C. S. Lewis | Critical Essay by William G. Johnson and Marcia K. Houtman

This literature criticism consists of approximately 19 pages of analysis & critique of C. S. Lewis.
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Critical Essay by William G. Johnson and Marcia K. Houtman

SOURCE: "Platonic Shadows in C. S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles," in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 32, No. 1, Spring, 1986, pp. 75-87.

In the following essay, Johnson and Houtman examine references to the philosophical investigations of Plato in Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. According to the critics, Lewis frequently incorporates Platonic concepts found in The Republic, in particular the famous Allegory of the Cave.

As a literary critic, science fiction writer, Christian apologist, and creator of the Chronicles of Narnia, in the last several decades C. S. Lewis has attained a reputation and following enviable in size and amazing in diversity. In many ways the quiet Oxbridge professor's achievements have assumed an air of authority, an aura of credibility, difficult to explain; Lewis, after all, is not an "apologist" in the same sense as Merton, nor a critic with a comprehensive system such as McLuhan. He is not, likewise, a fiction writer whose "science" background even begins to parallel that of Asimov, whose characterizations approach those of Faulkner, whose ethical dilemmas rival Greene's, and whose epic sweep is as broad as Tolkien's.

What Lewis' fiction has, however, and what captures his readers, is a sense of "story"—not just "story" as plot, but "story" as myth, as archetype, as dreams recalled. And what Lewis succeeds in doing so well is creating in the fiction a reality that draws readers into worlds seemingly more real than those in which the readers live. Behind Lewis' process and method of the "real" fiction set in opposition to the "fictionalized" world of reality is a long tradition of Platonized Christianity with which Lewis was very familiar and from which he selected elements to incorporate into his personal beliefs.

In his scholarly works Lewis makes quite clear his knowledge of, and familiarity with, Plato's works. Indeed, it is Lewis the critic of Medieval and Renaissance literature who was prominent in affirming the "Platonic" nature of those two literary-historical periods. His Allegory of Love, The Discarded Image, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, A Preface to "Paradise Lost," and Spenser's Images of Life make clear how extensively Plato and the Neo-Platonists influenced the Christian humanist writers of those respective literary periods. In Lewis' own fiction some elements of the Christian Platonism are easily identifiable, whereas others are so intermingled with Lewis' own theology that they are almost overlooked or, at least, hardly recognizable as being Greek in origin. At times Lewis himself not only points the way to such sources but even allows characters to point them out.

Such is the case with Lewis' character Digory Kirke, the professor who appears in five of the seven Narnia Chronicles. Variously depicted as the one "very wise grown-up" to whom the adventurous children can entrust their story of Narnia, as a young boy in The Magician's Nephew and as a rejuvenated, handsome Lord Digory in The Last Battle, Digory Kirke is also presented as being human enough to have all the foibles and failings of a middle-aged professorial bachelor. In The Magician's Nephew, for example, it is a younger Digory, with his uncontrolled curiosity, who wanders too far and loses the path back to earth; in the same book it is Digory who falls under the spell of Jadis, the White Witch, whom he finds the most beautiful woman he ever saw—refusing to recognize her terrible power and evil intent (which even the children can see). Yet it is an older Digory, motivated so often by the love of his sick mother, who is both transformed into a handsome young lord in The Last Battle and proffers his "explanation" for the apocalypse just witnessed in Narnia: "It's all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!"

But the professorial Digory goes too far in such a hasty glossing as this. Certainly some of what has just occurred in The Last Battle is "in Plato" and can be explained by Platonic concepts; but just as certainly much of what the earth travelers have just seen has little or no base in the Greek philosophies. Lewis' own Platonism is highly selective and highly diffused, and although he was quite familiar with the corpus of Plato's writings, the application of Plato's ideas is through Lewis' Platonized Christianity (more so than through any Christianized Platonism).

