Narnia: The Problem of Eustace

[Content Note: Hell, Bullying, Food Diet/Intolerance]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are pulled into Narnia through a picture on the wall, along with their annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 1: The Picture in the Bedroom

And now at last we come to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or "Dawn Treader" for short.

I loved Dawn Treader when I was a child, and after re-reading it again in preparation for this series, I find that a part of me still loves the book. I've heard tell that Dawn Treader is the most popular of the Narnia books, and it wouldn't surprise me. I'm not sure how one measures something like that, but I would imagine it's not hard to find one who likes Dawn Treader best of the series. I certainly did and do.

I think there are a lot of reasons why Dawn Treader stands apart from the other Narnia books. It is fairly unique within the series in that it shows our English child-protagonists actually living in Narnia, and partaking in the many adventures there, explicitly over a fairly long period of time. The book is almost like what The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe could have been if it hadn't ended like it did (with just the briefest of teases about all the adventures the Pevensies went on to have before being unceremoniously tossed out) and had instead gone on to actually chronicle some of those adventures. And where Prince Caspian ended after a few days and a ludicrously brief battle, Dawn Trader has the protagonists living in Narnia for what feels like at least a couple of months, and having numerous and varied adventures along the way. The book is very much like the voyages of Sinbad the Sailor: episodic and enticing, with very little literary downtime between the adventures. No arguing in the forest for three chapters here.

And because I very rarely praise C.S. Lewis as a writer, I will take time to do so now. For all the many problems that accompany this book -- and we'll dive into them because that's what we do here -- Dawn Treader is (in my opinion) actually well written. I won't deny that there are problems here of both style and ideology, but there's also a great deal of skill and creativity on display that manages to shine through. Maybe it's because I like episodic journey tales so much -- I spent much of my childhood reading Lang's compilation of The Thousand and One Nights, and I was always fond of shows like Xena and Hercules and, yes, The Adventures of Sinbad before they cancelled it -- but I love the format of Caspian and his crew bouncing from island to island, meeting exciting new people, facing frightening new fiends, and having exhilarating new adventures. If you divide up the chapters in Dawn Treader, you have something that looks like this (spoilers ahead!):
  1. The Pevensies + Scrubb are pulled into Narnia. 
  2. Ship porn.
  3. The Isle of Slavers. (Saved by Caspian's long-lost friend.)
  4. (Con't.)
  5. Sea storm. 
  6. The Isle of Dragon. (Saved by Aslan.)
  7. (Con't.)
  8. The Isle of Deathwater. (Saved by Aslan.)
  9. The Isle of Invisibility. (Saved by Aslan.)
  10. (Con't.)
  11. (Con't.)
  12. The Isle of Nightmares. (Saved by Aslan.)
  13. The Isle of Sleepers.
  14. (Con't.)
  15. Sweet water. 
  16. Silver seas.

If you compare that with the chapter outline for Prince Caspian, this book is positively packed with material. Which isn't to say there aren't some serious stylistic issues here, as astute readers may have noticed from the parentheticals above. Having almost every tense moment in the book solved not by cunning or bravery or cleverness or tenacity but rather each and almost every time by the appearance of Aslan does start to be a touch draining on this particular reader's goodwill. And there are a number of ideological issues as well, both of the Arthurian Chivalry variety and of the Liberal Strawman variety. And since we really cannot ignore the latter any more if we want to talk about Chapter 1 today, we might as well dive into it here: There is a problem with Eustace.

Shortpacked! by David Willis

David Willis of Shortpacked! describes Eustaceas "the most annoying kid in the world", and I think we're meant to see him that way. Certainly, Lewis does his best in the first few chapters of Dawn Treader to make it very clear to the reader that Eustace Scrubb is not to be sympathized with.

Funnily enough, though, that never really 'took' for me as a child. I didn't especially like Eustace Scrubb, but I didn't dislike him, either. I did, as a child, dislike the Edmund of LWW, because Edmund lied about Narnia, and the lie made Lucy feel sad and broken and betrayed -- and I think it was partly because of that why I never really questioned the wrongness of Edmund being sentenced to death as a nine-year-old child. And after all, I was a nine-year-old child, and people were always telling me that without Jesus in my heart I'd burn in hell, so I didn't really have the necessary distance to look at the Emperor's laws and gauge them as bloody and horrific. So I didn't care for LWW!Edmund, though I liked him well enough in the later books. And it actually came as something of a surprise to me when we started these deconstructions and I found Edmund as sympathetic as I do now.

