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Author Topic: Excerpt from "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis  (Read 2193 times)


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Excerpt from "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis
« on: January 21, 2010, 04:57:13 PM »
I'm reading "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis. Fabulous book, I can not put it down! Anyways, I wanted to share an excerpt because it is sooo the personality-disordered loved one in our lives and how if left untreated they'll be completely absorbed by their illness. Watch how the "Tragedian" continually manipulates and guilt-trips, just like a PD individual. If you don't mind reading it (it's longish), you'll see what I mean! It's so symbolic. :)

The setting is the outskirts of heaven:

...While she spoke the Lady was steadily advancing towards us, but it was not at us she looked. Following the direction of her eyes, I turned and saw an oddly-shaped phantom approaching. Or rather two phantoms: a great tall Ghost, horribly thin and shaky, who seemed to be leading on a chain another Ghost no bigger than an organ-grinder's monkey. The taller Ghost wore a soft black hat, and he reminded me of something that my memory could not quite recover. Then, when he had come within a few feet of the Lady he spread out his lean,s haky hand flat on his chest with the fingers wide apart, and exclaimed in a hollow voice, "At last!" All at once I realised what it was that he had put me in mind of. He was like a seedy actor of the old school.

"Darling! At last!" said the Lady. "Good Heavens!" thought I. "Surely she can't--", and then I noticed two things. In the first place, I noticed that the little Ghost was not being led by the big one. It was the dwarfish figure that held the chain in its hand and the theatrical figure that wore the collar round its neck. In the second place, I noticed that the Lady was looking solely at the dwarf Ghost. She seemed to think it was the Dwarf who had addressed her, or else she was deliberately ignoring the other. On the poor dwarf she turned her eyes. ... She stooped down and kissed the Dwarf.

. . . "Frank," she said, "before anything else, forgive me. For all I ever did wrong and for all I did not do right since the first day we met, I ask your pardon."

I looked properly at the Dwarf for the first time now: or perhaps, when he received her kiss he became a little more visible. One could just make out the sort of face he must have had when he was a man: a little, oval, freckled face with a weak chin and a tiny wisp of unsuccessful moustache. He gave her a glance, not a full look. He was watching the Tragedian out of the corner of his eyes. Then he gave a jerk to the chain: and it was the Tragedian, not he, who answered the Lady.

"There, there," said the Tragedian. "We'll say no more about it. We all make mistakes." With the words there came over his features a ghastly contortion which, I think, was meant for an indulgently playful smile. "We'll say no more," he continued. "It's not myself I'm thinking about. It is you. That is what has been continually on my mind--all these years. The thought of you--you here alone, breaking your heart about me."

"But now," said the Lady to the Dwarf, "you can set all that aside. Never think like that again. It is all over."

. . . "You missed me?" he croaked in a small, bleating voice.

Yet even then she was not taken aback. Still the love and courtesy flowed from her. "Dear, you will understand about that very soon," she said. "But today--."

What happened next gave me a shock. The Dwarf and the Tragedian spoke in unison, not to her but to one another. "You'll notice," they warned one another, "she hasn't answered our question." I realised that they were one person, or rather that both were the remains of what had once been a person. The Dwarf rattled the chain.

"You miss me?" said the Tragedian to the Lady, throwing a dreadful theatrical tremor into his voice.

"Dear friend," said the Lady, still attending exclusively to the Dwarf, "you may be happy about that and about everything else. Forget all about it forever."

. . . "I can't forget it," cried the Tragedian. "And I won't forget it, either. I could forgive them all they've done to me. But for your miseries--."

"Oh, don't you understand?" said the Lady. "There are no miseries here."

"Do you mean to say," answered the Dwarf, as if this new idea had made him quite forget the Tragedian for a moment, "do you mean to say you've been happy?"

"Didn't you want me to be? But no matter. Want it now. Or don't think about it at all."

The Dwarf blinked at her. One could see an unheard-of idea trying to enter his little mind: one could see even that there was for him some sweetness in it. For a second he had almost let the chain go: then, as if it were his life-line, he clutched it once more. "Look here," said the Tragedian. "We've got to face this." He was using his "manly" bullying tone this time: the one for bringing women to their senses.

"Darling," said the Lady to the Dwarf, "there's nothing to face. You don't want me to have been miserable for misery's sake. You only think I must have been if I loved you. But if you'll only wait you'll see that isn't so."

"Love!" said the Tragedian striking his forehead with his hand: then, a few notes deeper, "Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?"

"How should I not?" said the Lady. "I am in love. In love, do you understand? Yes, now I love truly."

"You mean," said the Tragedian, "you mean--you did not love me truly in the old days."

"Only in a poor sort of way," she answered. "I have asked you to forgive me. There was a little real love in it. But what we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved. In the main I loved you for my own sake: because I needed you."

"And now!" said the Tragedian with a hackneyed gesture of despair. "Now, you need me no more?"

"But of course not!" said the Lady; and her smile made me wonder how both the phantoms could refrain from crying out with joy. "What needs could I have," she said, "now that I have all? I am full now, not empty. I am in Love Himself, not lonely. Strong, not weak. You shall be the same. Come and see. We shall have no need for one another now: we can begin to love truly."

