Monday, March 17, 2014

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia (Publication Order) #1) by C.S. Lewis

Today's fantasy books seem more complex than the more simple plots found in the Narnia Chronicles. Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles are similar to Lewis's in page length and simplicity. Both do not have strong female characters that are found in today's literature. What I do like as an adult about Lewis's series is that the characters face ethical decisions that have a cumulative effect in shaping their personality, the simpler language makes it more accessible to the ESL readers, the series is a great read aloud and can be used as a launching point for teaching character education, and the adventures the kids have are exciting. Add to that the mix of fairy-tales and Christian theology and I find it easy to get hooked on these books. Others might find there is not enough character depth or development or that the plot is boringly simple. You need to read them yourself and make your own decision.

The start of this book is not memorable. I have a file of great starts to books with sentences that hook the reader with tension or wonder. This story starts like a once-upon-a-time fairy-tale and sets the simple tone: "Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids." Once I got into the story the start made sense because it reflects Lewis's fusion of fairy-tales, myths, and theology. People have called his work a Christian allegory but I disagree because as a whole the series mixes imagery and symbolism from folk and biblical tales. But I digress... enough of my literary quibbles and let's look at the quibbling children.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy have arrived at Professor Digory Kirke's house and are exploring its rooms when Lucy accidentally ends up in Narnia after hiding in a wardrobe that opened into its woods. None of Lucy's siblings believe her because when they look there is only the wooden back of a wardrobe instead of trees. Edmund, the second to the youngest, teases her in a mean way making her miserable. When Edmund ends up with Lucy in the wardrobe getting transported to the alternate world, he makes some terrible decisions and chooses to lie to the others that he wasn't in Narnia. When Lucy tells Peter and Susan that she and Edmund have been to Narnia, Edmund denies it. Lucy is devastated by his betrayal and the others think she is going mad.

When all four end up in Narnia, they battle the White Witch to free the oppressed animals with the help of Aslan. Edmund continues to struggle with being the younger sibling who wants the attention that Peter seems to get from others. Being the 4th sibling out of 5 kids, I could relate to Edmund's resentment. My older brothers and sisters got to do things, but I was told "no" because I was too young. I also thought Edmund's addiction to Turkish Delight funny. The White Witch could have offered me a box of chocolates and I would have probably followed her around like a puppy too. When Edmund's mistake leads to the sacrifice of another being, the consequences of bad choices or sinning result in the death of a Narnian character.

The cracked stone table shows redemption for sin and made me think of King Arthur's round table and Moses stone tablets. Lewis creates a moving scene around the stone table that is full of injustice and hate. The crack represents a new beginning in Narnia and while this story reflects the Bible more than "The Magician's Nephew" and is less original, I do like the creatures from myths and the fantastical setting. I also found the ending interesting. The four children became rulers and were adults only to pop back into their world with no time change from when they left. Talk about Groundhogs Day! Now that I'm grown up I feel like that when I read children's books. I pop back in time to my childhood memories. A time with little responsibilities and lots of imagination. Then I finish the book and pop back into the real world with all its issues. And now I want popcorn. Edmund isn't the only one with gluttony problems.

Lewis lived through two World Wars and watched the tyrant, Hitler, use prejudice to murder others. Abusive power is ugly and it can be seen on a global or small scale. Seeing an adult verbally abuse a child is ugly too. Using negative language with children and not helping them reach their potential scares me. My daily speech and interaction with these students reflects the same values Lewis is writing about in Narnia. My small actions have a cumulative affect that create a good or bad teacher. I have to always reflect and work on my own character; otherwise, I'm a hypocrite teaching character education. When I ask students if they are being respectful then I need to reflect on if I'm being respectful to them. If I don't I become self-righteous and proud focusing on rules and performance versus loving others. Lewis inspires me to be a better person. As an adult, I value that message in his stories. I think the reminder to be outraged by injustices is good for it spurs one to justice. Lewis shows evil as choosing to not reach one's potential as a human being. Small and big choices lead to one's inner character. Virtues and building characteristics such as charity, honesty, respect, and responsibility, allow us to live in peace with each other. I not only want my students to reach their potential, I want to reach my own potential as well. This is a life-long pursuit for all, not just children.

4 Smileys

No comments:

Post a Comment