Sunday, March 28, 2010

29. The Great Divorce by C S Lewis

I had a really hard time getting into this book.  I had no idea what was going on at first; and the setting seemed so dreary and hopeless.  It made so much more sense when I realized that the people on the bus were traveling from Hell to Heaven to see if they wanted to make Heaven their home.  Lewis writes in his preface, "Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good."  This book tells of the choice we must make in order to move toward good.  So many of the passengers on the bus, when they reach heaven, are unable to make that choice.  They can't give up their passions, or favorite sins.  They feel out of place and seem more comfortable below in the dreary environs of Hell.  Some cannot fathom or accept the great joy that is to be attained at they move forward towards the mountain peaks of the heavenly place where the bus has taken them so they turn back.  Some are just afraid to move forward.  Some of the characters depicted in this book were so miserable that you couldn't feel bad for them; others made me stop and reexamine my own feelings.  And this book definitely makes you think; and that it is probably its greatest aspect.  Here are some quotes I marked:

"The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."  There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery.  There is always something they prefer to joy -- that is, to reality.  Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper than say it was sorry and be friends.  Ye call it the Sulks.  But in adult life it has a hundred fine names --Achilles' wrath and Coriolanus' grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit and Self-Respect and Tragic Greatness and Proper Pride."

"There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done."  All that are in Hell, choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.  No soul who seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened."

"Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place.  I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell; and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself."

My favorite Lewis book is still The Screwtape Letters but this short story (77 pages) is certainly a thought provoking essay from a great Christian philosopher. 
Rating:  4.25


  1. This does sound interesting, if a little hard going and I think that CS Lewis is one of the best (overtly) Christian writers that I have ever read. Have you seen Shadowlands? You might enjoy that...

    Thanks indeed for sharing


  2. My favorite is also The Screwtape Letters.

  3. Sounds like an interesting read! I am adding it to my list.


  4. I LOVE both The Screwtape Letters and the Great Divorce, and of course, the Narnia series. Lewis is such a fantastic author.