Susan, Queen of Narnia, nylon-clad Floosie of post war Britain

By popular demand[sup]1[/sup], let’s talk about the one Pevensie child that [did not die]. Here’s what we have so far:

Well, I pretty much said what I needed to say. Have at it, A3D.

[sup]1[/sup]Since Attack from the 3rd dimension seems to think he is multiple people. :stuck_out_tongue: Thus, title stolen shamelessly from him.

I always interpreted that the whole Susan and nylons thing wasn’t some sort of condemnation of female sexuality as some have interpreted it, but rather that Susan was more interested in superficial material things than in spirituality. I agree with BigT, someone had to be left out, and it just made the most sense for it to be Susan.

The Chronicles of Narnia were written in sexist times. If a male character had been left behind he probably would have been more interested in bank statements and promotions at work than Narnia. That being said, I don’t think Lewis was some sort of terrible misogynist. Lucy and Jill both manage to do the pretty princess thing and be action girls with integrity.

Anyone read Gaiman’s short story “The Problem of Susan”?


Lucy and Jill were both portrayed as “pure” though. They always seem rather childlike even to the end (not immature, but innocent). All of the stronger female (mature) characters in Narnia are evil (the White Queen and Jadis). I always thought it odd that in the end it was Susan that was left behind. Edmund was a traitor and even he found redemption. Eustace was a brat but he reformed. What about Susan? Why couldn’t she be redeemed? And her fall from grace is almost no more than a footnote or an afterthought. I really didn’t see the point of it.

Of course, Lewis was a writer of his time. One could just as easily argue that the series is xenophobic or racist (because of its portrayal of the Carlomenes or whatever they were called). I don’t think he had some kind of deliberate misgynistic message when he wrote Susan’s story, for what it’s worth, but I do think Narnia betrays some of his prejudices when it comes to sexually mature women.

I’ve read Gaiman’s story and I love it. It’s so sad though.

Why did someone need to be left behind?

It’s based on the assumption that the Chronicles of Narnia are one big metaphor for Christianity*. If going into the new-and-improved Narnia at the end of The Last Battle is a metaphor for going to heaven**, then someone needs to be left behind because unrepentant sinners don’t go to heaven.

*Almost certainly true, but not explicit in the books.

**About the closest C.S. Lewis comes to an explicit endorsement of Christianity in those books.

Not explicit? How could it be any more explicit?

It doesn’t say she doesn’t go to heaven, though. Susan is still living at the end of the series, she has every chance to mature and repent and come back. C. S. Lewis partly modeled her on his own youthful self, only feminine. She’s not doomed, her story just isn’t finished.

But yeah, he needed one person to stay behind and refuse salvation, and Susan was the only one who didn’t already have a job.

The fact that Susan didn’t enter Narnia in the last book doesn’t mean that she would never enter heaven anymore than the fact that every other person on Earth didn’t enter Narnia means that they won’t reach heaven. Susan has simply left the story. You don’t know what will happen to her in the future. You don’t know what will happen to everyone else in the world either.

dangermom gave a fuller response in a previous thread.

Jill and Lucy are both young but I find them to be very different characters. Jill shows off, she “makes love” to the giants to get them out of being dinner; she is more secular and less sweet than Lucy. Edmund, Eustace Scrubb and Jill are my favorite characters because they seem far more real than others. The choices they make and attitudes they have are what I could see myself being like as a child. Peter is kind of blah, Lucy is way too sweet and perfect. Jill is more of a counterpoint to Eustace, not quite as grumpy, but more worldly than Lucy and far more interesting IMHO.

Although she is not yet mature, Aravis in A Horse and His Boy is obviously going to mature into a strong female character/leader and she is also edging on womanhood herself. Thinking about it, she is the female character who takes the most action in her own life and fate and also had the best result in her life. She’s also allowed to become sexually mature (through marriage to Cor) and it’s considered a happy ending.

Susan didn’t just choose nylons over Narnia, she began to refer to their experience at Narnia as “silly stories”. I think one of them had to be left behind, and she was the best choice. She denied what she knew was true. I like to believe that the process of healing after losing her family would lead her back to faith and I don’t see any reason why that couldn’t be true. In a way, I think Susan offers hope that if you do lose faith, you will be given another chance. Had she died in her current state, she may have been lost forever, but through grace she has the chance to re-examine her past experiences and find her faith again. I say all of this as essentially an agnostic; the last shreds of religion I have left is probably because of C.S Lewis.

The people above almost got it, but not quite.

There’s a parable in Christianity called the Rich Man and Lazarus. Lazarus is a good guy, but it really poor. The rich man is so bad that he even steals Lazarus’s only sheep. They both die, and Lazarus is taken to paradise, while the rich man goes to hell. The rich man begs for Lazarus to come back from the grave to tell his brothers that are still alive. An angel replies “If they wouldn’t accept the prophets, why would they accept someone who rose from the dead?”

What’s the point? That, even given all the opportunity in the world, including directly seeing magic and even God himself, some people will just choose not to believe.

Lewis would not have been Lewis if he did not hammer this point of his theology home. Even given the perfect opportunity, you can still go bad.

I’m both popular and demanding. :slight_smile: Thanks for starting the thread.

So she’s left because we need to have someone ‘left behind’? Is she then the equivalent of someone who’s baptized and then backslides?

Equivalent to someone who’s been baptized in infancy/childhood, perhaps even confirmed at the start of adolescence, but without real personal faith, and then backslides? I don’t think so. Susan’s the equivalent of someone who has experienced Grace, who has had faith & can point to experiences that support that faith, and THEN has backslid.

But she’ll be back- Aslan doesn’t let 'em slip away THAT easily!

Btw, I speak as someone who has a Susan in my life~ she’s recently passed away without a definitive indication of a return to faith. I have more trust in JC than to believe that He let her go. I never thought of her in terms of Susan until now but the comparison really helps me now. Thanks.

“Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia…”

At least, that’s how I’ve always understood my faith. Got my toe in the door, so-to-speak, so that much is taken care of…the rest of my “works by faith” are only relevant to how much I progress the message of the Kingdom.

Lewis makes this point more explictly in The Great Divorce - in his view, there’s always hope for someone to return to faith and redemption, even those in Hell.

So, now I’m intrigued… What -did- happen in Gaiman’s take on it?

Balderdash! Lewis was an adherent of Hellenistic mystery-religion in Xtian clothes. Why not say that the Narnia books are one long metaphor for the Osiris cult?

I hope someone who remembers “The Problem of Susan” better than I do will ring in, but IIRC a student is talking to an elderly English professor about the Narnia books and it’s pretty clear that the professor is actually Susan herself. She talks about how things were pretty tough in England after the war and how hard it was to deal with the loss of her family. She talks about having to identify their bodies after a train crash and how she had to get by on very little money. I think she makes some ironic comment not actually having many pairs of nylons to her name.

The story ends with a weird and rather disgusting fantasy scene that seemed pointless and nasty to me at the time, but maybe it went over my head. I dunno. It didn’t make me want to re-read the story in a hurry, though.