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  1. #1
    Poison Pen15 Dazzler's Avatar
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    Default The Problem of Susan....(or, why did she not get to enter Narnia?)

    I just read the short story, "The Problem of Susan" by Neil Gaiman, which is a sort of rebuttal/critique/thought provocation based on the end of the last novel in the Chronicles of Narnia series. In The Last Battle, Susan Pevensie, the older sister in the Pevensive children who first went to Narnia in the Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, is denied entrance into the "True Narnia" when all of her siblings, parents, and two older friends are all killed in a railway accident. She's denied entrance because she is "no longer a friend of Narnia" and she has become obsessed with "nylons, lipsticks, and invitations".
    Polly also deftly notes that Susan has spent her entire childhood rushing to be the age she is now (18-21), and will spend the rest of her life trying to stay that age for as long as she can.
    Susan casually dismisses the family's earlier adventures in Narnia as being a made-up game of pretend, although she may or may not actually remember them as reality.

    In the Neil Gaiman story, we meet an elderly professor who is heavily implied to be Susan Pevensie (although she's never named as such outright), who recounts the immediate days following a devastating railway accident that took the lives of her family in the late forties or early fifties. In the story, a young college student interviewing her brings up the subject of the Chronicles of Narnia and how unfair it all had been towards Susan. She claims that Susan was denied access to Narnia because she had discovered her sexuality. The professor never truly agrees or disagrees, although she cuts the interview short and later dies in her sleep.

    I have a big problem with the assumption that Susan was not allowed into Narnia in the final act because she had become a sexual being...however, when I've read discussions on the topic lately, it seems to be the reigning consensus.
    I personally believe that Susan was denied entrance because she had turned to more worldly and fleeting matters than her spiritual awareness and had all but denied that she had been to Narnia and turned her back on her past and what she knew to be the truth. (after all, on two separate occasions, had been engaged to be married within Narnia itself, which would imply a sexual awakening of sorts...)

    Susan denying Narnia's existence isn't without precedent...in her every appearance in the books, she was portrayed as being somewhat hesitant and wishy-washy about what to do and what to believe. I look at her as the foil to her sister, Lucy, the clear leader of the foursome, despite being the youngest.

    Has anyone else read the Chronicles and the subsequent story by Neil Gaiman? I thought his story, although I didn't agree with it, was incredibly interesting (although I could have done without the final scene of Aslan and the White With having crazy-style sex in front of the kids.....)

    Thoughts?

    --Dazz
    Last edited by Dazzler; 07-06-2008 at 08:17 PM.

    "ZINGO!" -- Dazzler, Dazzler #4.

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  2. #2
    The Immitigable Superstar Shades0077's Avatar
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    I always thought that it was her just desserts for being such a bitch.
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  3. #3
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    I'm with Gaiman.

    I never liked Susan but she was written by Lewis not to be liked and, ultimately, not to be redeemed as Edmund was. She was there to make a point.

    The age she was at and the description of her "interests" hints strongly at the anti-sex stance taken by many Christians and which is at the heart of "Original Sin." Something that is the result of the inherent weakness of women.

    Jesus extolls his followers to come to him as children and Aslan, Lewis's Jesus proxy, pretty much has the same philosophy. He has little use for adults, little use for adult women in specific, and that's what Susan became. Remember, when Digory returns, it is as a boy, not the old man he grew up to be.

    These are books intended for children so there was no way he was going to write her as some kind of slut or even directly allude to sexual activity but, for an adult reading the clear Christian subtext (I mean there's not even a veil) throughout the series, it's really impossible to take any other interpretation of Susan's banishment.

    It always bugged me, even as a kid. Edmund and Eustace get in but Susan's out because she likes to look pretty? Nah. That's wrong.
    Last edited by Red Jack; 07-06-2008 at 09:34 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Evan Waters's Avatar
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    It's worth pointing out that Lewis does not treat Susan as a lost cause damned to Hell for all eternity for growing up and liking boys. She becomes too old to enter Narnia, but at the end of the series she, unlike her brothers and sister, is alive. She may have her own spiritual reconciliation thingy happen at some point.

    And it's questionable whether Lewis is referring to sexuality or more an overly materialistic and insistent "adult"hood, fixated on invitations and parties and shallow things like that, and actively rejecting Narnia and the fantastic as nothing more than a game they played when they were kids.

  5. #5
    Hey, you're not dead! Gilda Dent's Avatar
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    Aslan tells Susan in Prince Caspian that she's grown too old to enter Narnia anymore. All of the other criticisms from The Final Battle are from Peter, Eustace, and Jill.

    Given that Aslan is basically Narnia's Jesus and is sitting in judgment on all of the people who have ever been to Narnia at the end there, I tend to discount what anyone but he has to say on the subject. All of the others are killed in the railway accident (judgment day) to enable their passage into the true Narnia. It can be argued that Susan is spared not as punishment for her sexuality, but because she no longer has faith and if she were to be judged at that moment with the others, she would fail and fade into nothingness (or go elsewhere) as do the others who fail.

    Her being spared can be seen as giving her a chance at redemption. Polly's comment, that she's rushed into young womanhood and now wishes to stay there, supports this reading, that so long as she stays as she is, she cannot return, but this does not mean that she cannot change and grow and eventually return to embrace those things that made her a "friend of Narnia."

    It doesn't have to be a rejection. It can be read as a second chance at redemption.
    Passion is nice wherever you find it. Character is what matters, not gender or race.

    ~Kelly Chambers

  6. #6
    Write Now! Sarah Beach's Avatar
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    I'm with Gilda. Susan isn't kept out because she "discovered sexuality". Heck, in A Horse and His Boy, she was being courted for marriage, and there was no indication that there was anything wrong with that.

    But that she became too worldly (not the same as "discovering her sexuality", in spite of how Lewis chose to exemplify it) to care about Narnia, that she came to treat it as a joke and a childish game they had played -- that would keep her out. Frankly, she no longer wanted to be in Narnia. And that of itself would be enough to keep her out. Her choice.

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