But Eustace was a different story. I didn't hate Eustace. If anything, I think I felt a little sorry for him. Yes, he was bratty and pigish and annoying, but the same could be said (at least some of the time) for myself and most of my friends. And we didn't even have the extreme provocation of being yanked into a magical world where we were immediately (and painfully) seasick for days. I think I felt that Eustace deserved to be cut a little slack, and I know that I must have mentally edited out some of the more egregious of Eustace's crimes, like his (largely informed) love of bullying. And I think at least part of that mental editing perhaps came also from the problem that Lewis didn't seem to understand the value of subtlety: when it comes to the horribleness of Eustace Scrubb, he lays it on so thick that it was hard for me as a child to take it seriously:

   THERE WAS A BOY CALLED EUSTACE Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can’t tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none. He didn’t call his Father and Mother “Father” and “Mother,” but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.
   Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.
   Eustace Clarence disliked his cousins the four Pevensies, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. But he was quite glad when he heard that Edmund and Lucy were coming to stay. For deep down inside him he liked bossing and bullying; and, though he was a puny little person who couldn’t have stood up even to Lucy, let alone Edmund, in a fight, he knew that there are dozens of ways to give people a bad time if you are in your own home and they are only visitors.

Phew. Did everyone get all that? Eustace is bad because:
  • He has a "silly" name. (Because name-based bullying is always hilarious.)
  • He calls his parents by their first names. 
  • He doesn't eat meat.
  • He doesn't smoke. 
  • He doesn't drink alcohol. 
  • He doesn't wear C.S. Lewis-approved underwear.
  • He doesn't own a lot of stuff, even though he (presumably) could afford to. 
  • He doesn't use artificial heating/cooling methods, preferring fresh air. 
  • He likes entomology.
  • He reads non-fiction books. 
  • He enjoys learning about people in other cultures. 
  • He likes to bully house-guests.

Now I can get on-board with the idea that bullying house-guests is bad. But the rest of those issues above aren't really indicative of badness in my book. Indeed, I consider it far more "bad" for someone like C.S. Lewis to be condemning them with a broad stroke of the pen as though there were something inherently wrong with, say, vegetarianism. And lest it come across like I'm conflating random characterization with moral judgment, it needs to be said up-front that Dawn Treader rarely misses a moment to put in another dig at how Eustace has read only the "wrong" books and never the "right" ones, and how deeply-horribly-terribly awful Aunt Alberta is. I do think that we're meant to see the Scrubbs as wrong people who do wrong things and need to be corrected by the redemptive Power of Narnia.

But before we dive much farther into Chapter 1, let's talk a little about Eustace and some of the explanations that have been fielded with regards to his character. And I'm going to use "vegetarianism" as a sort of deconstruction shorthand for all the faults listed above, because that's easier than writing out the entire list every time.

The first idea that I want to tackle is the idea that Eustace is something of a Take That Me for Lewis. For me, this is something of a non-starter: whether or not Lewis saw himself in his fictional creation is something that will largely be a matter of the reader's opinion, and furthermore I don't really think it matters. There's an idea in vogue that broad generalized criticisms of entire groups are somehow acceptable if they come from a former (and reformed) member of that group, and I don't hold truck with that. If I decide tomorrow that social equality is for the dogs, and to join the extremely lucrative ranks of women working for the patriarchy, nothing I suddenly have to say about GRR FEMINISM ARGH is somehow more valid just because I happen to be either a woman, or an ex-feminist, or both. Group stereotyping and choice-policing is offensive regardless of whether it comes from a former member of the group in question or not. So even if Lewis meant all this rot about vegetarianism and non-fiction books being indicators of Bad People to be directed at an earlier self, it doesn't make the result any better or less harmful just because it wasn't intentionally directed at other people. Intent is not magic.

The second idea I've seen put forward with regards to Eustace's "flaws" is that Lewis wasn't sounding a rallying call against vegetarianism as a practice, but rather against militant vegetarianism. The sort practiced by a very few folks who think it's perfectly acceptable to harangue everyone at meals and that people with food intolerances which require them to eat meat should be forced to starve to death because the death of a few humans is better, on balance, than the death of the animals required to feed those vegetable-intolerant humans. I will note that there is at least one person on earth who purports to believe this, because zie occasionally pops up as a troll on internet boards, but I also maintain that the vast majority of vegetarians are absolutely nothing like this extreme caricature. But what if Lewis was crafting Eustace in response to those very few rather than to the group as a whole?

