Posted in

C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, Chapter 8

            In chapter eight we read of Orual’s reaction to Psyche being taken away and a discussion between her and the Fox about the gods.  Orual’s attitude towards the gods is of unremitting hostility, while we see chinks in the armor of the Fox’s philosophy.

            While the injured Orual watches the heavily made-up and bewigged Psyche being taken out to the sacrifice, she complains about the skill of the gods.  They not only are murdering Psyche and making her father the instrument of the murder, but they also have torn her out of Orual’s heart in three ways: the sentence, “her strange, cold talk last night,” and make-up that turned her into an “ugly doll” (80).

            Worse yet, Orual protests that the gods have sent her dreams in which Psyche is her greatest enemy.  Making a guess with my amateur psychology, I wonder whether the fact that Psyche loves the gods, the enemies of Orual, has subconsciously made her see Psyche as an enemy.  As she repeats in this chapter, she resented Psyche speaking of the gods, the King, the Fox, Redival and Bardia, and “so little of me” (82).  Psyche had placed the gods between Orual and herself.  Orual will only be satisfied, when she has her sister all to herself.

            Orual’s opposition to, and distrust of, the gods is absolute.  She counsels vigilance against their ways to beguile us into trusting them.  We must “be very wide awake and sober and hard at work, to hear no music, never look at the earth or sky, and (above all) to love no one” (80-81).  In order to avoid being taken in by the gods, Orual is willing to cut herself off from all that is good and beautiful in life.

            After Psyche’s sacrifice, Glome’s condition improves in every respect.  Orual asks the Fox whether this does not show that Ungit is real.  Not surprisingly, the Fox’s philosophy leads him to claim that the timing was the mere chance of Nature.  

            Nevertheless, the Fox’s philosophy cannot keep him from losing control of his emotions as he describes Psyche’s courage in the face of death.  Ashamed, the next day he admits his weakness, but consoles himself with his Stoicism.  “If we look at it with reason’s eye and not with our passions, what good that life offers did she not win?” (86). 

            Interestingly, both the Fox and Orual practice a kind of detachment from the world, but for very different reasons.  For the Fox there are no gods, and the human passions mislead us.  We must use reason to distance ourselves from them.  We should admire abstractions like virtue and not allow personal relations to interfere.  On the other hand, Orual believes in the gods and hates them.  Since they seemingly work all things together for the evil, we need to detach ourselves from all of life’s joys and pleasures.  The more we love; the more the gods will have to hurt us with.

            Both are wrong.  Against the Fox, I would say that the passions are a gift to us from God.  Yes, we are to allow the Spirit to control them but not quench them.  The passions are the fuel of life that, harnessed for God, enable us to love greatly. 

            Orual reveals the dangers of belief without trust.  If we believe in a God who rules heaven and earth but do not want to submit our desires to him, we will become embittered against him and refuse his grace when we face misfortune.  We want him to serve us, not we him.  Orual had refused to heed Psyche’s exhortation, “Do not let grief shut up your ears and harden your heart” (75).  She was shutting herself off from all joy, whether human or divine.

            Let me know what you think.

6 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, Chapter 8

    1. Damien, I am sorry that I missed this one. I’m in the midst of a busy teaching schedule, but I think that I need to finish the chapter studies this summer. If you have any specific question, don’t hesitate to ask them. I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks so much for your interest, and please forgive my negligence.

    1. Kendall, I’m in the midst of a busy teaching schedule, but I do think that I should complete these summaries this summer. In the meantime if you have specific questions, I’d be glad to answer them to the best of my ability. Thank you for your interest.

  1. Mr. Isley, I have very much enjoyed reading your comments on Chapters 1 through 8. Thank you for doing this. It is such a deep book and there are so many truths to glean from it. You comments have been very insightful. I have read TWHF only once and am listening to an audio edition of TWHF narrated by Nadia May. I highly recommend this audio edition to any who like audio books. Thanks again for your efforts!

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Sherry. I really should go back and finish commenting on the whole book. I’m glad that you like it. You are right that it is a deep book because it touches on the fundamental issues of life–God, human nature, our psyche (play on words intended). Thanks too for mentioning the audio version. Is it complete or abridged?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *