Nic's Reviews > The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
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's review
Dec 04, 10

bookshelves: on-a-boooat
Read in May, 2008, read count: 2

I read all the Narnia books as a child, and am just rereading them now.

I like this much better than Prince Caspian. For one thing, Caspian himself is more active; there is also a neat plot with really cool, original creatures and places. Plus, Aslan is less annoying, though his reference to himself existing in the real world "under another name" is pretty opaque. In all fairness, though, I totally didn't get it when I was a kid. I never realized the metaphorical Christian nature of the Narnia books until I was told about it.

I feel Lewis doesn't do a very good job establishing why the children have such affection for Aslan. Gratitude and respect, yes, but I don't understand why people like him. He's good, but he isn't nice. He's patronizing, domineering, and constantly withholds information. At the end of this book, Lucy says that leaving Narnia wouldn't be so bad if they only didn't have to leave Aslan, and I just don't get it. I can only attribute it to the mysteeerious happy feelings the good guys always get when Aslan's around; it's more like he's a drug than a friend, really. I think this is a bit of a failure on Lewis' part.

The other thing that I feel iffy about is the treatment of Eustace and his family. As comic relief, their politically correct ways are hilarious, but I don't feel so good about the statement Lewis seems to be making in places. For example, Eustace is ignored and even shown somewhat mockingly for trying to explain to Caspian that it's bad to pamper Lucy simply because she's a girl. Essentially, Lewis seems to be saying "Silly feminism." The chivalrous Caspian, of course, does not listen to Eustace at all.

Overall, a good story. A captivating read, but with some caveats.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Becky (new)

Becky I think what Lewis would say is that good is a lot more important than "niceness" (or tameness) and that the Pevensie children recognize this goodness and connect with it. Of course I always liked the character and, even when I found him philosophically troubling, never found him patronizing, so I am biased. :)

And yes, Lewis's disenchantment with the liberals of his time is definitely uncomfortable for modern readers. (I'm rereading Prince Caspian and find it hilarious that Trumpkin, the good Dwarf, smokes, while Nikabrik doesn't. So very Inklingish....) I think his issue with this people is that they were trying to very stridently reform human behavior on rational grounds, to the extent that they were totally ignoring the moral or humanistic. So in rejecting their motivations, Lewis failed to ever ask himself whether some of the individual things they were doing weren't good ideas, and perhaps fails to recognize that some liberals of his time were probably not as crazy as Eustace's family.

message 2: by Nic (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nic I know Lewis makes a whole big deal of Aslan being "not a tame lion", but if he would argue that tameness and niceness are the same, I would disagree. I think Aslan, like anyone, could show consideration for others without compromising his own independence.

Leah I see where your going with the Aslan thing. Lewis is not great at character development. He is however amazing a writing the actual adventure. When I was reading the books I found that I also didn't understand the attraction to Aslan. Until I picked up the Magician's Nephew. There is one scene in that book that while not completely making Aslan an amazingly lovable character, helped me out a lot. It was the part where Digory asks Aslan for help for his dying mother. And begins to cry and when he looks up at Aslan and Aslan tells him "all in good time" with his eyes also filled with tears. Also in the horse and his boy when Shasta finds Aslan in the woods and he explains he had been the one looking after him, nudging him in the right direction, and helping him find his rightful place as king. I agree with you that it is not as obvious in the other books or characters.

Also on your other point- I don't believe Lewis was knocking feminism. I think it's something more like chivilary (sp?) He could not possibly reject feminism for the pure fact that there is a heroine or two in every book. Not only are there girls-but they fight and are involved in battles among everything else!! If thats not feminism I don't know what is...

message 4: by Nic (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nic It does have fighting women, but I still see some real inequalities. The women never get to have swords; except for the Witch, they're indirectly involved in battles, whether by shooting arrows from a distance or by healing, like Lucy. And in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there's some kind of comment like "war is ugly when women fight." There are also a lot of ". . . for a girl" type comments in the books. In The Horse and His Boy, Prince Corin says that he hears that Lucy "Fights almost as well as a man, or as well as a boy, anyway," or something like that. :P I think Lewis was trying pretty hard to make things equal, but it reads to me like he couldn't quite manage to entirely do it.

Dacia Considering that he was born in a time where men and women really were NOT equal, it's not hard to imagine he has a hard time with the idea of them being "the same", and lets face it, they're not! Women AREN'T the same as men, and in general women are not as good in war as men, especially back when war involved swinging incredibly heavy swords around! I've actually always liked his "War is ugly when women fight" comment. Have you ever studied boys and girls on the playground? Girl fights are, without question, far UGLIER than boy fights!

