Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What happened to Susan?

One of the four Pevensie siblings, Susan, is absent as the others run "further up and further in" after The Last Battle. In "Whatever Happened to Susan Pevensie?", Matthew Alderman tells us why she isn't there:
It’s one of childhood’s great narrative shocks. Susan Pevensie is no longer a friend of Narnia. ....

Surely you remember her. She is the second-eldest of the Pevensie children, the pretty one in the family, dark-haired, tender-hearted, and occasionally cautious to the point of being a bit of a wet blanket. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she is given the representative gifts of a bow, arrows, and a magic horn that summons help wherever you might be. These gifts signify her strength, femininity, and prudence.

Yet she is conspicuously absent from the roll call of Narnian heroes we encounter in Aslan’s heavenly country. She is, Aslan says, “no longer a friend of Narnia.” ....

Susan’s fate helped spur friendly neighborhood atheist Philip Pullman to write his own anti-Narnia, the ramshackle Dark Materials trilogy with its sin-as-freedom metaphysics and straw-man take on Christian morality. In his reading, Independent Modern Woman gets a raw deal from a British weirdo with major lady issues. From the way he goes on about Lewis, you’d think the author of The Four Loves was an underdeveloped asexual freak bent on keeping his readers in a kiddie time-warp sealed away from the great god Sex.

But all we are told in The Last Battle is this: Susan has turned her back on Narnia in favor of nylons, lipstick, and party invitations. Boys, much less the joy of sex, don’t even merit a mention. More disconcerting is her quietly alarming capacity for self-deception: We are told that she also dismisses her fifteen-odd years of memories as Queen in Narnia as the product of childish fantasy. ....

Even then, Lewis indicates, it’s hardly hellfire for Susan. He wrote to a young reader in 1957: “The books don’t tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there’s plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan’s country in the end ... in her own way.” ....

Spiritual childhood—which is never childish—may take years to appear. God’s grace is bestowed on us as we struggle and fumble our way through life, descending upon us in the strangest places and coming to fruition when we least expect it. And, in that circuitous, delayed redemption, Susan is most like us as we rise and stumble over our own versions of lipstick and nylons and rise again through God’s providence. .... (more)
FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » Whatever Happened to Susan Pevensie?

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