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Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby Nerd42 » 09 Aug 2010, 21:24

Song: Phil Woodward - "Safety"
"I’ve felt the cold sunlight piercing my skin.
I’ve felt the sharp glass on my feet.
It’s some sort of nightmare I’ve found myself in.
I think I’ll return to my seat.
It’s not hard to see that, here, I don’t belong.
It’s no fun to feel like a wraith.
Back home in the shadows, I always felt strong.
I know it’s not real, but it’s safe."
Busy, busy, busy! But here, at long last, are my thoughts on chapter 3:

The Cliff
I think the imagery of the cliff is a subtle hint that what we're looking at is Heaven, but not quite Fluffy Cloud Heaven. We're ready to use the imagery of Fluffy Cloud Heaven when it helps, but are not tied to it. We've already dismissed Fire and Brimstone Hell so we shouldn't expect Heaven to fit the cliche' either.

Heavenly Matter
Everything is bigger and solider out here. This is when we start seeing the passengers as "ghosts" - people we can see through. What do you think that suggests?
(trying to lead discussion here, not just spill all the beans myself)

The Ghosts and Bright People of Chapter 3
The passangers get out of the bus with, "Curses, taunts, blows, a filth of vituperation." Vituperation means, "Criticism or invective which is sustained and considered to be overly harsh; the act of vituperating; abuse; severe censure; blame."

The Frightened Woman
The Great Divorce wrote:"I don't like it! I don't like it," screamed a voice, "It gives me the pip!"
One of the ghosts had darted past me, back into the bus.
She never came out of it again as far as I know.
Mr. Woodward takes this one line and writes an entire song about this woman. His lyrics tell her story much better than I probably could.

The Big Man
The Great Divorce wrote:"Hi, Mister," said the Big Man, addressing the Driver, "when have we got to go back?"
"You need never come back unless you want to," he replied. "Stay as long as you please."
There was an awkward pause.
The Big Man obviously doesn't want to stay but also doesn't want to make it sound like he's over-eager to leave. I think at this point he is still trying to sort out his feelings about the place but we come to his big scene in the next chapter.

The Quieter and More Respectable Ghost
I used to get him confused with the Tousle-Headed Poet of chapter 2 because of his arrogance. He is a character very much in the same vein at least. The only thing that makes me think he isn't the same guy is because he's described as "quieter" and the Tousle-Headed Poet certainly isn't quiet.

The Bright People
The Great Divorce wrote:Some were naked, some robed. But the naked ones did not seem less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the radiant smoothness of flesh."
I find that very odd. I think it connects with some of what was said in Perelandra on the subject of clothing on glorified bodies. But I do not understand why Lewis places such emphasis on it in these two books. Surely this could have been left out and it wouldn't have affected the plot or the message in the least. I think introducing this idea needlessly complicates matters.

The Great Divorce wrote:Some were bearded but no one in that company struck me as being of any particular age. One gets glimpses, even in our country, of that which is ageless-heavy thought in the face of an infant, and frolic childhood in that of a very old man. Here it was all like that.
Timelessness. It is one of the attributes of God that this would suggest He shares with redeemed humanity in their final state.

The Great Divorce wrote:I did not entirely like it. Two of the ghosts screamed and ran for the bus.
They could not endure the presence of these Bright People. That is suggestive.

So, topics for discussion in chapter 3: Why do you think the ghosts are transparent while the Bright People are solid? Why do you think some of the ghosts are afraid of leaving the "safety" of the bus? Why cliffs and not clouds? Why country and not city? Why open countryside and not pearly gates? What is the significance of the saint's robes or the passenger's reactions? What is the significance of what the Bus Driver said?
Last edited by Nerd42 on 31 Aug 2010, 13:36, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby mwanafalsafa » 10 Aug 2010, 07:20

Does Lewis ever explicitly refer to the solid people as "saints"? As I understand it they're just good people that went to Heaven... But is every person that goes to Heaven supposed to be a saint?
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby Nerd42 » 11 Aug 2010, 02:34

mwanafalsafa wrote:Does Lewis ever explicitly refer to the solid people as "saints"? As I understand it they're just good people that went to Heaven... But is every person that goes to Heaven supposed to be a saint?
Lewis refers to saints in the introduction of Miracles; A Preliminary Study. Couldn't say "Ghosts & Spirits" because in most languages, "ghost" and "spirit" are the same word, so translating that title would be "The Ghosts and Ghosts of Chapter 3" which doesn't make any sense, but "saint" is a different word so the title "Ghosts & Saints" makes more sense. Certainly the Bright People in The Great Divorce are acting as intercessors. I think they fit the Catholic, Protestant AND Latter Day Saint definitions of "saint." But I don't want to start a huge controversy so if anyone else can suggest a better title, I'd go with that. This is probably one of those times when you type something controversial and don't realize how somebody else might see it until afterward. I think everybody's had those moments. :)
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby paminala » 11 Aug 2010, 16:25

Nerd42 wrote:The Bright People
The Great Divorce wrote:
Some were naked, some robed. But the naked ones did not seem less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the radiant smoothness of flesh."

I find that very odd. I think it connects with some of what was said in Perelandra on the subject of clothing on glorified bodies. But I do not understand why Lewis places such emphasis on it in these two books. Surely this could have been left out and it wouldn't have affected the plot or the message in the least. I think introducing this idea needlessly complicates matters.


