Well, I would rather wait and let someone else lead the conversation on Till We Have Faces, but I finished it on our recent trip to Texas and am already forgetting some of the thoughts it inspired. I had read the book before (maybe 10 years ago?) and remembered the plot but not the nuances. I commented to my sister on the phone thatI like this book, but it’s not on my list of favorites, and I have a hard time putting my finger on why I don’t LOVE this book, because I love the idea of it and I love the ideas in it. On the other hand, I didn’t love CS Lewis’ space trilogy either, so maybe it is that his fiction, aside from the Narnia books, doesn’t have the luminosity of his apologetics and memoirs. Maybe it’s the dream sequence at the end that seems like an artificial appendage. Maybe it’s just my taste buds.
Even though I don’t have this one on my all-time fave’s list, I did like it better this time around, especially reading it right after my recent review of world lit. Orual’s complaints don't seem quite so farfetched this time around. She’s so bristly and self-defensive that she is difficult to like as a heroine, and I think when I read this book the first time her faults seemed less excusable through the lenses of my own idealism. Her selfishness in her treatment of Istra/Psyche is so obvious to the reader that it’s hard to sympathize with her when she blackmails Psyche. Nonetheless I had more empathy for her this time, maybe because it’s so tempting to see yourself as ugly and unloved, the injured or aggrandized party, and to waste emotional energy contemplating how others have failed or abandoned you. I can only guess as you get older, you gain more and more experience in the shortcomings of human love. You would think that loving others would get easier with practice, but it’s easy to imagine how Orual doesn’t want to grant the people she loves the freedom to leave her. I didn’t want the Fox to leave her either. I fear that my own brand of love tends dangerously toward the devouring variety, also.
And what heartbreak to learn at the end of your life how much your selfishness has hurt others when you thought you were loving them. It’s hard to imagine that Bardia would’ve lived his life differently if his queen and his wife were less jealous of each other, but maybe he would have suffered less if they were more generous in allowing him freedom to divvy up his time between them the way he saw fit.
I’m still unclear about what to think about Ungit -- and how much of the pagan world is Lewis representing as figures for Christian faith? Is she supposed to be a fearsome pagan earthy fertility goddess to be abandoned, the Eternal Feminine, or some allegorical figure for the desire for fruitful rituals and faith? What does Psyche’s trip to the underworld to get Beauty for Ungit mean? That Psyche’s figurative death and resurrection out of love for Orual make Orual beautiful and worthy of standing before the god? It's tempting to read this as allegory, but then the characters don't fit in a neat box, like the Fox who seems to represent the rational view of life, but he loves poetry and the girls and seems to want to believe in something.
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