illustration of an open wardrobe door with a castle and lion visible in through the door and an outline of a young girl standing on the opposite side of the door

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by C. S. Lewis

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What is the theme of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis?

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There are several major themes in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

  1.  Good v. Evil – Aslan is good, the witch is evil, and their influences clash against each other.
  2. Greed – Edmund personifies greed in the novel.  He surrenders to his temptations after the Witch offers him enchanted food.  He acts as a traitor when he is promised power, as well.  Insstead of being motivated by love or loyalty, Edmund is motivated by power and appetites of the flesh.  
  3. Redemption – Edmund betrays his family and puts all protagonist characters in danger, all the time acting on selfish impulses.  Edmund is a ‘dynamic character’ because he changes.  After conversing with Aslan, Edmund repent.  His acts of valor in the final battle redeem his previously bad behavior.
  4. Sacrifice – Aslan forfeits his own life for Edmund’s.  Aslan’s sacrifice is quiet, noble, selfless, and done out of love. 
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C. S. Lewis, teaching fellow at Oxford then Professor at Cambridge, was a philosopher and a Classicist. Consequently, the themes of his works are complex and intricate. While The Lion has many themes, there is one that might be analyzed as the dominant one. Understanding Lewis's themes is helped by understanding that, after his mother's early death, he became more and more alienated from Christianity until the influence of Tolkien and other Oxford writers and thinkers led him to accept Christianity at age thirty-two.

Some themes in The Lion are the victory of good over evil, redemption, temptation, the nature of true humanity, the effects of evil, hospitality, coming of age, attaining personal power, forgiveness, regeneration, new life, and gifts. The overriding theme, though, is the power of evil to wholly dominate and the virtues that oppose evil. The White Witch has all of Narnia in her hands: "it is always Winter, but never Christmas." Narnians have been powerless to defeat her evil. The power of her evil to dominate has been unshakable.

"I'm in the pay of the White Witch ... I had orders from the White Witch that if ever I saw a Son of Adam or a Daughter of Eve in the wood, I was to catch them and hand them over to her ..."

Then Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy come through the "the land of Spare Oom ... in the bright city of War Drobe" beyond "the lamp-post" and into Narnia. While there are setbacks, like with Edmund and the "Turkish Delight," each child finds the needed virtues within themselves and helps reveal the virtues in all the Narnians, so that, with Aslan's help and gifts and the virtues to oppose evil, they free Narnia of the power of the White Witch. This is the dominant theme.

Then with a roar that shook all Narnia ... to the shores of the eastern sea the great beast flung himself upon the White Witch ... And Peter's tired army cheered ... and the enemy squealed ...."

This is a relevant theme for today because, with linguists and psychologists investigating the surprising power of "negative prestige" (adopting the lowest standard from fear) and predictions of future occurrence based on past harmful occurrences, the present milieu seems surprisingly dominated by evil influences and actions.

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