Questions for reflection

1. I think this is a very common mistake. The consequences, depending on how big the mistake is, can be as simple as one’s conscience bothering one from time to time, when one happens to remember, to eating away at one’s entire life, as I think it did to Orual. Her life became an attempt to escape her conscience, for she knew deep down inside that she had wronged Psyche, thus, to escape the torture, we see what she made of her life, and although it was not an immoral one (ehm… perhaps with the exception of coveting Bardia, but I’m not sure I should call it that; we see in the end what that truly was), it was certainly filled with misery, heartache, and much misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Is it so much harder to turn around than to keep going deeper and deeper into the dark? I guess that’s a lesson we all need to learn.

2. I didn’t do the ‘Before Reading’ questions… but, anyway, I think Psyche lived almost entirely on faith alone. She used a certain measure of reason, still, but it was reason more or less totally dependent and based on her faith, and so I guess, with that being the root, you could say she lived on faith alone. I don’t think there was really any character besides Psyche that showed an appropriate balance of faith and reason, and Psyche is one totally unique person; I think it would prove easier in most cases for the reader to relate to one of the other characters. Bardia’s stand was almost apathy; he worshipped the gods with the hope that if he did so, the less they would meddle with him. The Fox’s stand was all reason. I think that Orual did, however, with those conclusions that she came to in the second part of her book, show some of the ‘appropriate balance’ that we as humans can hope to obtain, though hopefully through less difficult experiences than Orual’s, and smaller mistakes that would not consume our lives the way hers did.

3. She summed it all up in Chapter 4 of the Second Part.

‘Lightly men talk of saying what they mean. Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or lessor other than what you really mean; that’s te whole art and joy of words.” A glib saying. When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?’

Basically, Orual’s whole life was like her veil, and she’s saying that our whole lives are like a veil, hiding who we truly are and what we truly mean, sometimes even from ourselves. The ugliness of Orual’s face, hidden by the veil, is like the hideousness of our sin, laid bare before God, but hidden from our fellow human beings by everything that we say and do that we think we mean. Wow…. that goes deep… And no, she no longer needs her veil at the end of the story.

“I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer with suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words. Long did I hate you, long did I fear you. I might –“

I wonder what else she would have written. It reminds me of Screwtape’s last letter to Wormwood…

You have let a soul slip through your fingers. … How well I know what happened at the instant when they snatched him from you! There was a sudden clearing of his eyes (was there not?) as he saw you for the first time, and recognized the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer. Just think (and let it be the beginning of your agony) what he felt at that moment; as if a scab had fallen from an old sore, as if he were emerging from a hideous, shell-like tetter, as if he shuffled of for good and all a defiled, wet, clinging garment. By Hell, it is misery enough to see them in their mortal days taking off dirtied and uncomfortable clothes and splashing in hot water and giving little grunts of pleasure — stretching their eased limbs. What, then, of this final stripping, this complete cleansing?

The more one thinks about it, the worse it becomes. He got through it so easily! No gradual misgivings, no doctor’s sentence, no nursing home, no operating theater, no false hopes of life; sheer instantaneous liberation. One moment it seemed to be all our world; the scream of bombs, the fall of houses, the stink and taste of high explosive on the lips and in the lungs, the feet burning with weariness, the heart cold with horrors, the brain reeling, the legs aching; next moment all this was gone, gone like a bad dream, never again to be of any account. … Did you mark how naturally — as if he’d been born for it — the earth-born vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? …

As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it! — that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them… so that now he could say to them, one by one, not ‘Who are you?’ but ‘So it was you all the time.’ …

He saw not only Them; he saw Him. … You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins… on the analogy of your own choking and paralysing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of heaven. But it’s all nonsense. Pains he may still have to encounter, but they embrace those pains. They would not barter them for any earthly pleasure. All the delights of sense, or heart, or intellect, with which you could once have tempted him, even the delights of virtue itself, now seem to him in comparison but as the half nauseous attractions of a raddled harlot would seem to a man who hears that his true beloved whom he has loved all his life and whom he believed to be dead is alive and even now at his door…”

4. I think this book says a lot about how, even when we make mistakes, God still continues to reach out to us. He still works to make good come out of our mistakes, and the suffering they cause us.

5. n/a

6. By the end of the book, Orual had certainly seen the folly in her own claim. She was certainly given reason enough to believe Psyche’s tale, though what was lacking was her faith; she couldn’t have believed the reasons without faith, and that’s why things turned out the way they did. I do not think she really had a clear idea of what kind of sign she was demanding, because I think the only thing that would have satisfied her in her faithless view was that everything be turned around and fixed to her satisfaction. She was not asking for an explanation of or compensation for what she says had ‘happened’ to Psyche; if gods were there for her to bargain with, I could imagine her driving a hard deal, demanding that the clock be turned back, that the people not be inclined to think Psyche a goddess, that Psyche not be forced to go out and touch the people — basically that Psyche be allowed to live her life as any normal girl with all her extraordinary traits. It is difficult to put a finger on just the one thing that satisfied Orual at last. Certainly it was a number of things, such as it was a series of events that served to probe her wound and cure her. I think Orual needed to feel her weakness and her dependence on the higher things. While she still had strength to do things as she saw fit, part of that strength was closing herself to the answers she professed to be seeking. She needed to be vulnerable, to be open.

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