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I finally finished this tonight. The last couple chapters were pretty trippy, and reminded me in parts of The Last Battle (just less joyful), with expressions of astonishment at never really seeing what was right there all along.
“The complaint was the answer.” (TWHF)
“I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.” (TLB)
As the review in the OP mentioned, Orual is an unreliable narrator, and Lewis did such a good job with that. He had even me questioning whether the gods were real, whether what was seen and experienced could really be trusted when compared to a different experience.
I appreciate the insights shared above and concur with many. I don’t have much to add, but one theme that gripped me in light or Orual’s lack of reliability was the issue of love. Her treatment of Psyche was both shocking and partially understandable. Her mention of “The girl was mine” in her complaint, echoes her treatment of Bardia (“I know that your queenship drank up his blood year by year and ate out his life.”).
Then in the last chapter:
“Did we really do these things to her?” I asked.
“Yes. All here’s true.”
“And we said we loved her.”
“And we did. She had no more dangerous enemies than us…”
It makes me think of sibling relationships (of which I have many), parenting, etc. – how often “love” and “devour” can overlap. Perhaps that’s a little dramatic – still a stark contrast to ponder. Glad I finally read this book, and though I found a lot there I feel like the majority of it is beyond the meager abilities of my mind, but reading Lewis usually has that effect on me.
Yes, that’s right. I actually found myself strongly sympathizing with The Fox and Orual about the gods–either they didn’t exist, or they were evil. There are lots of good parallels with our own questioning of God here (though the gods–especially Eros–seemed pretty awful from one perspective; why shroud oneself with mystery, especially when the mystery in the old Aphrodite statue led to such evil sacrifices?).
Lewis is very complex. One of the best parts of the compassion he shows is that we, too, realize that we both love imperfectly and truly. One of the surprise twists in the story for me was that we aren’t whole without the gods–that we really need them to take everything away and give us a new understanding, to love others with real faces (I think). I still have a lot to grasp here. I’d like to read a commentary on this from his wife, as I understand she helped him finish it and was a poet in her own right.
By the way, I, too, usually find Lewis above me–that’s why I posted the thread–for help!