There is a wardrobe in an old room. Picture yourself opening the wardrobe door. You climb inside it, careful to leave the door cracked open slightly aThere is a wardrobe in an old room. Picture yourself opening the wardrobe door. You climb inside it, careful to leave the door cracked open slightly as you push your way back in amongst the antique coats, which smell of dampness and age and silent history. But wait! It is cold underneath you and, as you reach down, you grasp a wet, slushy substance that could only be snow!
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is an enduring children's classic that is magic, just pure magic! Peter, Susan, Edmond & Lucy discover an old wardrobe and find that it can transport them to another world called Narnia, where the White Witch has cast a spell on the land and "everything is winter and never Christmas." However, all is not bleak and hopeless because Aslan the Lion is on the move. He begins to bring spring to Narnia, but Edmund betrays his siblings with the result that Aslan willingly pays for Edmund's transgression with his life. With his resurrection, and after an enormous battle led by Peter and Edmund, Aslan is acknowledged King of Narnia.
Lewis rejected the assertion that this story was intended as an allegory and, being an expert in that area, Lewis was certainly qualified to judge:
"By an allegory I mean a composition (whether pictorial or literary) in which immaterial realities are represented by feigned physical objects, eg., a pictured Cupid allegorically represents erotic love (which in reality is an experience, not an object occupying a given area of space) or, in Bunyan, a giant represents Despair.
If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair represents Despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, "What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?" This is not allegory at all ……. This …… works out a supposition."
While this book contains references to Christianity, Lewis did not initially set out to write a Christian story:
"Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided to what age group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn't write in that way. It all began with images: a faun with an umbrella, parcels, a lamppost, a snow-covered kingdom. At first there wasn't even anything Christian about them. That element pushed itself in of its own accord."
Within the story, Lewis communicates aspects of Christian faith in way that is easy to understand and, through the death of Aslan, Lewis allows us to experience the agony and horror of Christ's death and to experience the conflicting emotions of his friends and disciples, as well as their joy upon his resurrection. His style is a simple straight-forward narrative that easily communicates emotions of joy, perseverance, loyalty, pride, envy, betrayal, and sadness. A timeless story with timeless themes that can be read again and again....more
When Digory's father is posted to India and his mother becomes ill, they must leave their country life and settle in London with Uncle Andrew and hisWhen Digory's father is posted to India and his mother becomes ill, they must leave their country life and settle in London with Uncle Andrew and his sister, Aunt Letty. Fortunately Digory soon meets Polly, a girl who lives in one of the connecting row houses, and the adventure begins!
While trying to find a passage through the attics from Polly's house to Digory's, they inadvertently stumble into the workroom of Uncle Andrew. To this point, Digory has not had much contact with his scientific uncle, but this experience proves without a doubt his uncle's evil nature. With a magic ring, he sends Polly into another world with no chance of returning, without Digory entering the world as well, with two magic rings that will bring them back.
Lewis believed that each one of our actions in life either took us one step closer to Heaven, or one step closer to Hell. Now, this didn't mean that by doing something bad, you would go to Hell; Lewis wanted people to be aware that their actions matter. Our actions are what form our character and each action works either towards forming a good, trustworthy, amiable character, or a bad, prideful, self-centred character.
Uncle Andrew is a fine example of a character gone rotten. He is untrustworthy, lacks a conscience and is extraordinarily narcissistic, believing because of his perceived superior intellectual skills and his ability as a magician and scientist, that he is exempt from societal conventions and moral obligations. His cultivated vanity is uncontainable, and in his selfishly aggrandized mind, the ends always justify the means.
At the beginning of the story, while being different from his uncle, Digory, however, shows some disturbingly similar traits. He exhibits the same weakness as his uncle when, in The Wood Between Two Worlds, he suggests that instead of going directly back to the study, they explore another pool. Curiosity overcomes his common sense and a stubborn prideful attitude closes his ears to Polly's initial prudent advice. Fortunately he agrees to Polly's insistent demand to test the rings to see if they are able to return easily; unconstrained curiosity can get one into unexpected perils and it is important that a thirst for knowledge is tempered with a respect for the nature of things.
Similarly in Charn, even though Digory senses that it is a "queer place," he once again ignores Polly's suggestion to leave, using words to deride and mortify her to make her abandon common sense. Finally, he again allows his curiosity to override his good judgement, when he rings the bell in Charn, waking an evil that is beyond his imagination. Curiously, just before this act, Polly remarks, "You look exactly like your uncle when you say that."
