“In your world, I have another name. You must learn to know me by it. That was the very reason you were brought to Narnia. That by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” —Aslan, to Lucy and Edmund
Further concerning Susan's "distractions" in The Last Battle, I also interpreted her focus on materialistic things as a coping mechanism. I read an article once, I forget where, that said that Susan, due to the lack of a certain security in herself, didn’t possess her siblings’ faith in Narnia. Even while they were there, she was always concerned with what, to her, was most “grown up,” (which in itself is not a very mature thing to do). This insecurity, while harmless and sometimes helpful (1/3)
prevented her from building the same faith and resolve in Narnia that her sister and brothers were able to maintain. Like a child, she was driven by a desire for permanence, as well as for something that fulfilled her idea of what was most “grown up.” In Narnia’s physical, incontrovertible absence, she strove to fill the hole it left, and subdue her insecurities that told her she was very silly for having kept up an imaginary game for so long, with material things like “lipsticks and invitations” that the physical, incontrovertible world she was living in there and then approved of as “grown up.” My two cents anyway, and I agree with you about Lewis’s choices of distraction. It was nothing sexist, merely appropriate to the person he was writing about.
Thank you for adding this, anon!! I never considered, as a child, whether Susan was trying to fill the gap left by Narnia, but it seems to be a universally accepted conclusion and one that’s hard to escape.
I’m just going to leave this snippet from the end of Prince Caspian here:
“This way,” said Susan, who seemed to know all about it. “Back into the trees. We’ve got to change.”
“Change what?” asked Lucy.
“Our clothes, of course,” said Susan. “Nice fools we’d look on the platform of an English station in these.”
“But our other things are at Caspian’s castle,” said Edmund.
“No, they’re not,” said Peter, still leading the way into the thickest wood. “They’re all here. They were brought down in bundles this morning. It’s all arranged.”
“Was that what Aslan was talking to you and Susan about this morning?” asked Lucy.
“Yes—that and other things,” said Peter, his face very solemn. “I can’t tell it to you all. There were things he wanted to say to Su and me because we’re not coming back to Narnia.”
“Never?” cried Edmund and Lucy in dismay.
“Oh, you two are,” answered Peter. “At least, from what he said, I’m pretty sure he means you to get back some day. But not Su and me. He says we’re getting too old.”
“Oh, Peter,” said Lucy. “What awful bad luck. Can you bear it?”
“Well, I think I can,” said Peter. “It’s all rather different from what I thought. You’ll understand when it comes to your last time. But, quick, here are our things.”
At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Lucy and Edmund receive their walking papers, we get some insight into that unseen conversation.
“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are – are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This is the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
The Pevensies have a purpose in their own world which might, in the scheme of things, be greater even than the one they serve in Narnia. They have to bring what they have learned in Narnia into the ordinary business of their everyday lives.
It’s clear from the way he speaks, after he learns this, that Peter is sad - but he can bear it, because he understands it. He has begun to catch on to the fact that Aslan is not one thing in one place only. (Susan, by contrast, is a little brisk. Throwing her emotions on the subject aside, intent only on getting back into her ordinary clothes and not embarrassing herself on the train platform. Foreshadowing?)
By the time we see Lucy in The Last Battle, she, too, has come to know Aslan by his true name: "In our world, too, a Stable once held something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
They were supposed to become closer to their own world; those were their instructions. By never making the adjustment, Susan becomes more, not less, detached from her surroundings. Not only has she failed to find Aslan in our world, she’s now willing to deny that she ever found him anywhere else.
A lot of people see the loss of Susan’s siblings as a punishment. “A god who would punish me for liking nylons and parties by making me walk through that school dining room, with the flies, to identify Ed, well … he’s enjoying himself a bit too much, isn’t he?” says an older woman who may or may not be Miss Pevensie in Neil Gaiman’s utterly sickening short story The Problem of Susan. “Like a cat, getting the last ounce of enjoyment out of a mouse.” I couldn’t agree more, if the train accident were a punishment. But Susan, you must remember, never did what she had to do in the real world–whatever that was. She’s still got a life left to live. Possibly a very long one.
And she’s the representative of her family on Earth. Father Christmas gave Susan her horn because she was the most doubtful and frightened of her siblings. In contrast to Lucy, whose bottle of healing cordial makes her the helper everyone is looking for, Susan’s horn ensures that she will always be able to find help–someone will come to her assistance if she needs it. Aslan has taken a special and deliberate care of her. It’s fascinating, then, that when another person uses the horn, it’s Susan herself, with her siblings, who comes to the rescue. And that’s my hope for Susan in the Shadowlands, that she goes from being aided to giving aid. There might be hundreds of people in the real world who need her. Short of a quick trip to Narnia, is there a better fate than to be the answer to everyone’s prayers, to be the one who comes at the summons of the horn?
