Uncle Andrew

A few years back I pretty much read (ahem… “listened to”) everything C.S. Lewis wrote and then checked out a few biographies. One of the things I learned on that journey was that Lewis was a big proponent against animal cruelty in scientific experiments. To quote Lewis,

The victory of vivisection marks a great advance in the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law; a triumph in which we, as well as animals, are already the victims, and of which Dachau and Hiroshima mark the more recent achievements. In justifying cruelty to animals we put ourselves also on the animal level. (Quote found in Alister McGrath’s biography, C.S. Lewis: A Life)

That being said, I think he tried to picture what scientific animal cruelty could do to our thinking in the character of Uncle Andrew. Yes he’s pictured as a magician, but he also seems to be more of a scientist. It’s almost as though Lewis pictures an overlap between the two themes, or as though magic could almost be seen as another form of science.

Uncle Andrew is not the kind of scientist who has done good things to get to where he’s at. Perhaps it started with animal cruelty. He treated guinea pigs as… well… guinea pigs. And that hardened his heart towards the world around him. Some of those guinea pigs vanished in his experiments while others just blew up, which he talks about rather nonchalantly. Perhaps all of this creates the villain he becomes that treats experiments on children as an end to his means and curiosity, rather than as human beings. Uncle Andrew is seen as similar to the younger, darker, Dr. Walter Bishop from Fringe. He’s willing to do things to satisfy his quest for knowledge.

Furthermore, Lewis might even be picturing a version of himself, because he always had a temptation towards magic that he had to fend off throughout his life. As he writes in his bio, Surprised by Joy,

for the first time, there burst upon me the idea that there might be real marvels all about us, that the visible world might be only a curtain to conceal huge realms uncharted by my very simple theology. And that started in me something with which, on and off, I have had plenty of trouble since–the desire for the preternatural, simply as such, the passion for the Occult. Not everyone has this disease; those who have will know what I mean. I once tried to describe it in a novel. It is a spiritual lust; and like the lust of the body it has the fatal power of making everything else in the world seem uninteresting while it lasts. It is probably this passion, more even than the desire for power, which makes magicians. (Lewis, C. S. Surprised by Joy: the Shape of My Early Life. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1955, p. 56-57.)

So in Uncle Andrew it seems Lewis’ critique both of science and magic come to a head to create a villain that has no concern for others and sees everything else and everyone else as an end.


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