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One of the central themes of this important text by C. S. Lewis is that of the danger of giving one's life entirely to a vocation and the negative impact this can have on that person. The person in question is of course Orual, who is so consumed with bitterness about what happened to her sister, Psyche, that she spends the majority of her life nurturing and harbouring her complaint against the gods, longing to have her woes heard and answered. However, as Lewis makes clear, the all-consuming nature of her mission means that she is blind to her own involvement in what happened to Psyche and her own failings. The text then charts the gradual growth of self-realisation that Orual experiences, and it is only when she is able to deliver her complaint that has consumed her for so long that she realises she has lacked massively self-awareness:
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?
This central passage of the novel, from which the title is taken, identifies the dangers of giving one's life over to a cause so completely that it excludes everthing else, including love and self-knowledge. This is something that of course has massive application to 21st century readers. Identifying with a vocation or a cause too strongly can lead to disaster, as suicide bombers in various parts of the world testify. This novel then advises moderation in any vocation that its readers may choose to follow.
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