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Light in the Shadows of C.S. Lewis

Light in the Shadows of C.S. Lewis



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Published by Mark Walz, Jr.
The theme of light in shadows in the fiction works of C.S. Lewis. This paper dissects several of Lewis' fiction and non-fiction books to discover his theory on light and shadow and how it relates to Christianity or the theological implications of the use of such imagery in his work.
The theme of light in shadows in the fiction works of C.S. Lewis. This paper dissects several of Lewis' fiction and non-fiction books to discover his theory on light and shadow and how it relates to Christianity or the theological implications of the use of such imagery in his work.

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Published by: Mark Walz, Jr. on May 04, 2009
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(Box 670) Walz 1Mark D. Walz, Jr.Dr. Charlie Starr Arts and Humanities of the Western Culture12 May 2009Light in the Shadows of C.S. LewisIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earthwas formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spiritof God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” andthere was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light fromthe darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Andthere was evening, and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5 NewInternational Version)In the Christian faith, light and shadows are often used as symbols of life and death, ogood and evil, and of angels and demons. The Bible demonstrates and explains that shadows area corruption of the light and that darkness cannot overcome the light. In fictitious literature lightis also portrayed as something pure and holy. Darkness is almost always portrayed as evil,sinister— basically something you just don’t want to mess with. But what is a shadow, really?What is light? As you can see from the verse from Genesis, darkness is the absence of light, thecorruption of light. Darkness depends on the light, that is, without light somewhere there is nodarkness. However, it is entirely possible to have light without darkness. C.S. Lewis makes itobvious in his stories that he follows the Augustinian view of good and evil— that evil is theutter absence of good, just as darkness is the utter absence of light.“Images of light and darkness in the fiction of C.S. Lewis denote the spiritual merit of anindividual, entity, locality, or event” (Cook 252). C.S. Lewis paints pictures with high contrastsof light and dark in most of his stories. In doing that he follows the normal theological relations
(Box 670) Walz 2to the themes of light and shadow. For example, light is associated with deity, redemption,godliness, truth, heaven and beauty. Darkness symbolizes the utter “absence of God andgodliness, […] hell, Satan, disobedience, evil, and sin” (Cook 252). I believe that Lewis uses thetheme of light and dark across all of his works of fiction including
The Great Divorce, The Pilgrim’s Regress,
“The Man Born Blind”
 , The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”, The Silver Chair,
The Last Battle
. His stories also typically close with defeat of evil and darkness and theappearance of the image of light, which tends to evoke rebirth or renewal and an imminent glory.In
The Great Divorce
we find that “the grey town” is simply that. It is dark, devoid of light, and everything is translucent and thin. This city is grim and joyless and yet no one realizesthat it has in fact an absence of life, light, and solidarity. The pastoral landscape and populationof heaven, the bright place, is one that is bright, beautiful, solid, and glowing with radiant light.Everything there is real and “the grey town” and its inhabitants are only mere shadows of what isin the “real kingdom”. At the end of the book, the “apocalyptic dawn, following the end of Time, is drenched in the light of the morning” (Cook 253). The narrator on the last page of 
TheGreat Divorce
says:I stood at that moment looking at [the Teacher’s] face, I saw there something thatsent a quiver through my whole body, I stood at that moment with my back to theEast and the mountains, and he, facing me, looked towards them. His face flushedwith a new light. A fern, thirty yards behind him, turned golden. The eastern sideof every tree-trunk grew bright. Shadows deepened. All the time there had been bird noises, trillings, chattering, and the like; but now suddenly the full choruswas poured from every branch (Lewis,
127-128).C.S. Lewis draws this parallelism to the world in which you and I live. We, on earth, areactually just mere shadows of another reality, cast by the light in heaven; we are mere profiles
(Box 670) Walz 3and simple two-dimensional circles compared to the spheres in heaven. As Dr. Charlie Starr states in his paper entitled “C.S. Lewis’s Vision of Heaven”, “We are ghosts and shadows andour world but a cheap copy of the heavenly one to come, like a landscape painting compared tothe real place.” This idea of our temporary world being referred to as just shadows is the sametechnique that Lewis employed in his
works in which he referred to our world as the“Shadow-lands”. This vision of heaven and earth is in line with the Platonic “Allegory of theCave” in which Plato explains his theory of life by illustrating that we are all prisoners inside acave who have been chained up and forced to stare at a wall since childhood. The prisoners canonly see the shadows on the wall in front of them that are cast by objects, animals or peoplemoving in front of the light from a fire that is behind them. All the prisoners know are theshadows on the wall in front of them, and to them that is reality, for they know nothing more. If one of the prisoners were to break loose and discover life and light outside of the cave and come back to tell the other prisoners, it would be impossible for him to describe it to them and utterlyunfathomable for them to understand. They would think that he was a lunatic!
The Great  Divorce
’s vision of heaven and hell (or of what seems to purgatory) could also be a indirectreference to the Bible where, in the book of Hebrews, it is said that the law is merely a “shadow”of the good things that are coming and that it is not itself the real deal (NIV 8:5, 10:1). “Lewis's point is that our sight has been adjusted to life on earth; although heavenly forms are moresubstantial, it is hard with our limited vision to see them that way” (Hinten and Edwards 374).C.S. Lewis’ allegorical work and first religiously themed work,
The Pilgrim’s Regress,
contains a large number of references to light and darkness (or shadow), and luminosity or theabsence of it is a major recurring theme (Schakel 162). For instance, light follows all of theimportant moments in the protagonist’s spiritual journey. As he gets closer to his conversion hetravels in a large sphere of light (Lewis,
161). Light and large amounts of noise (like we

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