But the Tragedian was still striking attitudes. "She needs me no more--no more. No more," he said in a choking voice to no one in particular.

. . . "Frank! Frank!" she cried in a voice that made the whole wood ring. "Look at me. Look at me. What are you doing with that great, ugly doll? Let go of the chain. Send it away. It is you I want. Don't you see what nonsense it's talking."

. . . I do not know that I ever saw anything more terrible than the struggle of that Dwarf Ghost against joy. For he had almost been overcome. Somewhere, incalculable ages ago, there must have been gleams of humour and reason in him. For one moment, while she looked at him in her love and mirth, he saw the absurdity of the Tragedian. . . . But the light that reached him, reached him against his will. This was not the meeting he had pictured; he would not accept it. Once more he clutched at his death-line, and at once the Tragedian spoke.

"You dare to laugh at it!" it stormed. "To my face? And this is my reward. Very well. It is fortunate that you give yourself no concern about my fate. Otherwise you might be sorry afterwards to think that you had driven me back to Hell. What? Do you think I'd stay now? Thank you. I believe I'm fairly quick at recognising when I'm not wanted. 'Not needed' was the exact expression, if I remember rightly."

From this time on the Dwarf never spoke again: but still the Lady addressed it. "Dear, no one sends you back. Here is all joy. Everything bids you stay." But the Dwarf was growing smaller even while she spoke.

"Yes," said the Tragedian. "On terms you might offer to a dog. I happen to have some self-respect left, and I see that my going will make no difference to you. It is nothing to you that I go back to the cold and the gloom, the lonely, lonely streets--."

"Don't, don't, Frank," said the Lady. "Don't let it talk like that." But the Dwarf was now so small that she had dropped to her knees to speak to it. The Tragedian caught her words greedily as a dog catches a bone.

"Ah, you can't bear to hear it!" he shouted with miserable triumph. "That was always the way. You must be sheltered. Grim realities must be kept out of your sight. You who can be happy without me, forgetting me! You don't want even to hear of my sufferings. You say, don't. Don't break in on your sheltered, self-centered little heaven. And this is the reward--."

She stooped still lower to speak to the Dwarf which was now a figure no bigger than a kitten, hanging on the end of the chain with his feet off the ground.

"That wasn't why I said, Don't," she answered. "I meant, stop acting. It's no good. He is killing you. Let go of that chain. Even now."

"Acting," screamed the Tragedian. "What do you mean?"

The Dwarf was now so small that I could not distinguish him from the chain to which he was clinging. And now for the first time I could not be certain whether the Lady was addressing him or the Tragedian. "Quick," she said. "There is still time. Stop it. Stop it at once."

"Stop what?"

"Using pity, other people's pity, in the wrong way. We have all done it a bit on earth, you know. 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. You see, I know now. Even as a child you did it. Instead of saying you were sorry, you went and sulked in the attic ... because you knew that sooner or later one of your sisters would say, 'I can't bear to think of him sitting up there alone, crying.' You used their pity to blackmail them, and they gave in in the end. And afterwards, when we were married ... oh, it doesn't matter, if only you will stop it."

"And that," said the Tragedian, "that is all you have understood of me, after all these years." I don't know what had become of the Dwarf Ghost by now. Perhaps it was climbing up the chain like an insect: perhaps it was somehow absorbed into the chain.

"No, Frank, not here," said the Lady. "Listen to reason. Did you think joy was created to live always under that threat? Always defenceless against those who would rather be miserable than have their self-will crossed? For it was real misery. I know that now. You made yourself really wretched. That you can still do. But you can no longer communicate your wretchedness. Everything becomes more and more itself. Here is joy that cannot be shaken. Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now infect our light. No, no, no. Come to us. We will not go to you. Can you really have thought that love and joy would always be at the mercy of frowns and sighs? Did you not know they were stronger than their opposites?"

"Love? How dare you use that sacred word?" said the Tragedian. At the same moment he gathered up the chain which had now for some time been swinging uselessly at his side, and somehow disposed of it. I am not quite sure, but I think he swallowed it. Then for the first time it became clear that the Lady saw and addressed him only.

"Where is Frank?" she said. "And who are you, Sir? I never knew you. Perhaps you had better leave me. Or stay, if you prefer. If it would help you and if it were possible I would go down with you into Hell: but you cannot bring Hell into me."

"You do not love me," said the Tragedian in a thin bat-like voice: and he was now very difficult to see.

"I cannot love a lie," said the Lady. "I cannot love the thing which is not. I am in Love, and out of it I will not go."

There was no answer. The Tragedian had vanished. The Lady was alone in that woodland place, and a brown bird went hopping past her . . . Presently the lady got up and began to walk away.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2010, 05:03:42 PM by Danielle »

Klarity Belle

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Excerpt from "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2010, 06:18:04 PM »
C.S. Lewis must have been inspired from observing behaviours of those around him.  He has captured some of the manipulative PD behaviours perfectly in the Tragedian character.
"Your task is not to seek love, but to seek and find all the barriers you have built against it." ~ Rumi

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Excerpt from "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2010, 10:22:15 PM »
Wonderful! I have been meaning to read this book and others long forgotten such as the screwtape letters, I haven't read that in nearly 20 years. Thank you for posting this and motivating me to go buy some books!I too see the similarities.