A problem with that, however, is that the actual problem -- the militant part, rather than the vegetarianism part -- is never really addressed in text either as the explicit problem or part of the solution. If a character's crime is that of militantly auditing people's choices, then the actual things being militated for is largely immaterial: Eustace could just as easily be pushing the South Beach Diet and mandatory wearing of silly paper hats for everyone. It's the choice-auditing part of the vegetarianism/non-smoking/tee-totaling that needs to be highlighted, and that choice-auditing needs to be changed and fixed as part of redemption. The redeemed choice-auditor may still well choose to be a vegetarian/non-smoker/tee-totaler after their redemption because those behaviors were never the problem. Having the redeemed character turn around and embrace meat, tobacco pipes, and wine as the dinner beverage of choice, tells me that the author felt it was the vegetarianism that needed correction and not the militancy.

Let's move away from the fraught topic of C.S. Lewis for a moment to deal with another similar example. Earlier in the year, Husband and I watched Troll 2, which is one of those cult classics asa result of being utterly dreadful. The plot, if we may call it that, is that a group of humans are vacationing in a town inhabited by goblins. The goblins are vegetarians who eat humans; this paradox is accomplished by means of magic food that turns the humans into a vegetable substance. Wikipedia notes:

The script—originally titled Goblins—began as a way for director Claudio Fragasso's wife, Rosella Drudi, to express her frustration with several of her friends becoming vegetarians. Drudi told the makers of the documentary Best Worst Movie that "Some of my friends had recently become vegetarians...and this pissed me off."

What Ms. Drudi seems not to have realized is that the wrongness of the goblins in her script wasn't that they were vegetarians. Their wrongness stemmed from the fact that they ate people against their will. Whether or not the goblins turned the humans into vegetable material prior to eating them does not really change the fact of their essential wrongness. A good goblin -- a redeemed one, for example -- wouldn't evidence that redemption by forswearing vegetarianism; this hypothetical goblin would demonstrate good behavior by no longer eating people against their will. The problem, in short, was the whole murder and lack of consent stuff. Not the part with vegetables.

Anyway, but, however. Moving on.

The third idea I've seen with regards to Eustace and his flaws is that the sin of Eustace and his family isn't vegetarianism, or even militant vegetarianism, but rather that of "faddishness", or running after the latest popular thing simply because it's popular. A character analysis on (motto: "We speak student!") states:

What bothers our narrator about the Scrubbs is not exactly the choices they make, but the fact that they jump on bandwagons without really considering the effects of their decisions. The narrator of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and C.S. Lewis himself both think that time-honored values and activities are worth preserving and shouldn't be dumped just because someone invented a new undershirt. Throughout the book the narrator will imply that Eustace's unpleasantness is the fault of his parents, who have a lot of funky ideas but not a lot of deep values.

The Faddish Theory is similar to the Militant Theory in the sense that theoretically one can be a "good" vegetarian because the problem is not with the actual vegetarianism itself but rather lies elsewhere. Whereas the Militant Theory dealt with the goodness or badness of the vegetarian based on how they were a vegetarian, the Faddish Theory addresses the same issue by looking at why they are a vegetarian. 

Well, that is assuming that "faddishness" is not a shorter way of saying that New Things are Wrong, where vegetarianism is included in the set of New Things. If that is the case, then perhaps we can presume that in a model where new things are bad, if something is around for a long enough time, it can slowly take on the mantle of goodness. (Though I'm unclear on how this is to work in practice if early-adopters like the Scrubbs are to be thoroughly villainized.) But let's assume that this is not the case -- let's assume that vegetarianism isn't bad because it's new, but rather the Scrubbs are bad for embracing it merely because its new. In this worldview, one could well be a Good Vegetarian if one had carefully considered what they were doing, and why, and made a sober and measured decision about how to live their life. The Bad Vegetarians would be bad not because they were vegetarians, but because they lived their lives blowing about in the wind, constantly buffeted by the latest social whims.

