Devine Love vs Human Love
Devine Love vs Human Love
End of the Affair both distinguish between divine love and human love. A common thread that runs throughout is the inconsistencies that are associated with human love and the unconditional nature of divine love. Both Greene and Lewis use familial, platonic and erotic love to illustrate the distinction between divine love and human love with the result that the reader appreciates that human love is superficial given for the wrong reasons while divine love is authentic love given for all the right reasons.
Moreover, both Greene and Lewis use their protagonists to demonstrate that while human love is characterized by negative emotions such as jealousy and selfishness, divine love is kind and unselfish. This paper focuses on the varieties of love featured in both books and demonstrates how modernity tends to prioritize human love over divine love with a view to rationalizing how and why romantic, familial and erotic love, all forms of human love are displaced in both novels. In each of the novels, the inescapable message is that erotic love is fragile and recklessly teeters on the outer fringes of hate.
C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold As in Greene’s The End of the Affair Lewis’s Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold Human love is unveiled for all its inherent flaws. Orual, the central figure in Lewis’s Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold recounts her relationship with her sister Psyche. Through Orual Lewis permits his reader to follow the progression of that relationship laying bare the weaknesses associated with affectionate love that Orual has for her sister Psyche and how that love develops into possessive love.
Exemplifying the frailties of human love, particularly familial love, Lewis also demonstrates how human love can be conditional and selfish by exposing the fragile relationship between Orual and her father. Perhaps more importantly, Lewis uses these unique familial relationships to demonstrate how selfish human love can transform into hate. In summary Till We Have Faces is a re-telling of the Greek mythical story of Cupid/Eros and Psyche. In Lewis’s re-telling the story is reconstructed through the eyes of Orual who is represented as unattractive and jealous and uniquely disgruntled by the Gods’ mistreatment of her.
Psyche, the beautiful sister is the object to Orual’s affections. In this re-telling Lewis deliberately complicates familial love in that Orual’s love for her sister is obsessive. On the other side of the spectrum, Redival’s love for Orual is spurious and the love for Psyche by King Trom is self-deceptive. Fox’s love for Orual and Psyche is also transient. Lewis also ventures into sexual/erotic love which is multifaceted in Till We Have Faces. Orual’s love for Bardia is unrequited, Ansit’s love for Bardia is frustrating and of course there is the superficial infatuation of men for Orual in her veiled condition.
Lewis also takes pains to demonstrate that self-love is destructive in presenting duality in Orual who loves and hates herself all at once. This duality is selfish and damaging at the same time. Above all however, the emphasis is on divine love and implicit in this re-telling is a transition from Greek Philosophical times to modern Christianity. (Hooper, 1996, 250) Father Peter Milward writes of Till We Have Faces: “The main themes are, (1) Natural affection, if left to mere nature, easily becomes a special kind of hatred, (2) God is, to our natural affections, the ultimate object of jealousy.
” (Hooper, 1996, 250) Psyche as reconstructed by Lewis has a natural predisposition for affection for divinity whereas Psyche’s love for divinity coincides with Orual’s love for humankind particularly her love for Psyche. While Psyche’s love for the gods are first and foremost in her heart, Orual’s love for Psyche comes first and each sister regards her love as the natural love. For Orual Psyche represents “the beginning of my [Orual’s] joys. ” (Lewis, 20) On the other hand, Psyche derives her greatest at a time just before she is sacrificed to Cupid as it is a means of bringing her closer tot he gods.
(Lewis, 74) Orual’s love for Psyche however is aligned to hatred and becomes a means by which Lewis demonstrates the superficial nature of human love whether familial or romantic in nature. Orual’s so-called love and affection for her sister fluctuates from love to hate in a manner which can only leave the impression that the love is fickly to begin with and not based on sound principles or values. For instance the night before Psyche is sacrificed Orual reveals that her sister has “made me, in a way, angry. ” (Lewis, 71) Moreover the following day, Orual dreams her sister “was my [Orual’s] greatest enemy.
” (Lewis, 71) The remainder of the first part of Till We Have Faces is characterized by this king of fluctuations of Orual’s affections for her sister. The inconsistencies are not lost on Psyche who observes: “I am not sure whether I like your kind [of love] better than hatred. ” (Lewis, 165) Superimposed in this aspect of human love as illustrated through Lewis’s Orual is the damaging elements of human love whether romantic or familial. Orual’s love for her sister is characterized by two fatal flaws. First she loves her sister in such a way that she easily allows it to fall into hatred.
Secondly, Orual permits her hatred to rebound to the gods. The love-hate scenario from Orual to Psyche is connected to the gods to the extent that Orual permits her love for Psyche to become possessive. That possessive love turns to a dangerous jealousy which is borne out of the presumption that Psyche loves the gods to the exclusion of Orual who in turn holds the gods accountable for taking Psyche’s love from her. Orual’s jealousy is so strong that she’d rather the gods had killed her sister than made her immortal. She laments: “We’d rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal. ” (Lewis, 291)
Psyche’s love for the gods is interpreted by Orual as a theft by the gods. To her way of thinking the gods took Psyche’s love from her and she says as much, “Psyche was mine and no one else had any right to her. ”(Lewis, 291-292) Lewis intent with respect to Orual’s reaction to Psyche and her affection for the gods were specifically delineated in a letter he sent to Katerine Farrer. Lewis explains in the letter that Orual’s jealousy and attitude toward her sister’s relationship with the God was intended to convey the typical reaction of family members when a relative gives his life to Christianity.
Lewis explained in the letter that the reaction of family members is typified by Orual’s when: “someone becomes a Christian, or in a family nominally Christian already, does something like become a missionary or enter a religious order. The others suffer a sense of outrage. What they love is being taken away from them. ” (Hooper, 249) In other words Orual’s angst with the gods finds its place in the kind of jealousy that one family member experiences when it appears to them that a loved one religion replaces them.
In much the same way Orual’s bitterness stems from a jealousy which is founded on love. The self-destructive and selfish nature of human love is also succinctly illustrated through Orual. In Lewis’s characterization of Orual she increasingly subscribes to the notion that if she can’t have her sister then she will not permit anyone else have her. Orual convinces Psyche to look upon her lover, despite his warning to the contrary. In her way of thinking Orual perceives that she is saving Psyche and to prove her intention she cuts her arm.
The danger of Orual’s love and the dangerous manner in which her love for her sister influences her thinking and perception are revealed in the following excerpt from Till We Have Faces: “How could she hate me, when my arm throbbed and burned with the wound I had given it for her love? ” (Lewis, 169) Ironically, the gods whose love Orual condemns closely mirrors Orual’s idea of love which is self-serving and consuming. It is not until the novel nears its conclusion that Orual comes to the realization that how love was commandeered by avarice and self-satisfaction.
In this way Lewis is able to expose the superficial nature of human love. This is finally accomplished with Orual coming to terms with and accepting that her desire to have Psyche, the Fox and Bardia all to herself was entirely wrong. Lewis uses Ansit to voice the meaning of real or divine love by having him provide a brief commentary on Orual’s love. Ansit, referring to Orual’s pursuit of Bardia notes that: “He was to live the life he though best and fittest for a great man—not that which would most pleasure me. ” (Lewis, 264)
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 3 January 2017
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