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The Great Divorce   Author C. S. Lewis Original title The Great Divorce Country United Kingdom Language English Genre(s) Religious, Christian Publisher Geoffrey Bles (UK) Publication date 1945 Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) Pages 118 p. (hardback edition) ISBN 0-02-570550-4 The Great Divorce is a work of fantasy by C. S. Lewis that is complementary to Lewis' earlier book The Screwtape Letters. The working title was Who Goes Home? but the real name was changed at the publisher's insistence. The title refers to William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The Great Divorce was first printed as a serial in a religious publication called The Guardian (not connected to the modern British newspaper of the same name) in 1944 and 1945, and soon thereafter in book form. Contents 1 Sources 2 Plot summary 3 Allusions/references to other works 4 Music inspired by The Great Divorce 5 Stage adaptation 6 Motion picture 7 References Sources C. S. Lewis's diverse sources for this work include the works of St. Augustine, Dante Aligheri, John Milton, John Bunyan, Emanuel Swedenborg and Lewis Carroll as well as the American science-fiction author C.S. Lewis mentions in his preface whose name he had forgotten. George MacDonald, whom Lewis utilizes as a character in the story, Dante, Prudentius and Jeremy Taylor are alluded to in the text of chapter 9. The works of Aristotle appear to be alluded to negatively in chapter 1 as being the sort of books sold in the bookstores of the "grey town." Plot summary The narrator inexplicably finds himself in a grim and joyless city (the "grey town", which is either hell or purgatory depending on how long one stays there). He eventually finds a bus for those who desire an excursion to some other place (and which eventually turns out to be the foothills of heaven). He enters the bus and converses with his fellow passengers as they travel. When the bus reaches its destination, the "people" on the bus — including the narrator — are gradually revealed to be ghosts. Although the country is the most beautiful they have ever seen, every feature of the landscape (including streams of water and blades of grass) is unyieldingly solid compared to themselves: it causes them immense pain to walk on the grass, and even a single leaf is far too heavy for any to lift. Shining figures, men and women whom they have known on earth, come to meet them, and to urge them to repent and enter heaven proper. They promise that as the ghosts travel onward and upward, they will become more solid and thus feel no discomfort. These figures, called "spirits" to distinguish them from the ghosts, offer to assist them in the journey toward the mountains and the sunrise. Almost all of the ghosts choose to return instead to the grey town, giving various reasons and excuses. Much of the interest of the book lies in the recognition it awakens of the plausibility and familiarity, along with the thinness and self-deception, of the excuses that the ghosts refuse to abandon, even though to do so would bring them to "reality" and "joy forevermore." The narrator is met by the writer George MacDonald, whom he hails as his mentor, just as Dante did when encountering Virgil in the Divine Comedy; and MacDonald becomes the narrator's guide in his journey, just as Virgil became Dante's. MacDonald explains that it is possible for a soul to choose to remain in heaven despite having been in the grey town; for such souls, the goodness of heaven will work backwards into their lives, turning even their worst sorrows into joy, and changing their experience on earth to an extension of heaven. Conversely, the evil of hell works so that if a soul remains in, or returns to, the grey town, even its happiness on earth will lose its meaning, and its experience on earth would have been hell. None of the ghosts realize that the grey town is, in fact, hell. Indeed it is not that much different from the life they led on earth: joyless, friendless, and uncomfortable. It just goes on forever, and gets worse and worse, with some characters whispering their fear of the "night" that is eventually to come. According to MacDonald, while it is possible to leave hell and enter heaven, doing so implies turning away (repentance); or as depicted by Lewis, embracing ultimate and unceasing joy itself. In answer to the narrator's question MacDonald confirms that what is going on is a dream. The use of chess imagery as well as the correspondence of dream elements to elements in the narrator's waking life is reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The narrator discovers that the vast grey town and its ghostly inhabitants are minuscule to the point of being invisible compared with the immensity of heaven and reality. This is illustrated in the encounter of the blessed woman and her husband: she is surrounded by gleaming attendants while he shrinks down to invisibility as he uses a collared tragedian to speak for him. Toward the end, the narrator expresses