Heaven in The Great Divorce Essay Examples & Outline
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Heaven in The Great Divorce
What is the goal of life? Does one live just for the sake of it? Despite the illusion the permanent nature of life, the past has indicated that the belief is a fallacy. Where does one go after dying? Do the actions of a person affect where he or she goes after death? Is there a shared destiny for all the people after they die? Death is inevitable as Edgar posits in his poem Lucinda Matlock “ … eight of whom we lost… I had lived enough” Existence of hell and earth has dominated the minds of the people for long time. Spirits do not vanish after death as it is indicated in “ it was fabled that the spirits … within its verge.”( Hawthorne, par 3)
Attempts to explain the idea of where the soul goes after death has culminated in the creation of different religions. C.S Lewis wrote The Great Divorce as a reply to a previous book by Blake named The Marriage Of Hell And Heaven. The Great Divorce is an expression of what the writer believed to the representative of the real scenarios surrounding the debate of the reality of hell or heaven (Hart, 55). This book will seek to evaluate the depictions of heaven in the allegory novel and make inferences on the actual meaning that the author wished to convey to the public (Lewis, 21).
At the time when the author wrote the book, there was a widespread philosophy that the actions of any person did not affect his after life (Inge, 14). This is the same ideal that Blake purports to hold in the previous work that led to the writing of the book. However, Lewis sought to dispel the notion that the final destiny of the human being is predetermined and that there is no possibility of any person redeeming himself (Hart, 37). Through this mythical work, Lewis present both hell and heaven as rewards for the actions that a person undertook in his normal life. Some of the ideals that are held in the novel are directly translated from the bible. In the fantasy of representing the imagined experiences of the human soul after death creates a worthy contest of the philosophy that all people move to the same place after their demise (Inge, 14-32).
Heaven is presented to the audience as a place of rest and vast possibilities. This is a contradiction to the representation of the hell in the novel since it is comparatively or even exaggeratedly smaller than heaven (Lewis, 32). This purposeful representation of heaven as a bigger place leads to the notion that there are more people that are worthy to be in the place. Heaven is a place of possibilities and abundance. People have more than they may demand and there is definitely better than the physical world. Heaven is a reward for the people that have virtues. This is the final outcome that people have at the end of the “moral journey”.
The depiction of the people in heaven is better compared to the one used to refer to the people from hell. Lewis creates a mental image of the people in heaven as bright and solid. This depiction makes the notion of a second life that has pervaded most of the religions real since the people in heaven are almost as real as those on earth. He notably changes how the people in hell are. They are not actual people (Lewis, 15). They lack the solid nature and they are just spirits or phantoms. The use of the above contrasts makes heaven more appealing to the reader compared to hell.
Lewis’ heaven is a better than hell since it is filled with colors that almost make the people disappear. The earlier description of the people as bright and solid is left out at this point since the colors in heaven almost make them disappear. The changing focus or depiction of the people in heaven from bright and solid to spirits serves as a reminder to the reader that the people in heaven are also ghosts and not real. This clarification comes later on in the novel after the author works hard to influence the mental visualization of the phantoms in heaven as real people (Lewis, 21).
Choice as a theme comes out clearly in the novel. People make many choices as it is indicated in The Hill …
Who played with life all his ninety years,
Braving the sleet with bared breast,
Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,
Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?
Most of the phantoms in hell opt to remain in the small area since they have the power to choose what to do. This is a feeling that they are accustomed to in their normal life. However, the depiction of heaven is that it is a place of serving. However, the servants in heaven have more space for themselves compared to the phantoms in hell. The idea of heaven being a place of servitude and hell being the absolute place of leadership creates a contradiction (Lewis, 24-50). The expansive nature of heaven compared with the small size of hell leads to an instant ideal that heaven is full of freedom. Going ahead to state that there is more free will in hell than in heaven contradicts the earlier literal description of heaven.
However, the reign in hell is not worthwhile since most of the people in hell have less inclinations to work towards a common rule. This means that hell’s ideal of reign is all in the minds of the characters, hence, abstract. “Milton was right," said my Teacher. "The choice of every lost should can be expressed in the words, 'Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.' ..... There is always something they prefer to joy --- that is, to reality." (Lewis, 41) Insertion of this issue of power to choose in the novel is important. It helps highlight the proposed notion of freedom by Blake as a fallacy (Hart 56). The idea that one can follow his or her selfish intent, work against the moral grain of the society and end up in heaven with the rest of the people is a lie that Lewis exposes. People in hell are the ones that followed their selfish motives in their previous lives. Therefore, entry into heaven is not guaranteed. Heaven is a place created as a reward to the people that can follow the laid rules.
Hart, James David. The Oxford Companion To American Literature. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Print.
Inge, M. Thomas. Literature. 1st ed. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. Print.
Lewis, C. S. The Great Divorce. 1st ed. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1946. Print.