If put to the test one might find Platonic "sources" in a variety of Lewis' writings. Most obvious would be the use of the Republic, with its famous Allegory of the Cave, its exposition of the doctrine of Forms, and its ur-Freudian doctrine of dreams as submerged wishes. The Phaedo is also evident, particularly because of its discussions of immortality and the unchanging reality behind the mutable Forms; the Timaeus also develops the nature of Forms and Ideas, but does so with a developed myth or story about a scheme of creation in which the world is described as a work of art crafted by a beneficent creator. In the Timaeus Plato treats the subject of sense perceptions, and in the Symposium one finds the famous presentation of the ascendancy of love, a topic of great significance in Lewis' work but which is more closely connected to the Neo-Platonists—particularly Ficino and Pico—than to Plato. One might also point to the theodicy, or principles of natural religion, of Plato's Laws, as well as to the refutation of dogmatic atheism contained in that work, as background for Lewis' various universes (notably in Perelandra). Finally, and especially as they prepare readers for Lewis' depictions and descriptions of Sehnsucht, both the Meno and the Phaedrus discuss more than passingly Plato's theory of recollection.

Yet one can read Lewis' fiction without the background in Plato, although, like the children, one must be wary of Digory's offhanded remark—wary because it is spoken with authority by a respected professor and therefore can too readily be assumed to be "true." What Digory blithely refers to as "Plato" might much more accurately be described as "Plato as his doctrines are filtered through St. Paul, Augustine, the Florentine Neo-Platonists, and the Christian Humanists." Furthermore, considering that the observation about Plato is Digory's attempt to explain how the "New Narnia" is the "real thing" and that what had previously been thought to be Narnia was actually only "a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here" (The Last Battle), a much more evident "source" (as well as explanation) is Paul's famous statement in I Corinthians that "when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."

For another reason the reader must also be wary of Digory's source reference: it is too easy to forget that no one "source," even Plato, could possibly account for the artistic, theoretical, cosmological, and theological mélange Lewis presents within the seven books depicting Narnia's genesis, history, and destruction. As John D. Cox suggests, "a beginning list of sources for [even] The Last Battle would include the biblical Apocalypse, Malory's Morte D'Arthur, Wagner's Ring, the Enneads of Plotinus, George MacDonald's sermons, ancient Roman religion, and probably Aesop's Fables." Although the temptation is strong to add vast compilations of other "sources" used in depicting Narnia—Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Augustine, Dante, Chaucer, Medieval bestiaries, Spenser, Milton, Bunyan, Chesterton, Carroll, Potter, Milne, Tolkien, Williams, to name a few—the fact remains that Lewis was an enormously well-read writer who freely adapted, adopted, and altered to suit his purposes. In most cases it is only of passing interest to note a "source"—as when Glimfeather in The Silver Chair flies off to the Parliament of Owls (an amusing reference to Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls). What really matters "is the use made of these hints, ideas and inspiration … now arranged in a new pattern."

Nonetheless, Plato does play a strong role in Narnia—sometimes directly, sometimes not. Lewis himself never quibbled about his admiration for this philosopher. In Miracles he refers to Aristotle and Plato being at "the peak" of Greek philosophy, and in the same work refers later to "the old, richly imaginative thought which still survives in Plato." Earlier he had written in his diary entry for 8 February 1927 about Plato's "delightful civilized imagination," and at one time Lewis declared that he loved Plato before he even knew Augustine (God in the Dock). As Robert Houston Smith indicates, there was within Lewis "a deep-rooted affinity for Platonism" that enabled him to enfold "Platonism into his Christianity, not simply as an intellectual system but as a satisfying window upon reality."

Although Lewis' fiction is liberally sprinkled with Platonic elements, it is primarily in the Chronicles, and specifically in The Last Battle, that Plato's influence is most clearly observed in the controlling images and in the philosophy with which the work is imbued. In this work Lewis pictures the differences between the New Narnia and the Narnia of the previous six Chronicles; he likewise differentiates between the "Shadowlands" and the Real World (Earth and the old Narnia for the former, the New Narnia for the latter), noting that the one is like dreaming in the night and the other like waking to the morning.

It is also in the final chapters of The Last Battle that several of the Narnian characters, along with Jill and Eustace, pass through the Stable Door from a dark and crumbling Narnia into a bright world where they are met by their old friends, the Pevensies. And it is at this point that Digory explains to young Peter and the others that the Narnia they had known was "only a shadow or a copy of the Real Thing, as different as waking life is from a dream." And all of it, he adds, is in Plato.

