Till We Have Faces

by C. S. Lewis

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Explicate the significance of the title and its application to the story of Till We Have Faces.

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This powerful novel about the life of Orual, sister of Psyche, contains much that can be learnt about humanity and our patterns of relating with others and ourselves. The title of this text relates to a central section of the novel when Orual finally is able to do what she has hoped to do throughout the entire story: deliver her complaint to the gods. She is a character who, for much of her narrative, is absolutely consumed by her bitterness at how she has been treated by the gods and what has happened to her sister, Psyche. However, when she gets this opportunity, she makes a realisation that shocks her and comes to her like an epiphany:

When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you'll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

Orual realises that the complaint that has been at the center of her soul for so long is nothing more than a "babble," because she lacks the self-awareness to understand her life, her actions and her sorrows. The final line of this quote is where Lewis took the title for this work from. It links the work to the theme of self-awareness and the journey that Orual takes throughout the novel as she begins to understand that her love for her sister, Psyche, is not actually love but selfishness. The importance of the title is emphasised by the way that Orual is a Queen famed for wearing a veil to cover her face. She does not have a "face" for most of the novel, and this symbolically supports her lack of self-awareness.

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