Thursday, November 21, 2013

Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1980.

The god tells Orual that she must "die before she dies because there is no chance after." Multiple times in the book Orual says, "holy places are dark places." At the end of the book Orual says, "I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer." Fox at the end says that his philosophy "was as thin as water." Oh no! I referred to that popular question, what does the fox say?

Some say that C. S. Lewis liked his book, Till We Have Faces, the best of all his books. Some think it is his best book. It was first published in 1956. It was the last novel he wrote. he wrote expository works after Till We Have Faces. His wife, Joy, was still alive when he wrote it and critiqued the early part as he began writing it.

In Till We Have Faces Lewis reshapes the original myth of Cupid and Psyche. One of the things he changes in it is that Orual does not see Psyche's castle. Why did he change this? Maybe, he thought that is one of the challenges of being a Christian. A Christian has supernatural beliefs that can be seen by the physical eye. Orual and the Fox thought Psyche was crazy because they did not believe that her castle was real.

What is Till We Faces about? One of the main themes is that in part one Orual makes a case against the gods. She writes this in a book. Another theme asks the question, why are the gods silent? A third theme is the relationship between the pagan myths and Christianity. A last theme is the relationship between faith and reason.

That Hideous Strength could be considered as illustrating the Abolition of Man. Is there another book that Till we Have Faces illustrate? It seems that it illustrates The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis. For example, Orual demonstrates a possessive love similar to the mother in The Great Divorce. Psyche exhibits an unselfish love. Friendship love is seen in the relationship between Bardia and Orual.

Orual in the book finds out she is Ungit, the god who destroys. Her love destroys the lives of other. A big part of the book is that Orual is ugly, so she veils herself. The ironic thing is that she becomes ugly on the inside. She complains at the gods for her ugliness and taking Psyche away. She feels she has been mistreated. There seems to be some similarities with the book of Job because she says at the end that the god is the answer. It is interesting that she cannot be answered till she finds who she really is and finds her one true self. She must die before she dies.

One interesting contrast is the old priest with the new priest. Another is the old god and the new god. Orual asks a woman why she worships the old god instead of the new god, she tells Orual because the old god comforts her. In addition, the fox says that his philosophy was as "thin as water." This means that reason is not enough. There must be bloody sacrifices. "Dark places are holy places." True religion contains mystery.

Till We Have Faces is a mature work by Lewis. By this I mean it comes at the end of his life and is well developed. Orual is a well-developed character. It is interesting how this woman is such a strong character. It is also interesting how Lewis ties reason and faith, Christianity and Myth together in this great work. It is another work of Lewis that requires multiple readings.

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