Saturday, June 9, 2012

Images of Faith and Discipleship in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia (6)


Prince Caspian: Luxury

          In PC luxury is the deadly sin Lewis draws a bead on.  Luxuria is often taken to mean “lust” in the sense of inordinate sexual desire.  But Lewis, in his The Allegory of Love, comments on a poem by Prudentius that his "seven champions do not exactly correspond with the familiar list of the seven deadly sins in later writers. Luxuria, . . . is, in fact, something very like "luxury" in the modern meaning of the word-the sin of the profiteer" (70).  “Luxury,” as the inordinate desire for more in general fits a children’s story much better than a sexually oriented use of “lust.”

          Dr. Don King expounds on this luxuria (luxury):

“In the tale Prince Caspian's uncle, King Miraz, is clearly guilty of profiteering in his desire to gain power, wealth, and position. After Caspian's father had died, Miraz initially ruled as "Lord Protector" for his young nephew. However, after the lords who had been loyal to Caspian's father died, Miraz allowed himself to be proclaimed King by planted flatterers. Dr. Cornelius, Caspian's tutor, neatly describes this lusty grab for power:

‘And then, one by one, all the great lords who had known your father, died or disappeared. Not by accident, either. Miraz weeded them out. Belisar and Uvilas were shot with arrows on a hunting party: by chance, it was pretended. All the great houses of the Passarids he sent to fight giants on the Northern frontier till one by one they fell. Arlian and Eriman and a dozen more he executed for treason on a false charge. The two brothers of Beaversdam he shut up as madmen. And finally he persuaded the seven noble lords, who alone among all the Telmarines did not fear the sea, to sail away and look for new lands beyond the Eastern Ocean, and, as he intended, they never came back.’

“Later the truth of Miraz' lust for power becomes crystallized for Caspian as he learns that Miraz had in fact murdered Caspian's father; furthermore, Caspian learns that to establish himself permanently as the rightful ruler and guarantee his line, Miraz plans to kill him on the night the queen gives birth to a son.

I think Lewis intends to demonstrate through Miraz the effect of luxuria, when embodied in its rulers, can have on a society. While Miraz rules, truth is suppressed; talking Narnian creatures are outlawed as well as tales about them. There is little trust between the members of society and even Narnian creature are affected. For instance, at one point a leader of the Black Dwarves is willing to call up the spirit of Jadis to fight Miraz: "'I'll believe in anyone or anything,' said Nikabrik, 'that'll batter these cursed Telmarines barbarians to pieces or drive them out of Narnia. Anyone or anything. Aslan or the White Witch, do you understand?'" Such a disintegration of society is to be expected when government becomes first concerned with consolidating its own power and authority and only later with the welfare of its people.” (http://cslewis.drzeus.net/papers/7sins.html)

          One other effect of luxury Lewis notes in this story is it breeds pragmatism.  The two characters Lewis describes as “practical” are Miraz and the oldest of the Pevensie children, Susan.  Both are driven by what they want and will do what it takes to get it.  Nikabrik, the black dwarf Dr. King mentions above, is also driven by pragmatism.  He will take help in the battle from any source he can get it:  Aslan (the Christ figure) and the White Witch (his evil antagonist in the first story).  Wherever and whoever can offer the most power and aid he will accept and use.

This desire for more is a corrosive force wherever it gets a foothold.  It is not abundance itself that is the problem, as we will see later in this series.  The problem is being driven by the desire to get it rather than receiving it as a gift.

No comments:

Post a Comment