“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.