the terror and agony of remaining a ghost in the advent of full daybreak in heaven, comparing the experience to having large blocks fall on one's body (at this point falling books awaken him). This parallels that of the man with his dream of judgment day in the House of the Interpreter of The Pilgrim's Progress. The book ends with the narrator awakening from his dream of heaven into the unpleasant reality of wartime Britain, in conscious imitation of The Pilgrim's Progress, the last sentence of the "First Part" of which is: "So I awoke, and behold, it was a Dream." Allusions/references to other works Lewis consciously draws elements of the plot from Dante (The Divine Comedy) and Bunyan; for example, comparing his meeting with MacDonald to "the first sight of Beatrice." He also credits the idea that hell exists within heaven but is "smaller than one atom" of it to his scientifiction readings; travel by shrinking or enlargement is a common theme in speculative fiction, and the narrator alludes to its presence in Alice in Wonderland. In the preface, Lewis explains the origin of his idea that heaven is immutable to the ghosts from hell, referencing an unnamed science fiction work which gave him the notion of a character being unable to affect matter around him because he had traveled back in time to the 'unchangeable' past. Music inspired by The Great Divorce The Great Divorce has served as the inspiration for several pieces of music: A string quartet piece entitled The Great Divorce by Matt Slocum of Sixpence None the Richer. "The Great Divorce", a song by Callisto from their album True Nature Unfolds The song "The High Countries" by Sandra McCracken, performed with Caedmon's Call on their album Back Home Phil Woodward's 2007 rock album Ghosts and Spirits. The songs "Part One" and "Endless Day" by Wavorly was greatly inspired by this book, as several songs on Conquering the Fear of Flight. The song "Shadowfeet" by Brooke Fraser on her album Albertine The song "C.S. Lewis Song" by Brooke Fraser on her album Albertine The song "Blanket of Ghosts" By Dustin Kensrue The song "The Great Divorce" by The Beautiful Mistake. The song "Now We've Made Our Ascent" by The Reign of Kindo. Stage adaptation Philadelphia playwright and actor Anthony Lawton's original adaptation of The Great Divorce has been staged several times since 2005 by Lantern Theater Company, most recently in December 2010. Motion picture It has been announced that Mpower Pictures and Beloved Pictures are currently working on a film adaptation of The Great Divorce. Stephen McEveety will lead the production team and author N. D. Wilson has been tapped to write the script.[1] A 2011 release is planned.[2] References ^ ^ v · d · eWorks by C. S. Lewis Poetry Spirits in Bondage (1919) · Dymer (1926) · Narrative Poems (1969) · The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis (1994) Fiction The Pilgrim's Regress (1933) · The Screwtape Letters (1942) · The Great Divorce (1945) · Till We Have Faces (1956) · Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1959) · Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964) · Boxen (1985) Space Trilogy Out of the Silent Planet (1938) · Perelandra (1943) · That Hideous Strength (1946) · The Dark Tower (manuscript) (1977) The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) · Prince Caspian (1951) · The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) · The Silver Chair (1953) · The Horse and His Boy (1954) · The Magician's Nephew (1955) · The Last Battle (1956) Non-fiction 1930s The Allegory of Love (1936) · Rehabilitations and other essays (1939) · The Personal Heresy (1939) 1940s The Problem of Pain (1940) · A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942) · The Abolition of Man (1943) · Beyond Personality (1944) · Miracles (1947) · Arthurian Torso (1948) 1950s Mere Christianity (1952) · English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (1954) · Major British Writers, Vol I (1954) · De Descriptione Temporum. An Inaugural Lecture (1955) · Surprised by Joy (1955) · Reflections on the Psalms (1958) 1960s The Four Loves (1960) · Studies in Words (1960) · An Experiment in Criticism (1961) · A Grief Observed (1961) · They Asked for a Paper: Papers and Addresses (1962) · Selections from Layamon's Brut (1963) · The Discarded Image (1964) · Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1966) · Of Other Worlds (1966) · Spenser's Images of Life (1967) · Letters to an American Lady (1967) · Christian Reflections (1967) · Selected Literary Essays (1969) 1970s God in the Dock (2 volumes) (1970-1971) 1980s The Business Of Heaven (1984) · Present Concerns (1986) 1990s All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis 1922–27 (1993) 2000s Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories (2000) · Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church (2000) · Collected Letters (Volume I: Family Letters 1905–1931 (2000) · Volume II: Books, Broadcasts and War 1931–1949 (2004) · Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950–1963 (2007))