I didn't really find this out of tune with the rest of the description of Heaven. It felt as though Lewis were describing a sort of Eden. All things would reflect the beauty of the Creator's plan.
But even here (as at the bus stop) the passengers are in an in between place. They see the glory of Heaven but cannot touch it.
All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.
~ Galileo Galilei
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby maralewisfan » 13 Aug 2010, 22:29

The Quieter and More Respectable Ghost
I used to get him confused with the Tousle-Headed Poet of chapter 2 because of his arrogance. He is a character very much in the same vein at least. The only thing that makes me think he isn't the same guy is because he's described as "quieter" and the Tousle-Headed Poet certainly isn't quiet.

I have always thought this was the guy who thought that one place was as good as another, and different management wouldn't change the way the place was run. But I guess I'm getting ahead.
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby Matthew Whaley » 29 Aug 2010, 17:19

I think the reason why the "Saints" are solid and the "Ghosts" are transparent has to do with their respective choices while living on earth of either accepting God or rejecting Him. Since God is the creator and source of all life, if one desires to be independent of God till at the point of death, then he/she is cut off like a branch from a tree. The branch withers and dies on its own, while the branch that remains connected to tree continues to grow and bear fruit. The "solid people" are solid, because God is living in them (and have desired God to live in them); the "transparent people" are transparent, because God is not living in them (and have clearly chosen that option). I think in this story this may account for the appearances of substance and lack of substance for people in the afterlife. The New Testament defines a "Saint" as simply anyone who resides in Heaven.
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in." -Robert Frost
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby Nerd42 » 29 Aug 2010, 23:51

Matthew Whaley wrote:I think the reason why the "Saints" are solid and the "Ghosts" are transparent has to do with their respective choices while living on earth of either accepting God or rejecting Him. Since God is the creator and source of all life, if one desires to be independent of God till at the point of death, then he/she is cut off like a branch from a tree. The branch withers and dies on its own, while the branch that remains connected to tree continues to grow and bear fruit. The "solid people" are solid, because God is living in them (and have desired God to live in them); the "transparent people" are transparent, because God is not living in them (and have clearly chosen that option). I think in this story this may account for the appearances of substance and lack of substance for people in the afterlife. The New Testament defines a "Saint" as simply anyone who resides in Heaven.
I think that's a very good explanation except I'm not sure I agree with your paraphrase of the New Testament. As I'm a Latter Day Saint, I view a "saint" as being anyone who is part of the Kingdom of God, thus "saints" are "saints" even here while they are alive for the Kingdom is wherever two or three disciples are gathered. When it comes to the book, these people are obviously dead, obviously in "heaven," and obviously in some kind of intercessory role so they seem to be "saints" under most definitions I can think of even though they're never explicitly called "saints" directly or clearly as a class.
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby agingjb » 30 Aug 2010, 08:24

Lewis uses "Bright People" or "Bright Spirit" fairly consistently. "Saint" does occur later for a particularly bright person, described as a "great saint".
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby Nerd42 » 31 Aug 2010, 13:36

agingjb wrote:Lewis uses "Bright People" or "Bright Spirit" fairly consistently. "Saint" does occur later for a particularly bright person, described as a "great saint".
OK we'll call them "Bright People" whatever.
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby agingjb » 31 Aug 2010, 15:27

But of course the question remains: why did Lewis, or his narrator, use descriptive terms? Lewis, to emphasize that they have incomparably more reality than the ghosts? His narrator because he isn't yet quite sure what the Bright People are?
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby Matthew Whaley » 01 Sep 2010, 13:43

agingjb wrote:But of course the question remains: why did Lewis, or his narrator, use descriptive terms? Lewis, to emphasize that they have incomparably more reality than the ghosts? His narrator because he isn't yet quite sure what the Bright People are?


I think it's both. Lewis is a good storyteller and doesn't want to give away too much information. We are seeing everything through the eyes of the narrator, we are only to know what we are told by him. It also creates tension, because we don't know yet what these Bright People are up to.
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in." -Robert Frost
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby nomad » 02 Sep 2010, 02:25

I also think that having the Bright People be some clothed, some not is an attempt to portray a sort of Eden. But I also think it is part of their progression as they travel "higher up and farther in". The more solid they become, the more at home they are in this place, the more they lose the remnants of shame and self-consciousness that still cling to them, the less they need clothes. Each one may start their journey into Heaven at varying shades of ghostliness/solidity but none are yet in their eventual perfect form and the transformation doesn't happen instantaneously.

All the ghosts seem equally ghostlike, however. Or maybe at the ghostlike stage small differences aren't visible.
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby nomad » 02 Sep 2010, 02:29

I love that the narrator says of the approach of the Bright People "I did not entirely like it.". Since we are looking through his eyes, it keeps us from being condescending of the others' reaction. It makes us one of them.
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby Nerd42 » 07 Sep 2010, 19:10

I'm guessing since the site is closing there's no point in trying to continue this book study
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Re: Chapter 3 - The Arrival

Postby Matthew Whaley » 07 Sep 2010, 19:18

We have three weeks, maybe we can figure something out and continue on Facebook. This is one of my favorite threads.
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in." -Robert Frost
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