Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis - a mini review

The Silver Chair - book 6 in The Chronicles of Narnia - is a story about duplicity and identity in which the heroes gripe and groan while the villains laugh and sing. 

The major theme appears to be that we are given the choice every day about which of our two natures we wish to be: good or bad. The two children protagonists - Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb - often behave badly or bratty, while the villains are all smiling and charming, such as the King and Queen of the Gentle Giants or the Green Witch. 

Prince Rilian behaves as both villain and hero, and in a clever twist his true nature is revealed when we first encounter the titular Silver Chair. Poor Rilian isn't given the choice about which of his two halves he gets to be - and he only gets to be free of his bad side when he's tied up by the Witch and allowed to be good for a short time every night. Sounds kinky...

Like Rilian, we are bound to our bad habits when we succumb to our base natures - and it is only by the grace of God - or Aslan - that we can be set free to pursue our better selves. Even if God - or Aslan - isn't real, the belief in Him is a useful fiction that does far more good than harm. Or does it?

A moral compass is a fine thing to have and if God exists, He is like the magnetic force that will always reveal the true north; but in reality many atrocities have been conducted in the name of God. As a gay man and a free thinker, I know how easily any religion can become like a Bermuda Triangle that confounds our compass and puts us at risk of becoming lost for good. 

I value the wisdom of any prophet - whether they are divinely conceived or inspired, or have simply become wise because they opted for sensitivity, compassion, and creativity, thus becoming the noblest version of themselves possible. C. S. Lewis stands among the best of them. 

Favourite Story Moments: Puddleglum's pessimism and Eeyore-like sayings. He's the real hero of the story because he alone resists the Green Witch. He's used to putting a good face on things so he chooses to believe in Aslan even when the others have given in to doubt. Also I loved the threat and danger of the Green Witch's insidious spell work. 

Least Favourite Moments: When Jill, Eustace, and Caspian are sent by Aslan on a sanctioned crusade to whip and beat the schoolyard bullies of Experiment House. And I felt shortchanged by the origins of the Green Witch; since the White Witch has such a compelling backstory, I was let down when I learned that the Green Witch just slithered down from the North. 

Rating: 4 of 5 

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