what a fright might do to her.”
As Digory said afterward, the horrible meanness of getting at a chap in that way, almost made him sick. But of course he didn’t scream again.
Then Uncle Andrew is very eager to explain his genius to Digory, starting with a story about his godmother.
“Was there – wasn’t there – something wrong about her, Uncle Andrew?” he said.
“Well,” said Uncle Andrew with a chuckle, “It depends what you call wrong. People are so narrow-minded. She certainly got very queer in later life. Did very unwise things. That was why they shut her up.”
“In an asylum, do you mean?”
“Oh, no, no, no,” said Uncle Andrew in a shocked voice. “Nothing of that sort. Only in prison.”
And thus we are introduced to Uncle Andrew’s “ends justify the means” mentality. Breaking the law is merely unwise…and then we get this spiel elaborating on that philosophy:
“You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper, I’m sure, and I’m very glad you have been taught to do it. But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys – and servants – and women – and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.”
As he said this he sighed and looked so grave and noble and mysterious that for a second Digory really thought he was saying something rather fine. But then he remembered the ugly look he had seen on his Uncle’s face the moment before Polly had vanished: and all at once he saw through Uncle Andrew’s grand words. “All it means, he said to himself, “is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.”
Wow. There is so much wrong with Uncle Andrew I’m not even sure where to start. Fortunately, much of it is fairly self-evident, so I’ll just skim over those. He’s just the sort of man who comes up with philosophies that justify his own lifestyle, when it should be the other way around. My only other comment is that Lewis doesn’t appear to understand how real misogynists think and behave (Uncle Andrew has another random spiel against women later in the chapter).
Anyhow, there are some fascinating implications of the story Uncle Andrew tells: Apparently Atlantis was a very real advanced civilization in this universe that existed at “the dawn of time,” and evidently they had dealings of some sort with Other Worlds (also there were fairies on Earth in this universe).
Digory final manages to get the information he was looking for in the end, and find out what Uncle Andrew’s been getting at all this time.
“I did at last find a way of doing the return journey. The green rings draw you back.”
“But Polly hasn’t got a green ring.”
“No,” said Uncle Andrew with a cruel smile.
“Then she can’t get back,” shouted Digory. “And it’s exactly the same as if you’d murdered her.”
“She can get back,” said Uncle Andrew, “if someone else will go after her wearing a yellow ring himself and taking two green rings, one to bring himself back and one to bring her back.”
Digory realizes that Uncle Andrew has him exactly where he wants him, but at least he’s able to say this (which actually catches him off his guard):
“Very well. I’ll go. But there’s one thing I jolly well mean to say first. I didn’t believe in Magic till today. I see now it’s real. Well if it is, I suppose all the old fairy tales are more or less true. And you’re simply a wicked, cruel magician like the ones in the stories. Well, I’ve never read a story in which people of that sort weren’t paid out in the end, and I bet you will be. And serve you right.”
Then he says something else that I heartily assent to just before he vanishes at the end of the chapter:
“By gum,” said Digory, “Don’t I just wish I was big enough to punch your head!”
Until next time…