The thing is, while I don't think Lewis really knew how he felt about all the roles of women in society, I feel like he did RESPECT women. He had a hard time letting go of chivalry because he really believed women were worthy of respect, and thought putting them on pedestals was a good way to show it. We STILL do that at times. I remember how hard it was for me to get used to men holding open the door, but I finally realized I just had to get used to it. My bristling at the inequality of it was only making me miserable, and denying the kindness of their gesture! Similarly, Lewis allows Lucy the cabin because that's the way believes he can respect her, and respect is always a good thing.

Besides, he shows the way he values women in other parts of the story. The women are almost always painted as being wise along with gentle and kind (or at least they're generally wiser than the men & boys!) Moreover, the things he values in women are things that show he's not looking from the typical male perspective. Susan is the beautiful sister, but it is Lucy who is always the true heroine. Lucy is chosen because she is brave, cheerful, good hearted, and clever. Lucy is chosen because she focuses on things of the mind instead of fashion and play. The woman Lewis sets up as a role model for little girls isn't a shy, silent, damsel. Instead she's a clever, brave, outspoken character who is guided by her desire to do right.

message 6: by Nic (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nic Dacia wrote: "Considering that he was born in a time where men and women really were NOT equal, it's not hard to imagine he has a hard time with the idea of them being "the same", and lets face it, they're not! ..."

I definitely feel like Lewis is at least showing positive opinions of women, which I appreciate. I still disagree with the "war is ugly when women fight" comment, though, based on the fact that it implies that war is somehow not ugly when men fight. War is basically awful all the time.

I think this kind of goes along with some other, non-gender-related attitudes of the books. I basically don't see any situation in which violence is glorious; I think it's sometimes the lesser of two evils, but should be an unfortunate last resort. For this reason I'm less a fan of Reepicheep than some people are - he's entertaining and all, but I don't like characters whose first response to a challenge is to attack it. If he weren't a mouse with a sword (and thus kind of inherently funny), but, say, a big muscular guy, he'd be a dangerous bully. That's the personality he has.

But to return to the gender issue, I have a problem with it whenever it's suggested that women *can't* or *shouldn't* do the same things as men, have the same strengths, etc. I don't take issue with any of the actual characters, like Lucy. If Lewis had just let his characters stand up as examples on their own, I would have been fine with that. I just don't like some of the sweeping statements Lewis makes about women.

Also, even if Lewis meant well by his "chivalric" treatment of women in the books, that doesn't mean I have to like it. He may have come from a position of respect, but in my opinion, treating women differently from men isn't respectful, it's patronizing. The intention doesn't necessarily define the reaction. To look at a parallel from what might be the opposite direction, if a guy makes some sketchy comment about your boobs, and you get offended, and he says, "What? It was a compliment!", that doesn't mean you can't be offended.

Dacia I don't think it's dishonest to say that men and women have different strengths. While outlyers always exist, for the most part, men and women do have very different attributes. This can be seen most clearly when it comes to physical exertion. Our military, police forces, and fire departments ALL have different standards for men and women BECAUSE they have different strengths. Women can be valuable assets, even to those occupations, because they are different - such as when Lewis pointed out that Jill made the best scout.

Also, Lewis did know, on a personal level, that war is very VERY painful. However, there is honor in war. There is honor in standing up for what you believe, and as much as we'd like violence to not be the answer, it almost always is. The single person who is willing to kill will always have dominance over those are unwilling to do so. Violence must be controlled and directed appropriately in order to have peace the rest of the time.

message 8: by Nic (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nic I don't deny that men and women tend toward different strengths. I just think it's key not to draw lines from that on what people can or should do, even if it's just because that puts limits on the people who are outliers. They're people, too, and should be encouraged to fulfill their potentials, whether that fits the expected norm for their gender or not.

As I said, I believe war, and violence of any kind, can be the least-bad option. I think, however, than any circumstance in which this is the case is a wrong situation - that is, that the situation itself is a problem that should be addressed. I agree that there is honor in standing up for what you believe, but I think violence is usually a go-to easy answer for those who are physically stronger (whether that's a person or a nation), not a good solution. Even when there is war, that isn't what brings peace - the negotiations that end the war bring peace. Besides, I think most wars in the history of humankind have been fought over things like land and religion, not to preserve peace.

I definitely do not believe that the single person who is willing to kill will always have dominance over people who are not. Murderers are willing to kill, but our society doesn't see that as a strength. It recognizes that killing is wrong. Thus, murderers are locked up and, as long as the system is functioning properly, have no dominance over anyone.

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