The Great Divorce Essay

893 WordsNov 8, 20084 Pages
In The Great Divorce, the narrator suddenly, and inexplicably, finds himself in a grim and joyless city (the "grey town", representative of hell). 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 — gradually realize that they are 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 unbearably solid compared to themselves: it causes them immense pain to walk on the grass, and even a…show more content…
Conversely, the evil of hell works backwards also, 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 to eventually come. According to MacDonald, heaven and hell cannot coexist in a single soul, and while it is possible to leave hell and enter heaven, doing so implies turning away (repentance); or as depicted by Lewis, giving up paltry worldly pleasures and self-indulgences — which have become impossible for the dead anyway — and 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 the chess game imagery as well as the correspondence of dream elements to elements in the narrator's waking life are reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's 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
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