Episode 24 – Book Study : The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis ( Part 3)

Chapters 12-14

Imagery of the procession – Glory

Imagery – Hell is but a small crack, and not comparable to the enormity of heaven 

Discussion on Pity and manipulation 


In chapter 12, a conversation between a husband and wife ensues. The wife is now a bright spirit in heaven, the husband a grey ghost. The husband is pictured as a dwarfish figure and the inordinate love he had for his wife is pictured as a big black doll. 

This dialogue was so sad and so beautiful all at once. The pain that was expressed was striking. When he said:

You didn’t even miss me.

The Great divorce by c.s. lewis, chapter 12

What a wound. He wants to know that when she died, she felt a loss being separated from him. That was so important to him, that he let it become more important than not wanting her to feel any further pain or suffering. If we truly love someone, we wouldn’t want them to ache not even a little. 

The Dwarfish figure was such a cool addition to this exchange! At first it seemed as though the dwarf was being led by the tall man, but in the end it was revealed that the dwarf was actually holding the chains! The big tall man is the doll, speaking words of misery to dwarf, but the dwarf man can at any moment, let it go. Let go of the hatred and selfishness he’s allowed to build up in his heart. The way the bright spirit is so dismissive of the doll is so awesome. Lies are smacked down in heaven! 

The saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ was meant to console those who were separated from their loves ones, while they wait to return to them. It’s not meant to be used as a weapon to hold over the one we love, because then we desire their pain and suffering, and we delight in it. That’s twisted. I love my Lord on the cross, I love Him for what He suffered for me, but I take no delight in His pain.

Even the words ‘did you miss me?’ is something we hear from couples a lot. What are they asking? They’re asking ‘What do I mean to you? What does my presence mean to you? Does my absence impact you in some way?’ and in that sense it’s ok to ask that. It’s helpful in discerning whether this is the right person for you. BUT to ask it, with the expectation or hope that they might say how painful it was to be separated from you, there’s an element of ‘twisted’ in that.

It’s so beautiful how she reveals the nature of their love on their love on earth – that is was mostly the need or craving to be loved, rather than love itself which marked the relationship. A craving to possess eachother as objects which can never be satisfies. She contrasts this with the love she now experiences. She is in true love itself! She actually possesses God in a certain sense, in so far as she is invited to receive Gods heart and God holds her heart tnederly. It’s such a striking contrast. 

When the wife goes on to express that she has been entirely satisfied whilst she’s been here, and that doesn’t make him happy, the disordered desire becomes clear. Even as they continue to dialogue and she pleads with him to let go of being enslaved, he’s trapped in the desperate need for her to need him. The mere thought of her having been content all this time, not needing him and yet still choosing to love him, seems entirely insulting to him. He can’t see that, THIS is true love. True love should be free. True love should want the good of the other. She pleads with him to let go not for her sake, but for his own sake. He can’t see past his own illusion of love, which is just plain misery.  

The thing to love about this book is that demonstrates sin and virtue in the context of relationships. Often we think about sin a very distilled sense. Impurity, lust, greed, laziness. We can tend to think of these as distilled realities affecting only ourselves. This book demonstrates the folly of such a view. Sin impacts relationships. And vice versa, so does virtue. 

The more the dwarf insists on holding on to misery, the smaller the dwarf becomes. The wife tries to show the dwarf what he’s been doing all this time and how it was meant to be used.

‘Using pity, other people’s pity, in the wrong way… pity was meant to be a spur that drives joy to help misery. But it can be used the wrong way round. It can be used for a kind of blackmailing. Those who choose misery can hold joy up to ransom, by pity.’ 

‘can you really have thought love and joy would always be at the mercy of frowns and sighs?’

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, page 131


T’was all a dream. When the narrator asks, ‘So I’m not really here then?’ the Spirit responds – No. You still have to face death. Let men know it is a dream, that you do not have knowledge of things beyond the realm of man. But what he is meant to convey is that good and evil are not marriageable. That when seen in the context of our relationships, evil is always evil and cannot become good without a repudiation of that which is evil. 

Book study reflective questions + video questions

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Reflective Questions

  1. How does sin impact my relationships?
  2. How does virtue build up my relationships?
  3. What was my initial reaction to the ending of the book? 
  4. What is the message I’m taking away from this book study?

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