The most obvious place in Plato to which Digory might be referring is Book Seven of the Republic with its famous Allegory of the Cave. Or, as Walter Hooper suggests, one might look as well to the Phaedo, in which Plato discusses immortality and the unchanging reality behind the changing Forms. As it is, there are so many scattered hints, clues, and references it hardly pays to look to one Platonic work at all. It takes little literary or philosophical acumen to discern in the eschatological upheaval that destroys the Old Narnia and in the resulting movement into the unchanging Real Narnia Lewis' adaptation both of the Platonic view of the real world of Forms behind the instantial world of shadows and the Christian concept of the New Jerusalem replacing the temporary, insubstantial, mutable Old Earth.

But long before the dissolution of the Old Narnia and the Old Order, Lewis raises Platonic questions about the nature of reality; he fills the pages of The Last Battle with examples of the mistaken identification of the "shadows," or insubstantial, for the Real. In the last days of Narnia the distortions become even greater than they were earlier. For example, Puzzle, the gentle but simple donkey, succumbs to the wishes of the clever monkey, Shift, dons the lionskin, and presents himself as Aslan. Ludicrous as the imitation is, there are those who actually confuse Puzzle with Aslan; many of the dwarfs, for example, are led to fatal misconceptions because of their insisting on the reality of what is only a shadow.

And "shadow" is precisely the association Lewis creates for Tash, the bloodthirsty god of the Calormenes in The Last Battle. A cruel deity appeased by blood sacrifice, Tash is presented as the antithesis of Aslan's good qualities. His arrival in Narnia is one of the most terrifying in all the Chronicles:

In the shadow of the trees on the far side of the clearing something was moving. It was gliding very slowly Northward. At first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was grey and you could see things through it. But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke. Also, this thing kept its shape instead of billowing and curling as smoke would have done. It was roughly the shape of a man but it had the head of a bird; some bird of prey with a cruel, curved beak. It had four arms which it held high above its head, stretching them out Northward as if it wanted to snatch all Narnia in its grip; and its fingers—all twenty of them—were curved like its beak and had long, pointed, bird-like claws instead of nails. It floated on the grass instead of walking, and the grass seemed to wither beneath it.

Such shadows and shadowy figures are not uncommon the closer one gets to the last days of the Old Narnia; they remind one of the shadows that Plato's Cave prisoners mistake for reality. In Plato, as in Lewis, one cannot be sure about the shadows—until the time when one leaves the cave and literally sees the light. A prisoner released from the cave, Plato suggests, would be blinded by the light and would, for a time, see shadows more clearly than real things. He would distrust these unfamiliar "real" things and cling to his old belief in "reality," only gradually replacing the old view with a new. Only after this kind of adjustment would the prisoner come to understand that even the greatest honors in his old world would be nothing compared to life even as a slave in the new. Any attempts to convince those still in the Cave of their error would be met with resentment, refusal, and rejection.

This is precisely the situation in The Silver Chair where the Queen of the Underland (a projection of Spenser's Lucifera) has imprisoned and enchanted Prince Rilian. Paul Ford interprets Rilian's movements as a progress of the soul, which "in its depths knows that its present bodily existence is a fall from a sunny overworld of truth into a shadowy underworld of shifting appearances. This fall, however, is simultaneously a fall in consciousness. The soul forgets its immortal identity." The witch convinces Rilian and the others sent to his rescue that the Overworld and Aslan exist only in their minds and only as a "copy" of her Underland and its inhabitants. After asking the Prince to explain what the sun is (Plato's ultimate example of the bright light of reality), the Queen turns to her own purposes his attempt to define the sun by comparing it to the overhead lamp:

When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me. You can only tell me it is like the lamp. Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp. The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children's story.

Even Aslan is, she tells them, only a copy, an imaginary "bigger and better cat." The Queen "is the archetypical reductionist, trying to convince the cave-dwellers that the shadows of their immediate experience are all there is." She only fails because the very practical Puddleglum dis-spells her evil effects by stamping out the fire creating the Underland illusions (exactly as the fire in Plato's allegory casts the shadows on the Cave wall).

