THE ENTERTAINMENT VALUE OF THE CHRISTIAN UNDERTONES IN “THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE” TO YOUNG ADULT READERS
Many Christian publishers now employ ways of delivering the faith to young adult readers. The Chicken Soup series even has volumes dedicated to the ‘teenage soul’. However, there is something that publishers are missing in their desire to propagate the faith to younger audiences and that is the entertainment value of the reading material. Most Christian reading materials are devoid of playfulness, of color, or of vivid imagination, and this is what makes these pieces difficult to digest. It is always important to consider the entertainment value of a piece of literature for it to effectively and successfully convey the messages it wants to deliver. C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” has a healthy helping of Christian symbolism and values-portrayals presented in an appealing and entertaining manner hence, it is able to successfully deliver the desired message to its intended readers.
The most entertaining feature of Lewis’ novel is its theme which is based on a fantastical journey by four children to a world where the imagination becomes real. Many literary pieces have used this kind of approach in the interest of entertainment. Aside from just this, Lewis novel also uses symbolism with Christian undertones but presented in a most entertaining manner. Aslan, in the novel, is the omniscient being who guides the four Pevensie children through their journey in Narnia; in fact, Aslan is the being who installs the children as kings and queens of the fantasy land. (Lewis) This element of the novel is, at its simplest, already very entertaining, but other than that, it also delivers a Christian message. Aslan is presented as a lion; in Christian teaching, Jesus Christ, the main figure of the Christian faith is also known as the Lion of Judah. This Christian symbolism is reinforced in the novel when Aslan is slain on the stone table as a sacrifice for the innocent life of Edmund, one of the Pevensie children. (Lewis) In the Christian faith, the Lion of Judah was also slain – Aslan’s resurrection (Lewis) is also parallel with the Lion of Judah who is resurrected and ascends to heaven. Other than just this symbolism of Aslan, the white witch also has her own counterpart in Christian faith in the form of the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The White Witch tempts Edmund to betray his siblings in exchange for power and Turkish delight. (Lewis) Adam and Eve are also tempted by the serpent in the book of Genesis. However, despite the betrayal, Edmund is still saved by Aslan (Lewis) which is quite similar to how Jesus sacrificed his own life even for the people who persecuted him. In this particular example, Christian values inculcation is also smuggled through using entertainment elements – young people reading the novel will learn that forgiveness and humility are necessary in leading being a genuine Christian.
The entertainment value in Lewis novel is by far, more effective in conveying Christian messages when compared to the Confession’s of St Augustine. For instance, in the Confessions, the message of temptation is clearly expressed in the following lines, “For this space of nine years (from my nineteenth year to my eight-and-twentieth) we lived seduced and seducing, deceived and deceiving, in divers lusts; openly, by sciences which they call liberal;” (St. Augustine) However, the problem with these lines is the fact that there is no entertainment value in them whatsoever. Unlike in the novel of Lewis, temptation, although clearly presented in the encounter between Edmund and the White Witch, is still conveyed entertainingly because of the approach and the imaginary elements used. Young readers do not respond readily to direct statements and this is exactly what the Confessions are, direct, first hand statements which do not effectively convey the desired message, instead, isolate the reader and put the reader in the situation where he/she can be totally indifferent to what is being written or said. So, in comparing these two pieces of literature, Lewis novel is the more effective in conveying its messages simply because it is entertaining and appeals to the young readers more than the Confessions do.
Lewis novel is the more successful when compared to Augustine’s Confessions in conveying the desire message and most of this effectiveness comes from the fact that young adults would rather be entertained than be lectured upon. So, the symbolism in Lewis novel as well as the delivery of values in the thematic work very well in imparting the messages intended to the target audience.
Augustine, S. (2007). The Confessions of St. Augustine. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/augconf/aug04.htm
Lewis, C. (2001). The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Illustrated ed. ). New York: Penguin Books.