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C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces Chapter 4

            Chapter 3 of Till We Have Faces related the increasing practice of worshipping Psyche.  In chapter 4 we begin to see the dangerous consequences of this worship.  We also see a more clearly negative side to Orual.

            People continue to die from the plague and the famine worsens.  When Psyche leaves the palace grounds to try to heal some of the suffering, the crowd throws stones at her and cries out, “The Accursed, the Accursed!  She made herself into a goddess.”  Another says, “She is the curse itself” (39).

            Orual hears that Psyche had exited the palace and rebukes her younger sister, but is surprised at the response.  “… She neither accepted the rebuke like a child nor defended herself like a child, but looked at me with a grave quietness, almost as if she were older than I.  It gave me a pang at the heart” (39).  Orual appears to want Psyche to remain a child that she cares for.  It looks like a possessive love, the kind that a mother has who doesn’t want her child to mature but rather to stay dependent on her forever. 

            Furthermore, when Orual becomes enraged at Psyche’s mistreatment by the people, she threatens to go to the king and have the people punished.  Psyche tells her not to be angry.  “You look just like our father when you say those things.”  Orual says that those words “hurt me with a wound that sometimes aches still” (p.40).  Just as their father’s anger would make him lose control; so Orual’s love for Psyche could cause her to pass beyond the limits of what is right and good.

            The chapter ends ominously with the aged priest of Ungit entering the Pillar Room of the palace.  Orual says that the Ungit smell “filled the room.  It became very holy” (p.43).  From Orual’s perspective the holy presence of the gods forebodes evil.

            One last detail caught my attention and raised a question for me.  Given the novel’s title, is it significant that Batta calls Psyche “the young boldface” for going out of the palace to try to heal people?  What do you think?



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