The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Themes

C. S. Lewis


The Triumph of Good over Evil

Lewis's view of good and evil is predicated on the biblical doctrine of the Fall (the corruption of man's perfect state as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God), to which the only remedy is God's redemption through Jesus Christ. According to Genesis, when Satan entered God's unfallen creation in the form of a serpent, he tempted Adam and Eve by saying that if they were to eat from the forbidden tree, they would become like God and have knowledge of all things. Adam and Eve succumb, or fall, and thereby introduce sin/evil into the world. Lewis shows the nature of sin and evil through the character of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (In The Magician's Nephew, evil is introduced into the delightful and uncorrupted world of Narnia through the actions of characters who, like Adam and Eve, cannot resist temptation.) The nature of goodness is embodied in the character of Aslan, and its characteristics are manifested through the actions of many other characters in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well.

In the chapter "The Invasion" in Mere Christianity, Lewis explains that he does not see good and evil as opposites; rather, he sees evil as a perversion of good. Money, sex, and power, for example, are good things unless they are pursued for the wrong reasons. One good thing that cannot be perverted, however, is love, because as John reveals in his gospel, God is love (and God cannot be perverted). Love, therefore, is the ultimate good. If a man pursues wealth and power for selfish purposes, he is not acting out of love and, therefore, his actions are evil. Such are the actions of the White Witch. She does all she can to ensure her control over Narnia, even to the point of hurting and killing. Aslan, on the other hand, performs selfless acts for the benefit of others, sacrificing his life so that Edmund may live and breathing on the stone statues so that they may return to life. Characters such as the Beavers and the Pevensie children act out of love by showing hospitality: the Beavers serve a good meal to the children, and the children later have a feast served to their coronation guests.

Because evil is a perversion of good, Lewis reasons, it is subordinate to it. In his essay, "Evil and God," published in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, Lewis likens evil to a parasite living off a tree, explaining that good "exists[s] on its own while evil requires the good on which it is parasitic in order to continue its parasitic existence." The idea that evil is subordinate to good accords with Christian theology, according to which Christ defeated Satan/death by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, and one day Christ will return and put an end to evil once and for all. Although Christians differ in their eschatology (beliefs about the end times), many agree that the end will be accompanied by the destruction of evil and the triumph of good. This doctrine fuels the climax and resolution of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as Leland Ryken and Marjorie Lamp Mead point out in A Reader's Guide through the Wardrobe: "The turning of the statues back into people, a gigantic and decisive last battle, coronations at a great hall, living 'in great joy' and remembering 'life in this world … only as one remembers a dream'—all of these have an eschatological feel to them."

Awakening to New Life

The theme of awakening to new life functions in both physical and spiritual ways. On a physical level, the children's entry through the wardrobe into Narnia is an awakening to a new life: a new world is revealed to them that they never knew existed. Their ensuing adventures leading to...

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Social Concerns / Themes

In Of Other Worlds, Lewis says that "All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood." This first picture of the Narnia found by Lucy after passing through the wardrobe prefigures the intensity of image which marks the entire book. These images are important not only in terms of their vividness and contribution to plot and characterization: they also are significant because of their communication of themes.

In this novel Lewis is exploring ideas about human responsibility, freedom, choice, duty, truth, and love. In his creation of a Narnia which is always filled with winter without the light of Christmas, he has, without heaviness, exposed the horror of the totalitarian world, a world deprived of joy and laughter.

As each of the four children becomes involved with Narnia and its inhabitants, concrete instances of loyalty and betrayal, courage and selfishness occur. In these occurrences all rationalizations are stripped away, and the moral implications of human action are clear.

Unavoidable in reading the novel is the awareness, by the end of the book, that the theme is basically Christian: The novel's climax is another telling of the Passion story in the New Testament.

Additional Commentary

Two aspects of the...

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