How did Orual become like Psyche in Till We Have Faces?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The experiences of Orual, culminating in the strange, dream-like vision that she narrates to the reader in the final chapter, where she confronts Psyche, detail a process of growth in self-understanding and self-awareness. Orual, by the end of the book, comes to be like her beloved sister precisely because she identifies that her love for her sister has been destructive and all-consuming. Instead, she becomes more like her sister by the recognition that she must learn to love in a different fasion. Note how Orual addresses her sister in this final chapter of the book:

"Oh, Psyche, oh, goddess," I said. "Never again will I call you mine; but all there is of me shall be yours. Alas, you know now what it's worth. I never wished you well, never had one selfless thought of you. I was a craver."

Orual is forced to see herself for who she really is, which of course relates to the central symbol of the mask that she wears for most of her life. The veil she wears prevents both others and herself from seeing who she really is, and it is only at the end of the novel that she is forced to strip that veil away and see herself in all of her reality. As the quote reflects, Orual therefore becomes like Psyche by the end of the novel because she moves away from her obsessive and selfish love and begins to demonstrate the same self-giving and sacrificial love that Psyche demonstrated. Orual's move from ignorance to awareness is mirrored by a growth in her capacity to love as her sister loved.

droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Orual is a challenging and intriguing viewpoint character in that she is, in many ways, extremely unattractive and defined by her desire for love and the fact that she receives so little of it. Her love is a destructive and devouring force, focused most intently on her beloved Psyche. Ansit noted that she devours those she loves. Orual is extremely jealous and possessive, but in a way we feel for her as readers, because we see her plight: she is ugly on the outside and has been made ugly on the inside because of this, as all she wants is to attract love as easily as the gods do.

When Orual becomes Ungit, the true ugliness of her character is in many ways revealed, but by the end of the novel, it is clear that she is a sympathetic character, because she finally recognizes the destructive nature of her love and vows to change it. She has always sought to become like Psyche and gone about it all the wrong way, by clinging to and damaging those she loves. In the end, however, it is through gaining self-awareness that she is able to become more like Psyche, as she is able to examine herself and resolve to move beyond her own failings to love more generously. Ultimately, Orual is a symbol of encouragement to the reader, indicating that failings are not a condemnation so long as we are willing to hold up a mirror to ourselves and resolve to be better. People may be born good, like Psyche, but the vast majority of us must work at it, and that is just as acceptable.

Read the study guide:
Till We Have Faces

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question