Till We Have Faces

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TILL WE HAVE FACES
C.S. LEWIS
The first person narrative in the ancient kingdom of Glome, a land ruled by a tyrannical king and religious goddess Ungit. Narrated by Princess (later Queen) Orual. The first section of this novel presents itself as an open complaint against the gods, particularly the god of the Grey Mountain, who brought Orual such pain and distress over the years, yet offer no answers or explanations to justify the suffering. Orual says she had suffered much at the hands of the gods, but what most torments her is the loss of her previous sister Istra (Psyche), in which loss Orual shares responsibility and blame: this loss of Psyche results primarily from Orual’s jealously and rage at the gulf dividing herself (non-believer) and Psyche (believer). The second, and much shorter section of the novel, which breaks off with the dying Queen Orual’s last utterance, proclaims the Queen’s great realizations. She now understands why there can be no answer, no justification, from the gods and her charges against them : "How can they speak to us face to face, she asks, till we have faces?" (TWHF, pg. 201) Throughout the book Orual expresses her love for Psyche, as well as her fear of losing Psyche. The sin of jealousy and obsessive love leads Orual to resist yielding to the higher love destined for Psyche, and ultimately to destruction of the object of her love and the hardening of Orual’s soul to the point of self-induced misery and guilt for the rest of her days. Orual first feels the pain of the great gulf after the kingdoms subjects begin to perceive that the Princess Psyche is something more than a mortal, that she is somehow touched by the gods. Her beauty is remarkable, certainly, but it is not only her beauty that convinces the kingdom of her uniqueness. A certain radiance and artless perfection seem to emanate from the young women. The sick soon begin flocking in hordes to the palace gates to be touched by the "goddess". Psyche is praised and revered throughout the kingdom. Until, that is, the harvests turn meager ad the masses look for a scapegoat. Only one answer presents itself: a blood sacrifice. A perfect sacrifice. Psyche, the princess, the goddess. Orual raves in protest, nearly mad with pain, and falls into a temporary state of senselessness over the impending sacrifice of her beloved sister. It is decided by the king, after some deliberation that Psyche will be bound to a single, leafless tree on a dark, stony stretch of the Grey Mountain. There, it is believed, she will be devoured by the holy Shadowbrute; presumably, the curse of sickness and famine will then be lifted from the land. Strangely, though, Psyche relates to Orual only days before the sacrifice that she has always felt a certain vague longing for the Grey Mountain, even for the holy Shadowbrute For as long as she can remember, Psyche has felt herself somehow destined for a land beyond the Grey Mountain, far from Glome. In fact, she has never felt truly at home in Glome. This aspect of religious belief - longing for another world- is once used by Lewis elsewhere as proof that humankind was created for another world. Orual, in typical fashion, interprets Psyche’s longing for the far kingdom as a threat against their own relationship, giving in to the omnipresent urge to selfish, and self-centered, love. "’Ah Psyche,’ I said. ‘Have I made you so little happy as that?’ ‘No, no, no,’ she said. ‘You don’t understand…It was when I was the happiest that I longed you most…Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche, come! But I couldn’t (not yet) come and I didn’t know where I was to come to…I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home.’" (TWHF, pg. 74) This idea of the Christian being destined for another world is one found not only by Lewis. Dietrich...
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