Communicator (communicator) wrote,

The Problem of Susan

With the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe out, I have to think again about my Issues with CS Lewis. When I was a little girl - 6-9 let's say - the Narnia books were my favourite books. Not just 'I liked them a lot' I was committed to them. Then, perhaps at the age of 8 or 9, I read 'The Last Battle' and it disturbed me. It cast a shadow back over many of the other books, in particular the Silver Chair and the Magician's Nephew. At first, because I was a nice little girl, I thought it was me that was wrong, not my hero. Eventually over the next two or three years I realised that I just had to let Lewis go, and let the whole theological world view go. My parent were CS Lewis-type Christians, so this meant breaking with the whole religious structure of my childhood. From the age of 12 I never set foot inside a church.

I don't mean the Last Battle caused the whole edifice to crumble, but that my revulsion for that book was part of that first waking up to the cognitive dissonance that was going on inside me about religion, and sexuality, and being female, and loving this world in itself for what it is.

I predict there will be a lot of blog posts over the next few weeks about the Problem of Susan. Many people went through some sort of revulsion or shock as children when they got to that passage. And now they are posting about it.

To recap - Susan is the only one of the Narnia children who is not admitted to Aslan's Kingdom (i.e. Heaven) at the end of the series. She has rejected salvation for the sake of 'lipstick, nylons and going out with boys'. Of all the horrors that human beings committed in the 20th century, one might think the wearing of sexy stockings was fairly low down on the list. But don't get me started.

Is the punishment of Susan misogynist? Yes, I think it is. Is it anti-sex? Yes, I think it is. I thought that as a child ('but surely babies need to be made?' was my innocent thought on reading that passage).

But I think it's something more than that, something that cuts to the heart of both religion and fantasy. It's the idea that this world is inferior to some world that we can't see, but which exists beyond death (or beyond some other barrier). I think that is a profound mistake. This really is the start of some other post, about Platonism and religion and poetry and sex and fantasy and everything, but I have wittered on enough.

ETA - to reiterate my general welcoming of comments that disagree. I doubt I'd change my mind, but I won't consider it trolling.
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