The famous Cave is itself cleverly presented in The Last Battle, although the falsehood of the shadow world is more pronounced because of the Ape's manipulation of light and image. One recalls that in Plato the light is behind the insubstantially bound prisoners, whereas the shadows are projected on the wall before them. The son et lumière presented to Tirian, last King of Narnia, relies on a distortion of a different sort:

Far away there appeared a red light. Then it disappeared for a moment and came back again, bigger and stronger. Then he could see dark shapes going to and fro on this side of the light and carrying bundles and throwing them down. He knew now what he was looking at. It was a bonfire, newly lit, and people were throwing bundles of brushwood on it. Presently it blazed up and Tirian could see that it was on the very top of the hill. He could see quite clearly the stable behind it, all lit up in the red glow, and a great crowd of Beasts and Men between the fire and himself.

Here, in the "false Narnia," even the light deceives; the good Tirian "could not make out very clearly" what the objects were and "couldn't be sure that what he saw was not the real Aslan…. How could one be sure?"

Sureness never comes in the shadow world although eventually the real light is shown to everyone. It then becomes a matter of accepting the "real" light or rejecting it as false. Lewis believes that even the cave dwellers have some longings, dreams, intimations of immortality for a world beyond the shadows. This longing (a form of Plato's doctrine of the soul's longing for the real Forms behind the instantial shapes of this world) Lewis calls Sehnsucht. An important, even key, element of Lewis' thought, Sehnsucht describes "the desire for God and Heaven [which Lewis] thought was part of every person…. Sehnsucht, for Lewis, can only be filled by God, and is similar to the desire described by Blaise Pascal as a cross-shaped hole in the heart of man." In his English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Lewis staunchly defends Sehnsucht in the works of one of his heroes and models, Edmund Spenser, noting that Sehnsucht would "logically appear as among the sanest and most fruitful experiences we have" because the object of the longing "really exists and really draws us to itself."

Yet Lewis is only partially Platonic in his repeated references to Sehnsucht. Taken in their full expression, the longings Plato describes (particularly in the Phaedo) are part of his argument for immortality of the soul, a belief already affirmed in Greece by Pythagorean and Orphic mystics. Still, Plato was the "first great prose writer to enforce it by philosophical arguments, or impress it upon the imagination by vivid eschatological myths…. Plato's name was the symbol and rallying point of the entire religious and philosophic opposition to the dogmatic materialism of the Epicureans and of the positive wing of the Peripatetics." But these same "proofs of immortality" in the Phaedo are inextricably interconnected with, and depend on the logical consequences of, the theory of Ideal Forms.

In the first part of the Phaedo two proofs are given for immortality, the first being that all processes or changes are transitions between contraries. If life changes into death, death must therefore change into life. The soul must exist after death because it must pass into life. Yet the second argument, which Lewis develops only in part and which is significant to his view of Sehnsucht, is the theory of recollection and reminiscence (also discussed in the Meno and Phaedo). This theory not only implies a transcendent world of reality (the Forms) but the possibility of preexistence, or of a nonincarnate soul that has experiences in a prior existence and which prior experiences are then recollected at various times, causing the soul in this world to long for the perfect world it once knew.

Lewis never seems to have been concerned that what he develops in his discussions of Sehnsucht was only half a Platonic theory. The soul's longing is important for Lewis; it is this longing that ultimately gets the Narnia "pilgrims" to the Real Narnia, and it is this longing that is described by Jewel the Unicorn (in The Last Battle) when exclaiming about the real Narnia:

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.

In one sense Lewis is playing with the idea of one world "looking a little" like the real world, for in each of the reminiscences "recollected" is the germ of the whole image. As with Blake's grain of sand, in which one can see a world and thus hold eternity in one's hand, and as with Dame Julian's image of the universe seen as a hazelnut in her own hands, so Lewis depicts small things containing larger things inside. Digory explains to the assembly that in the New Narnia "its inside is bigger than its outside," and Lucy adds the metaphysical paradox that "in our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."

Such is the longing Lewis himself reveals in Mere Christianity:

Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy…. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death…. I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.

In other words, what is seen in this life as some kind of ultimate fulfillment turns out, like Don Quixote's windmills, to be an insubstantial shadow, a False Florimell, a mere suggestion of that for which a person is actually longing.

