Grownups and Diaries

Michael Kern '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

In C.S. Lewis' legendary series, The Chronicles of Narnia, several young boys and girls from England are swept up in a series of adventures in the mythical land of Narnia. In this land, creatures normally restrained to one's imagination are made real. Animals can speak, magic is prevalent, and short moments pass in the real world as years pass in Narnia. In this first passage from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis describes what Lucy and Susan see when they are spying on the witch at the Stone Table.

A great crowd of people were standing all round the Stone Table and though the moon was shining many of them carried torches which burned with evil-looking red flames and black smoke. But such people! Ogres with monstrous teeth, and wolves, and bull-headed men; spirits of evil trees and poisonous plants; and other creatures I won't describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let you read this book -- Cruels and Hags and Incubuses, Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets, Sprites, Orknies, Wooses, and Ettins. In fact here were all those who were on the Witch's side and whom the wolf had summoned at her command. And right in the middle, standing by the Table, was the Witch herself.

Questions

1. Why does Lewis routinely address the reader directly through the narrator?

2. Lewis's reference to the "grown-ups" is clearly directed at a young audience. Why does he refer to them, and what effect would this have on children?

Another strange technique Lewis employs is relating a portion of the novel through a diary. In this particular passage, Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader describes a day in his diary.

"September 11. Caught some fish today and had them for dinner. Dropped anchor at about 7 p.m. in three fathoms of water in a bay of this mountainous island. That idiot Caspian wouldn't let us go ashore because it was getting dark and he was afraid of savages and wild beasts. Extra water ration tonight."

What awaited them on the island was going to concern Eustace more than anyone else, but it cannot be told in his words because after September 11 he forgot about keeping his diary for a long time.

3. Why does Lewis describe the time shortly after the storm through Eustace's diary? How does this change the way that time unfolds to the reader?

4. Throughout the novel, Lewis seems to warn the reader about what is to come, as he does here. Why does he do this?


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Last modified 16 February 2004