The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Themes
by C. S. Lewis
An Alternative Education
Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy stay with the Professor at his house in the country during the school holiday. Presumably, the children are to be presented with an alternative education to supplement the one provided by their schools. The Professor gives Peter and Susan a strange yet valuable lesson in logic when he suggests that Lucy may be telling them the truth about Narnia. Additionally, the Professor repeatedly expresses his exasperation with the school system, lending credence to the possibility that Lewis himself was frustrated with the English educational system. The increasingly negative personality that Edmund has been exhibiting at school worries Peter and Susan. Their quest in the world of Narnia, however, leads the children through a process of spiritual transformation that is particularly significant for Edmund.
In Narnia, the children are exposed to crucial lessons about friendship, loyalty, good judgment, forgiveness, faith, courage, and self-sacrifice. The reader is invited along on this journey, but learning these lessons requires imagination and a willingness to trust in the simple, clear logic that suggests that a world like Narnia might actually exist. The universe that Lewis presents to his readers becomes a vehicle through which he offers an alternative means for learning the crucial elements of personal and spiritual growth.
Logic and Faith
When Peter and Susan approach the Professor with their concerns about Lucy and her story about Narnia, the Professor leads them through a simple exercise in logic, in which they take what they know to be true (Lucy is a truthful girl) and what they have observed (Lucy has not gone mad) in order to reach the logical conclusion. This conclusion, the Professor suggests, is that the story of Narnia is true. Acceptance of this logical conclusion, however, requires a significant amount of faith. In this manner, Lewis constructs the scaffolding for a narrative that will enable the reader to believe in the existence of a place like Narnia.
The skepticism that detracts from the possibility that Lucy's story about Narnia is true is expressed through the character of Edmund, who questions the benevolence of the robin, Mr. Tumnus, and Mr. Beaver. The White Witch herself also expresses skepticism about whether or not Aslan will keep the promise he has made to her. In each of these cases, there is a logical argument that can be made in support of faith, yet the skeptics exhibit little willingness to accept the goodness of the other characters.
This story can be read as a children's story, and Lewis certainly makes use of this genre, as the form is essentially that of a fairy tale. However, more can be said about childhood in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lucy, the youngest, is the first to express curiosity about the wardrobe. Without her pure, innocent curiosity, the children would never have traveled to Narnia. Throughout the story, Lucy is depicted as the most observant of the characters. In the end, even as she takes the throne, she maintains a delightful, childlike quality.
Through Lucy's innocence, Lewis shows the importance of clinging to what one knows to be true, loyalty, friendship, and genuine faith. If one possesses these attributes, he appears to believe, there is no place for skepticism.
Lewis was clearly influenced by his Christian beliefs when he wrote this story, though it can also be read as a simple tale of human growth. The stories of the Passion of Christ and the Resurrection of Christ are reflected in the character of the lion Aslan, who is the son of the deified Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Aslan arrives in Narnia to save it from the White Witch. His decision to allow himself to be killed by the witch in Edmund's place echoes Christ's willingness to die for the sins of mankind. Both Christ and Aslan walk to their deaths filled with a heavy sadness, fearful of the pain and the suffering that they are about to endure, and struggle to maintain their faith that they will indeed be brought back to life. In a scene recalling the crucifixion of Christ, Aslan is tied down to the Stone Table and slain with a knife. After some time, Aslan returns to life, and is more magnificent than ever. His resurrection inspires wonder in Susan and Lucy, who both witnessed his death.
CouragePeter and Edmund both come of age by translating their specific skills into remarkable acts of courage, particularly in battle. Peter exhibits his valor by killing the grey wolf, and Edmund shows his courage by making the most of the clean slate he has been given, smashing the White Witch's wand during the last battle. Aslan knights both boys in order to reward their bravery. Aslan is another example of a courageous character, because he faces death without turning his back on his promise.
ForgivenessWhen Edmund is rescued from certain death at the hand of the White Witch, he has a long talk with Aslan, the contents of which no one knows except for the lion and Edmund. Edmund is forgiven by Aslan, as well as his brother and sisters, all of whom agree that the past is the past. The supreme act of forgiveness and self-sacrifice is made by Aslan, who accepts death at the hand of the White Witch in Edmund's place. He believes that Edmund's life is worth dying for, in spite of his past actions. Lewis appears to believe that forgiveness for past mistakes is the way that relationships heal and strengthen. It is also the foundation for a strong community.
Friendship and LoyaltyLucy and Mr. Tumnus, the faun, are the first true friends that we see in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lucy gives away her handkerchief, and Mr. Tumnus refuses to turn his new friend in to the White Witch. Friendship is later exemplified in the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who lead the children to the Stone Table, where they find Aslan. Mr. Beaver shows Lucy's handkerchief as a sign that he is a friend of Mr. Tumnus's and, therefore, a friend of Lucy's. Lucy's show of loyalty to Mr. Tumnus is also a driving force behind the story, in that the characters do all that they can to save Mr. Tumnus.
Lucy's lunches with Mr. Tumnus and the wholesome meal prepared by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver stand in stark contrast to Edmund's endless appetite for the Turkish Delights given to him by the White Witch. The meals with Mr. Tumnus and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are accompanied by friendship and useful conversation, including stories about the forest, and information about Aslan. The White Witch's gift of Turkish Delights, however, is purely evil and intended to create in Edmund an unhealthy, insatiable appetite for more, thereby transforming him into her slave.
The tea tray that Father Christmas presents to the Beavers and the children, along with the breakfast in the forest that the White Witch and Edmund stumble upon, reveal that meals can serve as celebrations of good cheer, friendship, and family. The White Witch, however, calls the meal sheer "gluttony", and changes the creatures consuming it into stone. The fact that the White Witch herself is never seen eating suggests that she is different from the other, "good" creatures.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Essays and Related Content
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Major Themes
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Essays
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Questions
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- C. S. Lewis: Biography
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Summary
- About The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 1: Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 2: What Lucy Found There
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3: Edmund and the Wardrobe
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 4: Turkish Delight
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 5: Back on This Side of the Door
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6: Into the Forest
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-8: A Day with the Beavers & What Happened After Dinner
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 9: In the Witch's House
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 10: The Spell Begins to Break
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 11: Aslan Is Nearer
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 12: Peter's First Battle
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 13: Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14-15: The Triumph of the Witch & Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-17: What Happened About the Statues & The Hunting of the White Stag
- C. S. Lewis and Christianity
- Related Links on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
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- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
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