Contact Us Sitemap
Main Menu
Home
Learning Greek
- - - - - - -
Books
Movies
Music
Restaurants
Games
- - - - - - -
Hiking
Articles
More Articles
Blog
- - - - - - -
Java
PHP
PSP
Joomla!
CafePress Designs
- - - - - - -
Free Downloads
Web Links
Galleries
Subscribe to RSS
RSS Feed
Who's Online
Statistics
Visitors: 3274949
Login Form





Lost Password?


Hwy777.com
Blog Directory & Search engine
Home arrow Books arrow Till We Have Faces -- C. S. Lewis


Warning: Call-time pass-by-reference has been deprecated in /home/content/m/i/k/mikenoel/html/mambots/content/joscomment.php on line 43
Till We Have Faces -- C. S. Lewis Print
Written by Mike Noel   
Saturday, 09 December 2006
Till We Have Faces
Till We Have Faces is a wonderful retelling of the ancient Greek mythology of Cupid and Psyche. Lewis didn't simple restate the story but he took elements and modified them to give the story a different cast than the original. In this version Lewis explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the relationships between humans and the divine. Good fiction often prompts the reader to identify himself (or herself, obviously) in the characters of the story and then raises the questions implicitly that are explicitly raised as the character deals with the situations of the narrative. Lewis is a master of this as he wraps us up in the story so completely that we are unaware of the deep and probing questions he's putting to our soul. Seeds that are planted and nourished in our quiet contemplations. As the plants of those questions grow we begin to see the answer and it is fully realized with the plant flowers. Till We Have Faces plants those seeds.
In my comments on this book I would like to focus on two aspects. The first is the relationship between humans and the divine that is illustrated through Orual's discussions about the gods. The second is the nature of human love that is illustrated by Orual's relationship with Psyche and The Fox.
Till We Have Faces is written first person by Orual. She is Psyhce's oldest sister and has taken on the role of caretaker in the absence of a mother or caring father. The first part of the book is written in a retrospective sense where Orual is retelling about her life with an emphasis on how whe was unfairly treated by the gods. In fact, she starts the tale with a statement that she has no husband, no family, no loved ones, no riches, and no kingdom to lose so she feels free to tell the world just how badly the gods have treated her. There is nothing else they can do to hurt her.
Throughout the telling then we see many cases where Orual acts, in her eyes, in a fair and just way yet the gods respond with pain and hardship. Her life is presented as a parade of evidence demonstrating the capriciousness and sadism of the gods. In her own eyes she has been sorely mistreated. Many times Orual appeals to the reader (assumed to be a Greek) to judge for themselves and see how unfair it is.
From the reader's perspective the world is different. We see what Orual is unable to see. We see that her pain and misery is not due to the gods actions but instead, her own selfish and stubborn actions. The gods, in fact, are wanting to help her. But like a senseless wild animal caught in a hunter's trap striking out at someone trying to free it, Orual refuses to accept the help and guidance of the gods. Lacking a larger perspective she is unable to understand how they are helping and pride in her rationality makes her unwilling to trust in something she can't understand.
It is in this area that Lewis becomes the most apologetical (in the religious sense). Orual is like the modern rationalist who can't believe anything that isn't understood. Even the idea of expecting a mere mortal to believe something that isn't understood is considered unfair. Urual gets to the point of saying that if that's the way the gods are then she doesn't want to believe in them.
The beauty of Till We Have Faces is that it gives us a bigger picture view of that situation. We see from Orual's, or the rational skeptic's, perspective and recognize ourselves in it but then we also see outside that perspective and see how Orual is missing the greater understanding. This leads us to ask the same thing of ourselves. Are we missing the greater understanding because of self-imposed limits on our ways of thinking and understanding?
The second aspect I want to focus on is not so religious but it is just a pertinent to the nature of being human. Orual believes through the entire book that she loves Psyche. She believes, too, that her love is full and unconditional -- she would do anything for Psyche.
This love, though, is distorted. We find that it is always self-serving. Even in sacrifice Orual's love is in the best interest of Orual herself. A potent example of this comes halfway through the book. Psyche finds herself living in the house of a god but it's a god that Orual cannot see. Since Orual can't see the god or the god's house she believe Psyche is deceived or mad. Orual decides it is her responsibility, because of her love for Psyche, to take whatever measures are necessary to rescue Psyche from this tragic situation.
At first Orual tries to persuade Psyche to return with her to Gloam. That doesn't work. Psyche is convinced of the reality she is living in and invites Orual to join her. Orual is blinded, due to her own heart, to seeing the things Psyche is participating in so she is unwilling to join. Since persuasion doesn't work Orual decides to kill herself instead of letting Psyche stay. She does this to demonstrate to Pyche how much she loves her and how dedicated she is to saving her. The attempted suicide fails and Psyche rescues Orual. Despite this Psyche remains steadfast in her decision to stay with the god.
Finally Orual turns to her third weapon in the attempt to save Psyche. She convinces Psyche to break the god's rules in order to prove that what the god has been saying is false. Psyche gives in and disobey's her master's wishes. The result is dramatic. Psyche's world is destroyed and she is exiled to forever wander as a homeless nomad through out the land.
As Psyche's dejected form leaves Orual feels justified that she has, because of her undying and incredibly strong love, sacrificed nearly all she had to rescue Psyche from her dellusion. But Orual also feels that she is being treated unfairly now because she still doesn't have Psyche in her life.
Throughout the entire ordeal Orual was convinced that she was acting out of love for her sister. She was trying to save her sister. But why was she saving her sister? It was for herself. It was a selfish love. She was trying to protect Psyche not for Psyche's sake but for her own sake. She couldn't bear the thought of losing Psyche or living a life without her.
The demonstration of selfish love masquerading as self-less love is everywhere in the book. The sharp contrast between what we feel as love versus what is actually there is plainly displayed. It, of course, raises the questions for our own lives. What is the real nature of the love relationships we have now? Are they truly self-less or are we like Orual in that we are really showing selfish love but pretending it is self-less?
There is much more that Lewis explores in Till We Have Faces. Even on the two topics I have mentioned I've barely scratched the surface. This book is the least religious of Lewis' works, at least on the surface, but it is very deep in the way that it exposes much of the truth about human nature.
One final caveat here. I always feel a slight bit intimidated when I begin to write comments on any Lewis work. There are so many who are so much better equiped than I am to write about these things. I offer my views here hoping that I might be able to add something, even if it is very small. Hopefully there is something useful here.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 09 December 2006 )
 

Copyright 2004 - 2008 Mike Noel. All rights reserved.
This Site is powered by Joomla!.