I have several long thinky posts in my head, but also things to do apart from posting to LJ. But just a note to remind me so I don't forget to talk about:
Religion and science
Gathering together some of the discussion about Narnia and the problem of Susan
I don't really have a short title for this, but I want to talk about how Aboriginal culture was presented to me when I was in Australia and how I feel about that and the implications for race relations. It's going to be tricky to talk about without offending people too, and my ideas are hazy anyway.
Lots of readers are very upset that Susan doesn't get into Aslan's kingdom at the very end of the series. Some people think that this is because Lewis hated adult, sexual women. A lot of people are angry because of the Christian allegory; basically, they're angry with the Christian teaching that lots of decent people are going to be denied their place in Heaven, and Susan personifies this.
I realise I'm probably pre-empting some of your thoughts, but I can't help myself: Susan chose to leave it behind, though, didn't she? In the Last Battle (this is scraping the dredges of my memory, mind) someone asks Peter why there are only three of them, and he replies that Susan looks on Narnia almost as a kind of game that they played when younger. To my mind it's not about whether she's a decent person or not, but whether she wanted to keep her link with Narnia (and the inside-out onion).
I'm looking forward to reading about all the stuff you've mentioned in your post, especially the one about Aboriginal culture.
The problem that I have with it is the speed with which she's dismissed. She's been a main character, she was with Aslan when he died, when he was ressurected, she's ruled as Queen of Narnia for 20 odd years, I think we deserve to hear more about why she's not back in The Last Battle than the rather offhand sentence that we get. I agree, mostly, with what you say - that the reason she's not there is because she's dismissed Narnia not just the nylons and lipstick - I just think more explanation of this is needed, some reaction from the other kids (even Lucy doesn't seem to care), some explanation from Aslan that she still has time to repent and she may join them in the end by a longer route, is needed. I get what Lewis is trying to do with her, in other words, I just don't think he succeeds, I think a lot of children particularly find the abandonment of a central character in a sentence really mystifying and somewhat worrying.
Ah, I understand (although there may be other problems with Susan, of course) what you're saying. I think it's a good point; I remember wondering why Susan had decided to "grow up" when I was reading The Last Battle. It left me a little peeved, because I preferred her over Lucy (although that may just have been because I was influenced by the tv series). It simply didn't occur to me to wonder about the "time frame" of it.
Thanks for this, shreena. I think you were the first person who brought this issue to my attention, during a conversation in Oxford this summer. Pullman is attacking a complete straw man, but I think there is a real issue there, and this is a very good summary of where the problem is.
"On April 27th, 1937, unprecedented atrocities are perpetrated on behalf of Franco against the civilian population of a little Basque village in northern Spain. Chosen for bombing practice by Hitler's burgeoning war machine, the hamlet is pounded with high-explosive and incendiary bombs for over three hours. Townspeople are cut down as they run from the crumbling buildings. Guernica burns for three days. Sixteen hundred civilians are killed or wounded."
I think it must be marketed at the kind of tourist who takes a sort of, "Yay, I saw a famous painting!" attitude to culture. But even so. They could have chosen pretty much any other famous painting on show in Spanish galleries...
This idea is absolutely central to Lewis's thinking. You mustn't confuse means with ends; you mustn't confuse copies with realities; you mustn't confuse reflections for the original; you mustn't confuse a secondary, partial good with a primary or total good.
indeed. i never read it as susan becoming a sexual being, but as susan choosing to be occupied with frivolous things of the real world (rather than with worthy things in the real world). but then i actually never cared one fig about susan, and i wonder whether lewis did. i mean, as an author needs to care about a character, even one who makes bad choices. i think the real problem here might've been that he didn't, and so he tells us, but doesn't show us what happens to susan.
Thank you for that link; I hadn't seen that part of the discussion and it is indeed very interesting. [Insert standard rant about how difficult LJ makes it to keep track of discussions that tend to fly off into unconnected bits.]
susan choosing to be occupied with frivolous things of the real world (rather than with worthy things in the real world) I think the question in my mind is whether Aslan acknowledges that there are any worthy things in this world. Or is the message that Narnia is all-important and anyone who cares about mundane reality is worse than a traitor towards Aslan?
i actually never cared one fig about susan, and i wonder whether lewis did It's possible that Lewis didn't; it's really too long since I read the books to be able to say. But she seems to have engaged quite a lot of readers, which is why many people were upset by the ending she gets. Even if Susan may be weaker than some of the other characters, she's still better than the Sturgeon's law 90% of cardboard children in literature, and I would argue that there's more of a problem with the ending than the rest of the writing about Susan. Not sure though.
Speaking as someone who has published on Oz indigenous public policy, one of the most invidious terms is Aboriginal culture. A key factor in the Aboriginal experience was that there were 200-300 Aboriginal language groups, so, in effect, that many cultures. I know what people mean, and there were commonalities, but the singular form imports a really dangerous simplification at the ground floor of thinking.
It is one of the many ways in which Aboriginal experience was different from Maori experience (who all spoke essentially the same language and shared essentially the same culture, with local variations in both). To take one very basic example, information about Europeans could flow much more easily among Maoris (smaller area, same language, denser population) than they could among Aborigines (huge area, vast differents in language, highly dispersed population). That's even before one gets to differences between one sedentary agrarian culture dealing with another (albeit on the point of industrialising) as against various hunter-gatherer cultures with variety degrees of nomadism dealing with a sedentary agrarian culture on the point of industrialising.
Thank you very much for this comment. That many cultures thing was one of the points I wanted to make with my post, which is now up if you're interested. But I really appreciate some input from an expert to balance my very ignorant fist impressions.
I am not an expert on Aboriginal cultural, the book was on public policy from 1975 onwards. But obviously to analyse policy sensibly one had to try and undestand the situtation Aboriginal Australia was in.