What Lewis does not touch on, at least in Platonic terms, is the preexistence of the souls, which state draws those in the shadow world of this life to return to their "true country." For Lewis the explanation for the longing and for the reminiscences is a different one, one that marks a major distinction between Plato's distant, removed Demiurge and Lewis' Hebraic-Christian depiction of an involved God. In Plato the Demiurge created the Forms as well as the insubstantial worlds; the preexistent souls of people recall the bright shapes of the Forms and long for a return to the world beyond this one. The Demiurge has little or nothing to do with the real or the unreal worlds after their creation. For Lewis, however, as for all orthodox Christians, God is intimately involved with the creation, and the "intimations of immortality" are both recurring gifts and an ongoing means (as with Marvell's drop of dew) to draw the created world to a heavenly "home." As Lewis notes when writing about himself: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing."

Not everyone, as Lewis suggests in various places, wants the gifts, and not everyone is lured from the instantial world of shadows to the substantive reality of true Forms (such as those represented by the Real Narnia). The most poignant depiction of this is in The Great Divorce, where the "Bright Spirit" Reginald tries to convince his shadowy sister Pam that she must make some vital changes in her viewpoint if she hopes to remain in heaven and have the chance to see her beloved son Michael. Reginald explains gently to Pam that Michael

won't be able to see or hear you as you are at present [an insubstantial dweller in the shadowlands]. You'd be totally invisible to Michael. But we'll soon build you up…. As soon as it's possible for him to see you, of course he will. You need to be thickened up a bit…. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake.

This "thickening treatment" is the result of moving out of the cavelike world of shadows into the wider, deeper world of reality, Narnia, Heaven; it is, as it were, the putting on of reality—a process that hurts "at first, until your feet are hardened. Reality is harsh to the feet of shadow," as the omnibus travelers' in The Great Divorce discover when "two of the ghosts screamed and ran for the bus. The rest … huddled closer to one another."

The reaction of the ghosts to the solid people is echoed in the reaction of the disloyal renegade dwarfs in The Last Battle. Like the prisoners in Plato's Cave who refuse to respond to the knowledge of another world outside the Cave, the shadow-blinded dwarfs huddle together "in a little circle facing one another" immediately before the same Stable Door that has just allowed Tirian, the children, and the loyal Narnians to move into a beautiful, dazzlingly bright land. The dwarfs, however, are blind to their surroundings despite the futile campaign of Tirian and the others to convince them that a brave and bright new world can open for them also. As the group approaches the dwarfs, the harsh voice of a dwarf reprimands them:

"Look out!" said one of [the dwarfs] in a surly voice. "Mind where you're going. Don't walk into our face!"

"All right!" said Eustace indignantly. "We're not blind. We've got eyes in our heads."

"They must be darn good ones if you can see in here," said the same Dwarf whose name was Diggle.

"In where?" asked Edmund.

"Why you bone-head, in here of course," said Diggle. "In this pitch-black, poky, smelly little hole of a stable."

"Are you blind?" said Tirian.

"Ain't we all blind in the dark!" said Diggle.

"But it isn't dark, you poor stupid Dwarfs," said Lucy. "Can't you see? Look up! Look round! Can't you see me?"

"How in the name of all Humbug can I see what ain't there? And how can I see you any more than you can see me in this pitch darkness?"

No matter what the children and the true Narnians do, the dwarfs will not be convinced. To the "blind" dwarfs, the violets Lucy offers are only "filthy stable litter," and the feast Aslan lays before them consists only of things one would normally expect to find in a "smelly little hole of a stable." Tirian, in frustration, cries, "There is no black hole, save in your own fancy, fool!" and picking Diggle up "swung him right out of the circle of Dwarfs." But Diggle only rubs his nose, howls, and runs back to his place in the tight little circle.

Even the appearance of Aslan, depicted as "huge and real," has no effect on the dwarfs. Lucy pleads with him to help them, but he explains that there is only so much he can do:

They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they can not be taken out. But come, children. I have other work to do.

