Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Importance of Imagination

In C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he emphasizes the importance of imagination and the ability to believe in things that cannot be rationally proven to being human. He seems to suggest that without imagination, travel and adventure are not possible, and travel is essential to growing as person. Similar to the other readings, particularly Kolvenbach and Wendt, Lewis’s work points to external travel as a catalyst for an internal journey and this internal journey as an important part of being fully human, however, he adds on this new element of imagination as an important aspect of travel.

A great example of the necessity of imagination can be seen in the contrast between the characters of Eustace and Reepicheep. Although he is actually a mouse, Reepicheep’s character seems very human in his constant thirst for adventure and ability to dream of the possibilities of the world’s end. At one point all of the others want to go back to the safety of the ship but Reepicheep wants instead to stay behind. When Eustace asks him why he says, “‘Because this is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear.’” Reepicheep is not afraid of where his imagination and adventures will lead him because he is concerned instead with discovering everything he possibly can in life. To me these characteristics make Reepicheep human in the sense that to be human is to be able to travel and constantly search for more both externally and internally.

Eustace, on the other hand, particularly in the beginning of the book, is closed off to the imaginary and adventuring, and for this reason seems almost inhuman despite literally being a human. When he first arrives aboard the Dawn Treader, all Eustace wants is to be dropped of at the nearest land. He keeps asking everyone he meets if there is a British Consul nearby because the only thing on his mind is going home. Eustace is so caught up in his one idea of reality, his contemporary life in England, the he refuses to acknowledge or seek anything more than this. By closing off his imagination and willingness to believe in anything else, Eustace cannot travel or grow as a person and in this respect he is not human. Ironically, it takes Eustace becoming an actual non-human, a dragon, to open his imagination to the possibility of other realities. Towards the end of the book, Eustace finally realizes why the Pevensies, Caspian, and Reepicheep believe in the possibility of other worlds besides their own and want so badly to explore these other realities. He recognizes that it is part of being human to want to constantly go further and explore new things, to travel, and this is the lesson Lewis is teaching us as well.

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