The Chronicles of Narnia Critical Evaluation
by C. S. Lewis

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Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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The Chronicles of Narnia is considered one of the most beloved works of children’s literature. C.S. Lewis’s novels explore serious themes in an easily read and delightful fairy-tale format. The seven books narrate the entire course of the history of the fantasy world of Narnia, beginning with its creation by Aslan and concluding when the world of Narnia comes to an end. Throughout that fictional and epic history, symbols and motifs abound.

The theme of good versus evil, with good always triumphing, certainly pervades these novels. Aslan, the great lion and deity, is the unambiguous symbol of righteousness. Jadis, or the White Witch, is equally clearly an evil presence. Lewis creates no questioning in the minds of readers as to which behaviors are good and right and which are unequivocally bad. He does, however, create good characters with flaws, characters who grow throughout the series, most notably Edmund and Eustace. While physical ugliness indicates evil in a character, certain personages, such as Jadis, are externally beautiful but wicked inside.

Critics have often pointed out the Christian allegory present throughout the series. There are many parallels between Aslan and Christ. Aslan is all-powerful, just, and loving. He dies to redeem Edmund’s treachery, then comes back to life to save all. He creates and ends Narnia, bringing his followers to dwell with him in his country, which resembles representations of the Christian heaven. The faithful, such as the ever-loyal Lucy, often receive visions and spiritual rewards. Lewis, himself a converted agnostic, pointed out he did not write the books as pure allegory. Indeed, one of the most oft-quoted lines supporting the Christian theme occurs when, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan reassures Lucy that he is in her own world too: “But there I have another name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

Mixed with the Christian symbolism of the novels are abundant images from other mythologies and cultural traditions. Many characters come directly from Greek and Roman mythology, including centaurs, fawns, nymphs, dryads, and even Bacchus. Dragons, giants, dwarves, werewolves, Father Christmas, and Father Time come from varied mythological sources and historical periods. Some critics have assessed this blending of various cultural folklores as inconsistent and anachronistic. However, Lewis proposes that time is unpredictable and relative by placing the two settings, England and Narnia, on different clocks altogether.

Nearly all of the novels contain a quest or journey toward growth. Digory finds the healing apple for his mother in The Magician’s Nephew. In The Horse and His Boy , Shasta undergoes...

(The entire section is 679 words.)