Till We Have Faces

by C. S. Lewis

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How is Christian symbolism reflected in Till We Have Faces?

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Lewis recognised that it would be futile to use unsubtle and obvious Christian symbolism in this novel and thus strove to identify religion in its widest possible sense through focusing on pre-Christian understanding of the world and drawing upon common morals and themes that are inherent in all religions and worldviews. One of the most important symbols in the story is that of the veil, which Orual wears for most of her adult life, supposedly to mask her ugliness. Yet, as the novel makes clear, the veil becomes a mask that not only prevents others from seeing her face but also prevents her from seeing herself clearly. This is made explicit at the climax of the novel, when Orual is finally able to deliver her complaint to the gods:

I saw well why the gods do not speak openly, nor let us answer. Till that need 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?

Throughout the entire novel, Orual has desired to meet the gods and to tell them what she truly thinks of them. It is only when this occurs that she realises she does not truly know who she is and is not fully cognisant of her many faults and errors. Christian symbolism is therefore present through the symbol of the veil, which is seen as a barrier or a mask preventing humans from seeing themselves for who they really are. It is only through the experiences of loss, suffering and sadness that Orual endures that she begins to understand who she really is, warts and all. This corresponds to the Apostle Paul's discussion of sight in 1 Corinthians, when he talks of how humans see imperfectly a distorted view of reality. When faced with God, they will see the true, unadulterated reality. Masks and sight are therefore used as powerful symbols of Christianity in this novel. 

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