(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)
I thought I knew what to expect from Mr. Lewis. Really, I did. I’ve read enough of his works to know he’s awesome. Then comes The Great Divorce. I mean really, Jack, how many masterpieces did you write?! I love his warning at the beginning:
“I beg readers to remember that this is a fantasy. It has of course – or I intended it to have – a moral. But the transmortal conditions are solely an imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or speculation at what may actually await us.”
“The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the details of the after-world.”
I wasn’t sure what to think the first pages in. I wasn’t stressed that I wasn’t going to like it, but I was kind of afraid it was going to end up being meh. Then suddenly I found myself wanting to copy 97% of the book in my quote book. I love this book! It has become one of my favorites of Lewis.
The conversations our narrator had or overhead felt like conversations I’ve had in real life. Like the ghost who couldn’t see that he was missing the full truth? Instead the bits and pieces he did believe were weaved in other falsehoods of spirituality.
I love how much it gets you thinking from all the different responses to the narrator’s experiences. There was the cynic, where it was all propaganda and conspiracies and complaints, but the one who doesn’t actually want to change anything either. Plus the narrator’s change and development was done so well. I could understand why he questioned with the early ghost examples, especially after Debbie Downer Ghost (remember his commentary on rain?!)
“I have not fully made up my mind to go back to the bus, but wanted to avoid open places. If only I could find a trace of evidence that it was really possible for a Ghost to stay – that the choice was not only a cruel comedy – I would not go back.”
I was also genuinely sad for the lady who was too ashamed of her “nakedness” and didn’t trust that she would become solid again. How much she missed out on!
“What are we born for?”
“For infinite happiness,” said the Spirit. “You can step out into it at any moment.”
Meeting George MacDonald was one of my favorite parts of the book.
“Literary ghosts hang about public libraries to see if anyone’s still reading their books.” I caught the chuckles on that one.
Alright, I’m going to attempt to only include a “few” more quotes. I apologize in advance for the length, but I seriously can’t help myself. It’s like asking me to get rid of books. I just can’t.
“Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory…damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin.”
“There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing of 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. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organiser of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all snares.”
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”
“This curious wish to describe Hell turned out, however, to be only the mildest form of a desire very common among the Ghosts-the desire to extend Hell, to bring it bodily, if they could, into Heaven.”
How many people is this quote perfect for? “They terrify lest they should fear.” Tacitus
Then this was this: After discussing those ghosts so grotesque that they made the trip simply to spit in the face of Heaven: “Those that hate goodness are sometimes nearer than those that know nothing at all about it and think they have it already.”
Oh and then with the painter: “Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.” On a total cheesy geek note, my heart did a happy dance when the artists mentioned were Claude and Cézanne. Lewis even had excellent taste in art. One more piece of evidence to prove Jack and I would have been friends.
“Do you mean there are no famous men?”
“They are all famous. They are all known, remembered, recognised by the only Mind that can give a perfect judgement.”
I thought the whole interaction of the Lady and dwarf was interesting as well and here’s some quotes I pulled from that section –
“Here is joy that cannot be shaken. Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now. No, no, no. Come to us. We will not go to you. Can you really have thought that love and joy would always be at the mercy of frowns and sighs? Did you not know they were stronger than their opposites?”
“The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that He’ll should be able to veto Heaven.”
Alright, now that I’ve pretty much written out the book :), how about we discuss? Here’s a few questions, but as always, please share any other thoughts!
1. Which of the ghosts did you find the most interesting?
I’ll say the most annoying was the nagging wife. I kept calling her a wench. So edgy, I know. Man alive! Always the victim and I felt bad for her husband. Then she wanted him to come so she could have another “project.” Yet, she couldn’t forgive him either. For what? Who knows, but she was a mess.
The most interesting/sad for me was probably with the mother who lost her son. What did y’all think of Pam and Reginald’s conversation? I personally cannot imagine what losing a child would be like, but in her case, she lost both her children (and even husband) when she ignored her daughter and focused only on the past.
2. What was one of your favorite scenes?
I could simply say all of them, but I’ll go with the saucy lizard and the Ghost who didn’t want to quite let go of the sin. It was a perfect illustration of what it looks like to free yourself of the “lizard” in your life.
“Why, you’re hurting me now.”
“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”
I thought he was going to keep the lizard, but am so glad he didn’t. I loved Lewis’ description of what happened after too.
3. Any favorite quotes to share?
Please see all of the above 🙂
4. How does this rank in the works of Lewis?
I have plenty more to read, but this is right up there with Narnia for me. Man, what a fascinating look at human nature.
5. Any final thoughts to share?
Lewis reminds me that while the face of culture changes drastically through each generation, people don’t. The same things that hold people back in the time Lewis wrote this are many of the same today. And once again I wish I could have had one conversation with Clive. Just one.