Yet finally Digory starts to make wise choices. In spite of being initially captivated by the evil Empress Jadis, his enchantment begins to dissipate after he hears of her ruthless destruction of Charn and of her plans to travel to their world. He also has the integrity to make a full confession when Aslan asks him about the evil that he brought into Narnia, and his bravery and honesty serve him well, as Aslan trusts him with the quest of bringing back a magic apple to grow a tree to protect Narnia from the evil that lurks there. Within the garden there is a replay of the temptation of Eve, this time with Jadis as the tempter and Digory the intended victim. Yet Digory shows surprising resilience, faithfully resisting the witch's manipulations and temptations, returning to fulfil his quest. Through the characters of Uncle Andrew and Digory, we see the formation of a virtuous character who makes prudent choices (with mistakes along the way), and the result of a deceptive and corrupt character who makes the wrong choices .
Lewis' use of "supposition" to represent the creation of Narnia was just lovely. There are obvious parallels to Genesis and the creation of Earth, but also differences, that are as creative as they are compelling. Aslan singing the entire world of Narnia into existence, evoking edenic and pastoral images, is a beautifully captivating scene. The Deplorable Word is thought to be a reference to the atomic bomb; when Lewis began writing this book, the world was at war, and its annihilation would certainly have been foremost in his mind. And there is also an example Plato's theme of self-deception, which we see played out in the character of Uncle Andrew. Plato believed that self-deception was a state of mind where irrational desires supersede natural reason as a guide for ethical behaviour, and while the person believes that their conduct will bring them happiness, in effect, it only brings them misery. Socrates also levelled the charge against his countrymen that blindly pursuing knowledge through any means, with the goal being the resulting power attained, can only be realized at the expense of truth and morality.
Reading this book in published order certainly enhanced my enjoyment of it. A wonderful effort by Lewis!...more
Another year has passed. Peter and Susan Pevensie are able to travel with their parents to America, while Edmund and Lucy are sent to live with theirAnother year has passed. Peter and Susan Pevensie are able to travel with their parents to America, while Edmund and Lucy are sent to live with their cousin, Eustace Scrubb. Eustace is a spoiled pest, a child who has been raised by "very up-to-date and advanced" parents and who attends a "modern school." When the three children pass through a picture of a sailing ship and back into the land of Narnia, they are tossed into another wild adventure.
The Dawn Treader is the pride of the Narnian fleet and is carrying Prince Caspian on a journey to find the seven lost lords of Narnia, friends of his father who sailed east and went missing long ago. As they explore both uncharted land and water, the children find themselves in situations of danger and moments of decision that will change their lives forever.
This book is the third book published of the Narnia chronicles and with each book, Lewis weaves more gems of wisdom into the story and does it with a genuineness that is particularly appealing. Lucy once again has an encounter with Aslan: Lucy is instructed to look for a particular spell in a book of Magic but decides, against her conscience, to read a spell that will stroke her vanity and make her more beautiful than her sister. Immediately she spies Aslan on the page, growling and showing his teeth, which stops her selfish action. Instead she chooses to read a spell that allows her to eavesdrop on two girls from her school, and what she hears about herself is not pleasant, especially since she had viewed one of the girls as her friend. Aslan gently admonishes her about listening to their conversation and says that her relationship with her friend will now never be the same. When Lucy wishes to know what would have happened if she hadn't eavesdropped, Aslan tells her, as he told her in Prince Caspian, "Child, did I not explain to you once before that no one is ever told what would have happened?" Actions have consequences and we need to weigh the repercussions before we act, instead of being guided by impulse.
Eustace Scrubb is certainly a wonderful character and Lewis' development of him is extraordinary. Going from a petulant, spoiled, impertient child, he is transformed by a frightening experience, yet Lewis does not make him perfect in his transformation. As we see by his reactions, he still holds some of the same prejudices, assumptions, and, at times, behaviour as he originally did. Eustace's encounter with Aslan fundementally changed his soul, yet he is like an Everyman, struggling with life's circumstances while trying to live a life of integrity, and still making mistakes along the way.
Lewis makes a point in this book of examining the views of an exclusively scientific mentality and what results from this kind of worldview. Eustace is initially presented as boy who goes to a model, or progressive school, and is only exposed to factual experience. Because of his sterile formation, he is unable to enjoy or even recognize, the magic and joy in Narnia. He has straightforward knowledge, but when situations do not fit into his technical understanding, he is handicapped by his lack of wonder and curiosity, and is unable to accept, understand or cope with them. What is particularly telling, is that he doesn't recognize what lies right in front of his face: in spite of being on the Dawn Treader and being able to see that it is a ship, he tries to tell Caspian what a real ship is like; when they land on Droon, it is reasonably obvious (and he has been told) that they are in another world, yet Eustace insists they should find the British consul; and even after Eustace's transformation, when they land in the country of the Dufflepuds, he makes an impulsive judgement about the area and its people based on his first sight of technology: "Machinery! I do believe we've come to a civilized country at last!" By living solely by "the facts", Eustace can recognize what makes us physically human, yet misses the wonder, enjoyment, and recognition, of what makes us spiritually human.