The horn which, by the way, Caspian kept at Susan’s own insistence. Lewis leaves the door wide open for her to rejoin the others. But not until the time is right.
putting aside spiritual beliefs for a minute, yes, it’s a general agreement among scholars that jesus of nazareth did in fact exist. because of the distance between then and now, we can’t pinpoint exactly who jesus of nazareth would have been, but we do know because of the common trend of messianic figures at the time that it’s not a stretch by any means for jesus as we know him in the bible to have sprung from one influential messianic figure in particular. if you’re interested in this subject and you want an accessible overview of what jesus the historical figure’s life might have been like and how christianity came about, reza aslan’s ‘zealot’ is an entertaining read
i love that C.S Lewis (as well as the movies) never tried to make Edmund something he wasn’t. after his betrayal and everything, he didn’t become some loud hero (aka, he didn’t become Peter). He was the supportive, quieter younger brother. same with his friendship with Caspian. and while that often frustrated Edmund/made him jealous, that was his purpose. no one was meant to be the same, everyone is made for a specific purpose (in a Christian context, symbolized with Aslan). Edmund never became perfect, nor did he magically grow a new personality. instead, he simply grew into the person he was meant to be-smart, witty, supportive, etc. that is, possibly, why Edmund is my favorite.
Susan wasn’t “not let into True Narnia (aka Heaven) because she liked Makeup”.
I get frustrated when people try to use this as a “Lewis shames girls, is a sexist, I can’t follow/believe in a God who would be so petty and misogynistic”.
Susan said Narnia was a childish game that they played as children. Susan didn’t want to go back to Narnia because she stopped believing, she was too good for it. Why would Asian force her into a “childish delusion”?
Susan wasn’t punished for primping, she chose not to be a part of the world and Aslan honored her choice.
Also, it wasn’t Susan whose friendship was ruined by overhearing a friend’s conversation, that was Lucy. Class I really like you, but please don’t get your reference wrong.
I've been coming across your posts about Susan Pevensie. And from what I can tell, between Susan's wanting to be "grown up", Mark Studdock's desire be in "the in circle" and his non-fiction writings about "wanting to appear grown up" and losing oneself in the mundane and conventional, it seems that C.S.Lewis was writing about problems that he himself grappled with. And I think to call him misogynist is just so unfair.
Because I love it so much, the famous quote from his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”:
Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
This theme persists throughout his work–and not just in the specific desire to appear grown-up, which is Susan’s struggle, but in concerns about appearances in general. I have yet to read the Space Trilogy beyond Out of the Silent Planet, but the need you mention to be part of an in-crowd is studied in The Screwtape Letters as a particular flaw of the Patient.
There’s a scene in that book that’s always stuck with me: Screwtape flying into a rage with Wormwood because he allowed the Patient, who’s been living between their clutches after falling into a negative social circle, to receive a much-needed shot of divine grace. Not by the means you’d guess. The man wasn’t even trying to contact God. He simply took a walk in a place he liked, and then he went and read a book–not a religious book, even, just a book he wanted to read. As a young, inexperienced demon, Wormwood can’t tell why this action, morally neutral on its face, should on no account have been allowed, so Screwtape tells him. The Patient did something purely for himself, with no desire to impress anyone. And doing that made him realize that lately he’d been doing a great many things he had no desire to do. Suddenly he’s in this cloud of grace, terrifying to demons, and Screwtape can’t even touch him.
Lewis seems indeed to have written about his own struggles–and this concern about appearances might well have been chief among them. “Let him,” says Screwtape, after the Patient’s conversion, “if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which the Enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act.” In The Great Divorce, the speaker–an avatar of Lewis himself–communes with his old influence George MacDonald in the afterlife. MacDonald tells him of a soul who had devoted his life to writing about survivalism and was therefore disgusted with Heaven because, everyone having survived Death itself, there was no longer any need for it. When Lewis exclaims, “How fantastic!”, MacDonald retorts pointedly, “It is nearer to such as you than ye think. There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself … as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.”
Among the perfections of Lewis’ heaven is a fountain from which artists must drink: “When you have drunk of it you forget forever all proprietorship in your own works. You enjoy them just as if they were someone else’s: without pride and without modesty.” We see an artist refuse this fountain, interested only in his influence in the afterlife, unaware that even on earth his movement has fallen out of fashion and his work forgotten. “Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there,” a friend and fellow-painter tells him, “but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower–become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.”
This is Lewis’ flaw and his fear, one he best expresses in terms of unbarred disgust in Mere Christianity: “He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble—delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are. I wish I had got a bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancy-dress off—getting rid of the false self, with all its ‘Look at me’ and ‘Aren’t I a good boy?’ and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.”
Beneath the feminine trappings of nylons and lipsticks Susan suffers the same struggles that grown men do in Lewis’ world–that Lewishimself suffers bitterly from–and I think that’s all quite right. She is neither elevated above them like Dante’s Beatrice or placed below them as an inferior sort. She is a human being with the human problem, which Aslan perhaps states best in Prince Caspian: “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve, and that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
Okay so I know Narnia is just filled with symbols and metaphors and “allegories” for Christianity, but I just realized one I hadn’t thought of before and I’m ecstatic.
Ezekiel 36:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
I was just thinking of this verse, when I realized the fulfillment of it by Aslan within Narnia… The White Witch turns the Narnians into stone, but Aslan’s breath (and only his breath, as far as we’ve seen) can heal them and make them flesh again. JUST LIKE ASLAN TURNS THE CREATURES OF STONE BACK INTO LIVING BEINGS, JESUS INTENDS TO TAKE OUR HARDENED HEARTS AND MAKE THEM FLESH AGAIN. I JUST THINK THATS SO COOL.