Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The central image of the book is the palace of Cupid, totally real, visible, and tangible to Psyche, as totally unreal and invisible to Orual—except for a brief moment which Orual tries to forget or to explain away as illusion. If the palace had been as real in Lewis as it is in Apuleius, however, then there would be no excuse for Orual. As it is, there remains something of force in her complaint against the gods: Why do they work in hints? Why will they not show themselves for worship?

These questions are of particular force in the twentieth century, the Age, one might say, of Lack of Faith. There is a Christian answer to them, which Lewis knows well. The virtue of Faith would cease to exist if divinity were present as simply matter-of-fact. In the same way, the virtue of Obedience would vanish if there were not some pledge of obedience for mortals to take, such as not seeing her lover, in Psyche’s case, or not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, in the story of Genesis. Till We Have Faces may be read, then, as an allegory of Faith (even Christian Faith), with Orual as a representative of modern humanity, anxious to do her best and to reach the divine but with only inadequate theories of reality from which to work—on the one hand the Fox’s barren rationalism, on the other Bardia’s primitive superstition.

Throughout the novel, indeed, Lewis takes pains to scatter examples of the main modern theories of myth (or...

(The entire section is 554 words.)

Till We Have Faces Social Concerns / Themes

In an introductory note to the English edition of the novel not included in the American editions, Lewis presents four themes which "suddenly...

(The entire section is 214 words.)