Living during the Second World War and being exposed to the Nazi's views of racial superiority and social-Darwinism, Lewis' was unavoidably confronted with certain aspects of science and was forced to ponder their eventual outcomes:
"Again, the oligarchy must more and more base its claim to plan us on its claim of knowledge ……. This means they must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists …… Now I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about science. But government involves questions about the good of man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man's opinion no added value …… On just the same ground I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come in. In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension, which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They 'cash in'. It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science."
Lewis was not concerned about science itself, but the importance placed on it and for what means it could be used.
Once again, Lewis weaves a wonderful adventure for children, but leaves questions and ideas that relate to an adult world.
If you found yourself in Hell and then were offered a chance to leave and spend an eternity in Heaven, you'd jump at it, wouldn't you? …….. Or would yIf you found yourself in Hell and then were offered a chance to leave and spend an eternity in Heaven, you'd jump at it, wouldn't you? …….. Or would you …….??
The Great Divorce tells of a journey of souls from the grey town, which we soon see represents Hell, to a wide open space of meadows, rivers and mountains. Yet when the people disembark they are dismayed. They now appears as Ghosts and all the vegetation is dense and tough in a way that makes movement difficult and, at times, dangerous. And who are these shining Solid People coming towards them, and what do they want? Full of joy and laughter, it appears that they only wish for the "Ghosts" to shed their prejudices and grudges and self-absorption and "rights", to accept help and rescue from their troubles. 'Come to the mountain', they say, yet most are unable to, so firmly have these detrimental traits taken root within them, to the exclusion of anything good.
The Great Divorce is Lewis' The Divine Comedy. As Dante is the narrator of The Divine Comedy, so too, the narrator in The Great Divorce is Lewis himself. George MacDonald, the well-known author of The Princess and the Goblin, Phantastes, and At The Back of the North Wind, a man whose writings had a profound affect on Lewis, serves as his Virgil, a guide to bring him understanding of Heaven and similarly, the grey town of Hell.
Yet while analogous in structure, the Hell of The Great Divorce is very different than that of Dante's Hell. It is not a world of men trapped in flaming tombs, immersed in rivers of blood and fire, whipped by demons or eaten by foul creatures. In The Great Divorce, Hell looks surprisingly like Earth, but a corruption of earth, holding only the negative components of greed, envy, self-worship, revenge, jealously, grudges, etc. The setting mirrors the emotions, being bleak, desolate and lacking any human goodness. Rain and dingy twilight permeate the town, and a perpetual feeling of hopelessness is ever-present. Yet while the souls of this dreary place, recognize intellectually what they live in, and practically understand their actions, they have become drowned in them through excuses, trends, weakness of character, reliance on intellect only, and have become blind to their effects. In life, they allowed their choices and actions to carry them in the wrong direction and now have little desire to escape. They have chosen Hell and are unable to conceive of anything outside of it. Similar to the dwarves in the The Last Battle, ignorance has overcome them and they cannot escape it.
Lewis' presentation of Hell is not only easily understandable, it is quite fascinating. Lewis' Hell is not a Hell for people. Each "person" there, is there of their own choice, and their descent into it has been a gradual process, and not because of one big sin. Each of their choices has progressively dehumanized them; it is not that they are beyond salvation, rather that there is no shred of humanness left to save. Lewis also emphasizes the smallness of Hell by having the bus, not actually travel but grow, sprouting from a small crack in the soil to emerge in Heaven. Hell, to Lewis is a tiny place and anything that lives there is already withered away.
On the other hand, the Bright or Solid People of Heaven did not get there through moral perfection. One had been a murderer and confessed to doing worse than that, while another was hardly known on Earth but the people and animals that came into her presence were enriched by her love and charity. And again, we have another echo from The Last Battle, that Heaven is much more real than earth, exemplified by the tough grass, the hard rivers and terrain that the Ghosts experience and would only have a change of perception if they chose to accept the invitation to become more real.
While Lewis states in his preface that this book is an answer to William Blakes' The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he makes it very clear that it is not a story that is meant to be taken in a literal sense; like his Narnia Chronicles, it is a supposition. More, it is a work that explores human biases, perceptions and attitudes that either allow us to or prevent us from getting closer to God....more