Monday, May 19, 2008
Unlike some of the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, Prince Caspian doesn't delve too often or as deeply into philosophy. It does address matters of faith, belief, and unbelief, but I think one of its most insightful comments is more philosophical in nature.
In chapter 9, the Pevensie children and Trumpkin the dwarf encounter a bear that turns out to be wild rather than a kind talking Narnian bear. After the incident Lucy comments, "Wouldn't it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you'd never know which were which?" Susan quickly dismisses the question, but it is one worth pondering, especially in light of Lewis's ideas relative to the matter.
In fact, Lewis did ponder such a question in The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength. But before I get to that, in brief, the passage quoted from Caspian is also reminiscent of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. After escaping the island, wherein experiments in blending humans and animals were taking place, the main character writes of the people he meets back in civilization, "I could not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also another, still passably human, Beast People, animals half-wrought into the outward image of human souls; and that they would presently begin to revert, to show first this bestial mark and then that ... I feel as though the animal was surging up through them; that presently the degradation of the Islanders will be played over again on a larger scale."
Creepy stuff. Wells, as usual, mixes his social and philosophical commentary within the guise of what is ostensibly science fiction. But back to Lewis. What Lewis hints at via Lucy's remark about the bear is what he wrote about elsewhere. One of his concerns in The Abolition of Man is that human beings will remove themselves from God's transcendent moral standards--what Lewis calls the Tao in the book, meaning natural law--such that these individuals are no longer human beings, but something else.
Stepping into the moral void, they no longer are restrained when it comes to experimentation and, ultimately, some sort of conquest or the achievement of power over others. This, argues Lewis, will lead to the destruction, or abolition, of the human race as God intended it to be.
So, you see, Prince Caspian is not "just for kids." At another time I'll write about this abolition as represented in another Narnia book, The Magician's Nephew.