The Great Divorce

by C. S. Lewis

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In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis's classic vision of the Afterworld, the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly English afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations, and comes to some significant realizations about the nature of good and evil.

About the Author

C. S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) died on the same day as the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy, Nov. 22, 1963. Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, on Nov. 29, 1898. He was educated by private tutor and then at Malvern College in England for a year before attending University College, Oxford, in 1916. His education was interrupted by service in World War I. In 1918, he returned to Oxford where he did outstanding work as a classical scholar. He taught at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1954 and from 1954 until his death in Oxford. He was professor of medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University in Cambridge. He was highly respected in his field of study, as a both teacher and writer. His book The Allegory of Love: a Study in Medieval Tradition, published in 1936, is considered by many to be his best work.

Lewis is most known for his attempt at formulating a core of Christian understanding. Lewis wrote a number of highly readable books intelligent, imaginative, and often witty. Among these were: The Pilgrim's Regress, published in 1933, The Problem of Pain (1940), Miracles (1947), and The Screwtape Letters (1942), probably his most popular work. He also wrote a trilogy of religious science fiction novels: Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1943), and That Hideous Strength (1945). For children he wrote a series of seven allegorical tales, beginning with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in 1950. His autobiography, Surprised by Joy, was published in 1955.

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By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

“I think Earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell; and Earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.” (Lewis 2)
This quote, taken from the introduction in C.S. Lewis’s book, The Great Divorce, captures for me the entire essence of the book’s message. While barely 150 pages in length, I have never been so inspired by a book that I didn’t consider scripture. It took me a week to finish the book from beginning to end in spite of its size. I felt like rushing through it from amazing insight to amazing insight would be to do myself an injustice.
The Great Divorce chronicles an unnamed man’s journey through representations of Heaven and Hell, not unlike Dante’s Inferno and Paradisio. Most of the book, however, takes place in that curious middle ground between the two where eternal decisions are made. The book begins with a man wandering a grey and rainy city, filled with unhappy and intolerable people. Soon, he finds a bus stop and a group of people talking about, “leaving”. Getting on board the bus begins a journey to the Kingdom of Heaven, which eventually culminates in the protagonist beholding the Son of Man himself.
While the journey and symbolism are inspirational, my personal favorite part of The Great Divorce was watching the other riders of the bus make their attempt at Heaven. Often, they are unable to make the journey, choosing instead to hold on to something earthly. Time and time again, C.S. Lewis paints stories for the reader of why Heaven is so hard to obtain. Vain philosophizing, love turned to obsession, and senses of entitlement are a few of the vices that are shown to be incompatible with the true seeker of Heaven. Only by, “divorcing” these parts of us can we ever come to know a fullness of joy.
I can really say nothing bad about, The Great Divorce. The entire book left me contemplating on what I needed to change about myself in order to become what my Savior wants me to become. Far from being discouraging though, the book offers reason after reason for going forward with that sometimes painful process. By the end of the book, I felt completely in control of my own destiny, yet completely dependent on God. I would highly recommend The Great Divorce to anyone interested in understanding themselves on a deeper and more spiritual level.

David Tangren

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