Thursday, October 7, 2010

Growing up

Throughout his novel The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, CS Lewis follows characters Edmund, Eustace and Lucy on their journey from childhood to adulthood. At the beginning of the novel, these three characters are referred to as merely children in comparison to their older relatives Susan and Peter. It is because of their age that Lucy and Edmund are sent off to Eustace’s home rather than follow their parents to America. However, as the three children enter the “other world,” the reader watches them each embark on their individual journey from childhood to adulthood.

The transformation begins as the children move from one island to the next. Among the three, Eustace is the first to change as enchantment transforms him from a beastly child, to a beastly dragon, and finally to a more humane and self-less child. A reader watches as Eustace breaks away from all the darkness that once surrounded his thoughts, and allows himself to embrace the world he is now a part of. The very moment Eustace becomes a dragon, he begins to see the good in his companions. “He wanted to be friends. He wanted to get back among humans and talk and laugh and share things” (98). As Aslan, C.S. Lewis’ symbol of Jesus throughout the novel, assists Eustace in shedding his dragon skin, he is also helping Eustace shed away all the “dragonish thoughts” and selfishness that once surrounded him. In this moment, Eustace molds into an adult who recognizes the values of companionship and service.

Similar to Eustace, Lucy also endures a similar transformation. After meeting the Duffers she is sent into the Magicians’ home to make them visible again. However, as she reads the magic book, she comes across a spell that will make her absolutely beautiful. Like any girl would be, Lucy is tempted to say the spell so that she would be prettier than all girls, including her sister Susan. Right away, Aslan intervenes and steers her away from uttering the words. However, like any other girl would, Lucy then says the spell to find out what all her friends think about her and then swears off one of her best friends. She then says the spell making all things visible and King Aslan appears. Aslan exclaims, “spying on people by magic is the same as spying on them in any other way. And you have misjudged your friend, she is weak but she loves you” (170). In this moment, Lucy learns a life lesson that we all must learn as we grow up. She learns that good friends are hard to come by. Although some friends may be weak at times, we all are weak at times. Like Eustace, Lucy learns that she must see the good in people and learn forgiveness.

Although it may be harder for the reader to see, Edmund also becomes an adult throughout the journey. In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund made mistakes that almost led to the demise of Narnia completely. However, in this work, Edmund has forgiven himself for his past and has learned from it. After Eustace is transformed back into a human, Edmund comforts Eustace and says, “You haven’t been as bad as I was on my first trip to Narnia. You were only an ass, but I was a traitor” (117). Although Edmund was once a “traitor,” in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he behaves like a self-less and courageous king. On the Dawn Treader, he makes decisions alongside Caspian and has gained an understanding of self-worth. At one point in the novel, Edmund stands up for himself to Caspian saying, “I’m no subject of yours. If anything it’s the other way round. I am one of the four ancient sovereigns of Narnia and you are under allegiance to the High King my brother” (136). Edmund is no longer a child who is vulnerable and weak, he has molded into a courageous adult who has learned from his past mistakes.

C.S. Lewis’ three main characters all begin their journey as children, but come out of their time spent in the “other world” wise. Each character has grown up and learned values that have changed them for the better. It is for this reason that at the conclusion of the novel Aslan exclaims, “you are too old, children. And you must begin to come close to your own world now” (269). Edmund, Eustace and Lucy have all learned values of adulthood in the “other world,” which they now must bring with them into reality. However, Aslan assures each character that they do not have to continue on their growing up journey alone. Just as he was beside each of them in the “other world,” he will be there with them in their world but by another name. He says, “You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there” (270). At the conclusion of the novel, the three are ready to journey into adulthood with “Aslan” surrounding them each step of the way.

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