Harsh as it might seem to contemporary readers, Aslan leaves the dwarfs and moves on. All efforts have been made to bring them into the new, Real Narnia—but the dwarfs themselves have chosen the world of shadow. They have, as with Milton's Satan, "made a hell of heaven" in which the mind is its own place. Aslan's response to move on is precisely that of Plutarch's Ulysses to the unrepentant Gryllus, of Spenser's Guyon when he commands, "Let Grill be Grill, and have his hoggish mind," and of Dante's Virgil when he describes the "cieca vita" (blind lives) of the Neutrals damned to a shadowy limbo outside the gates of heaven as well as outside the gates of hell—"non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa" (let us not talk further of them; look and pass on).

Whereas the blindness of the dwarfs is metaphoric, Plato treats "sight" as literal and figurative; and in the Republic he indicates an area in which sight is distinguished from the other senses. In order that sight may occur not only must there be an object to see and an eye capable of seeing, but there must also exist light playing on the object. In the best cases this light will be that of the sun. For Plato, the light and the sun become major images. Just as the eye sees most clearly when its object is bathed in sunlight, so "the mind apprehends most clearly when it views its object in the light of the Idea of good. It is this that 'gives to objects of knowledge their truth, and to him who knows them his power of knowing.'"

Translated into traditional literary imagery, light brings enlightenment; transformed into traditional Christian imagery, the light of the "Son" enlightens with eternal life. Life in the shadowy Cave gives way to a world so big it cannot be comprehended, and so wonderful it cannot be described. In Till We Have Faces Lewis has Psyche explain to Orual that in some of the Greek masters "death opens a door out of a little dark room (that's all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines…." King Tirian's password—"The light is dawning, the lie broken"—succinctly describes both cause and effect and in one word, "lie," represents the shadow world for what it is. The ascent "farther up and farther in," a phrase repeated numerous times (particularly in The Last Battle, where this is precisely the direction the travelers take), reminds us again of the mystical ascent into the great Rose of the Paradiso, where all is suffused with an ever-increasing brightness of light. It is, as Lucy notes, a "world within world, Narnia within Narnia," literally ad infinitum, and it is the same movement into the real light and the real world of Forms Plato's prisoners must make if they ever leave the dark Cave.

It is with light that Lewis culminates both The Great Divorce and The Last Battle in both of which the process of moving from the instantial and insubstantial world to the solid and real world of Heaven/Narnia is completed with the drawing of a new day. In the former the light comes "like solid blocks," bringing with it a chorus of woods, men, and angels all singing together "It comes! It comes!… Sleepers awake!" The narrator, realizing that he has not yet completed his lessons in preparation for a new life in the new world, is compelled by the first rays of the sun shooting over the horizon to bury his head into the folds of his Teacher's robes and scream, "The morning! The morning! I am caught by the morning and I am a ghost."

But in The Last Battle, the reader observes characters who have completed their lessons and are ready to understand fully that they have reached heaven, the place of ultimate reality. As the light before them grows stronger, Aslan himself comes to greet the group. Though they are overwhelmed with the joy of their new discoveries and their reunion with Aslan, their knowledge is not quite complete. However, Aslan's words give them all the reassurance they will ever need:

"You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be."

Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often."

"No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?" Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

Recollections of other worlds, movements from shadowy worlds to brightly illuminated ones, the dangers of sense perceptions in a world of changing shapes and forms, the reality of an immutable world beyond this one and of an immortal life that replaces this instantial and insubstantial present one (which actually exists only as a dream): these are themes to which Lewis repeatedly returns. His fictionalized worlds and his nonfiction works reveal his treating these topoi as serious, fundamental ones. And all of these are treated as well in the various dialogues of Plato. Although the analogies to the Cave story are fairly explicit, it is impossible to ascertain how much else Lewis takes directly from Plato, how much is "second hand" through the Church Fathers, Neo-Platonists, and Renaissance Christian Humanists, and how much is merely an amalgam developed by Lewis as part of his own creative processes. As much an overstatement as Digory's words are, the fact remains that much of what one finds in Lewis' fiction is in Plato—though certainly not "all." It is sufficient to note that the Platonic elements are there throughout Lewis' works, and for those readers who recognize them, there is added a dimension to the readings that both broadens and deepens the literary experience.

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