Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On the Fiction of C. S. Lewis

If you know me decently well, you know I am a big fan of C. S. Lewis. Most folks just seem to know him for The Chronicles of Narnia, but he has written far more than just that. I've read most of his fiction (including the Chronicles, his Space Trilogy, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and Till We Have Faces), and hope to delve into his letters and his apologetics at a later date.

Sometimes I meet people who understand this love, completely. Other times, I meet people who don't understand at all. So here, I shall try to explain.

I suppose the first things I love about his writings are the most basic, obvious sorts of things. His descriptions are so full, so vivid, that I may as well be watching it on film, or walking about the book myself. The characters have character. The plot has suspense without relying on it, so that you may read the books over and over again. The good humans have their human flaws, and the bad ones are perfectly despicable.

This despicable quality is the next thing that I so appreciate in his books. Lewis did not write the sort of bad guys that anyone wants to emulate. They are foolish and horrid and at times perfectly disgusting, and almost always quite pitiable. You want them gone, to be sure, for they pose a real danger, and yet you pity them and their miserable states. In his life, Lewis wrote each work purely for the side of good, and he allowed no mistake, no question in that.

So of course, I very much enjoy the goodness of his writings. I like the holiness of the heavenly characters. I like the freshness of Narnia, of Perelandra and Malacandra, of the Heaven in The Great Divorce. I like the portraits he paints of virtuous people, like Psyche and Dr. Ransom. When he wrote these things, he had a clear distinction in his mind between what is good and what is unholy, and every book is a portrait, a verbal portrait, of that distinction. As you read it, he works it into your mind, weaving this tapestry without you noticing it is being woven until it is almost complete.

Perhaps the thing I like best about his works is this portrait-painting. Where the Bible is straightforward in giving you a class on goodness, listing things like the Fruit of the Spirit and the sorts of actions that God despises, Lewis shows these things instead of telling them. He hints at it, meanders through its gardens and leads you by the hand, as you look about you in wonder and realize, "This is what they meant." The Psalms and the prophets proclaim the glory of God, and Lewis, with the verbal paintbrush that God handed him, shows the glory of God to us small, childlike, foolish people, who forget to see the wonder in the setting sun, and who never before could see the things the Psalmists could see.

The Holy Bible is the only true and complete Book of Truth, and Christ is the only One we should strive to emulate. With that warning in mind, I bid you to try the fiction, or the letters, or the apologetics of C. S. Lewis. It is well worth the time.

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