The woman is the Eve figure. The man is a traveler to Perelandra (young Venus) from Earth. To be young is to be naive and to be old is to know. Maleldil is the God-figure. This is a beautiful section especially as my thoughts have been considering suffering.
From Perelandra pg. 58-61
“Our Mother and Lady is dead,” he said.
“What is dead?”
“With us they go away after a time. Maleldil takes the soul out of them and puts it somewhere else–in Deep Heaven, we hope. They call it death.”
“Do not wonder, O Piebald Man, that your world should have been chosen for time’s corner. You live looking out always on heaven itself, and as if this were not enough Maledil takes you all thither in the end. You are favoured beyond all worlds.”
Ransom shook his head. “No. It is not like that,” he said.
“I wonder,” said the woman, “if you were sent here to teach us death.”
“You don’t understand,” he said. “It is not like that. It is horrible. It has a foul smell. Maleldil Himself wept when He saw it.” Both his voice and his facial expression were apparently new to her. He saw the shock, not the horror, of utter bewilderment, on her face for one instant and then, without effort, the ocean of her peace swallowed it up as if it had never been, and she asked him what he meant.
“You could never understand Lady,” he replied. “But in our world not all events are pleasing or welcome. There may be such a thing that you would cut off both your arms and legs to prevent it happening–and yet it happens to us.”
“But how can one wish any of those waves not to reach us which Maleldil is rolling towards us?”
Against his better judgment Ransom found himself goaded into argument.
“But even you,” he said, “when you first saw me, I know now you were expecting and hoping that I was the King. When you found I was not, your face changed. Was that event not unwelcome? Did you not wish it to be otherwise?”
“Oh,” said the Lady. She turned aside with her head bowed and her hands clasped in an intensity of thought. She looked up and said, “You make me grow older more quickly than I can bear,” and walked a little farther off. Ransom wondered what he had done. It was suddenly borne in upon him that her purity and peace were not, as they had seemed, things settled and inevitable like the purity and peace of an animal–that they were alive and therefore breakable, a balance maintained by a mind and therefore, at least in theory, able to be lost. There is no reason why a man on a smooth road should lose his balance on a bicycle, but he could. There was no reason why she should step out of her happiness into the psychology of our own race; but neither was there any wall between to prevent her doing so. The sense of precariousness terrified him: but when she looked at him again he change that word to Adventure, and then all words died out of his mind. Once more he could not look steadily at her. He knew now what the old painters were trying to represent when they invented the halo. Gaiety and gravity together, a splendour as of martyrdom yet with no pain at all, seemed to pour from her countenance. Yet when she spoke her words were a disappointment.
“I have been so young till this moment that all my life now seems to have been in a kind of sleep. I have thought that I was being carried, and behold, I was walking.”
Ransom asked what she meant.
“What you have made me see,” answered the Lady, “is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before–that the very moment of finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished–if it were possible to wish–you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”
Ransom interrupted. “That is hardly the same thing as finding a stranger when you wanted your husband.”
“Oh, that is how I came to understand the whole thing. You and the King differ more than two kinds of fruit. The joy of finding him again and the joy of all the new knowledge I have had from you are more unlike than two tastes; and when the difference is as great as that, and each of the two things are so great, then the first picture does not stay in the mind quite a long time–many beats of the heart–after the good has come. And this, O Piebald, is the glory and wonder you have made me see; that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it. One can conceive a heart which did not: which clung to the good it had first thought of and turned the good which was given it into no good.”
“I don’t see the wonder and the glory of it,” said Ransom.
Her eyes flashed upon him in such a triumphant flight above his thoughts as would have been scorn in earthly eyes; but in that world it was not scorn.
“I thought,” she said, “that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent me drew me into them as the waves lift the islands; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming. I feel as if I were living in that roofless world of yours where men walk undefended beneath naked heaven. It is a delight with terror in it! One’s own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself my walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths–but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.”
“And you have no fear,” said Ransom, “that it will ever be hard to run your heart from the thing you wanted to the thing Maleldil sends?
“I see,” said the Lady presently. “the wave you plunge into may be very swift and great. You may need all your force to swim into it. You mean, He might send me a good like that?”
“Yes–or like a wave so swift and great that all your force is too little.”
“It often happens that way in swimming,” said the Lady. “Is not that part of the delight?”
“But are you happy without the King? Do you not want the King?”
“Want him?” she said. “How could there be anything I did not want?”
There was something in her replies that began to repel Ransom.
“You can’t want him very much if you are happy without him,” he said: and was immediately surprised at the sulkiness of his own voice.
“Why?” asked the Lady. “And why, O Piebald, are you making little hills and valleys in your forehead and why do you give a little life of your shoulders? Are these the signs of something in your world?”