The problem with that is that at the end of the day, we're choice-auditing. We're not choice-auditing people by telling them they shouldn't drink alcohol or eat meat, of course, but we are choice-auditing them by telling them how they should make decisions. It may not be terribly "wise" (by some metric or other of that terribly subjective term) to be faddish, but it's also not our job to tell people how they should live their lives. Nor is it nice to mock them for not living their lives according to our principles: as long as the Scrubbs aren't hurting anyone with their adoption of faddy vegetarianism and stringy underwear, then it's their business what they put in their mouths and on their private bits. And by choice-auditing not what they do, but why they do it, we move into the realm of No-Really-I'm-Telepathic, where live all the misogynists who can tell at a glance which cosplayers are at a convention because they love a franchise and which are at a convention because they want attention and arousal. That place is not a good place to be.

Besides choice-auditing and thought-policing, there's another problem with mounting an anti-faddish crusade, and it's a little akin to the problem we observed with the Militant Theory: in order to demonstrate a reformation of or abstinence from faddism, it's easier to avoid things like vegetarianism altogether than to adopt them in the "correct" way and for the "correct" reasons. Even though the Faddish Theory makes the claim that one can be a vegetarian for legitimate reasons, ultimately there are no Good Vegetarians in the story to come along and provide an example of non-faddishness. Instead, there is much eating of meat, much drinking of wine, and much smoking of tobacco. The "sin" of faddishness may be in the mind, as the root cause of behaviors, but there is one way to defend against the accusation of faddishness, and that is to never try anything new at all. And this meshes somewhat with the Arthurian Chivalry problems already alluded to and which we will come to later.

There is a problem with Eustace. But it's hard to know where, precisely, to start dismantling the problem. For now I'll leave you with a wonderful quote from Kit Whitfield, and we'll pick up more of Chapter 1 next time.

I remember as a child being put off by the opening flourish to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: 'There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.' Even as a child, I thought: 'You gave him that name, and you gave him whatever bad qualities you say he has; if you're mad at him, you're mad at him for being what you chose to make him. It's your fault, not his.' And as an adult, I saw this kind of thing: '[Eustace's parents] were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and tee-totallers ... [Eustace] liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools' - in other words, he's chosen to personify socialism in a whole bundle of petty, 'latte libel' gripes. And then Eustace's school is blamed for being 'a "mixed" school; some people said it was not nearly so mixed as the minds of the people who ran it' - because it's an environment that takes a 'psychological' rather than a punitive approach to its pupils, with all sorts of ghastly straw-man consequences.


Brenda said...

I guess I'm lucky that I started with Lackey's later books.

Makabit said...

I've known people whose folks did that. However, that's not the case with this family at all. They're secular professionals who are distressed by their daughter's fantasy reading because she has to live in the scientific real world. While the situation Lackey sketches out is not impossible, it wasn't very probable sounding, especially the fact that the parents essentially get over all their issues LIKE THAT because gosh, they almost lost their little girl. I've known some parents who might confiscate fantasy fiction for secular reasons. I have known none who were so otherwise functional that once that problem was solved, everything else was good to go. A different writer might have made something of it.

I found the book horribly offensive, poorly thought out,, glurgey. For many, many reasons involving the plot, class issues, muddled ideas about runaways and prostitution...and as I've said, I think it was entirely well-meaning, just really off base to an extent that seriously creeped me out.

That's more than I will give "Sacred Ground", which is almost too hilarious to be offensive. My favorite part is that the heroine's family successfully avoided ending up on the reservation because they're smart and special, and passed for white for over a hundred years, however, this woman is, after all that, readily identifiable as an Indian to every random stereotypical bigot who wanders across the stage. I don't know if this was just a giant plot hole, or if they have occasionally malfunctioning disguise spells on or what.

Arresi said...

As someone who comes darn near close to looking like my grandmother's identical twin - eh, it happens. Also, if I recall, it's her grandfather/father's family who passed for white, and they clearly got more involved with tribal/reservation affairs once things started getting better - pretty sure she mentions her mother being a tribal dancer. Personally, while I can't get really angry at Sacred Ground, since that was the first story I ever read that had a Native hero/heroine that wasn't a historical, the way Lackey treats the heroine's family as wise and foresighted for quietly blending into white society, while blithely ignoring the very real fate of Native tribes that attempted that (including the tribes that were sent on the Trail of Tears) definitely sticks in my craw.

Ana Mardoll said...

I haven't read the book in question, but auditing teenagers' reading choices, especially with regards to fantasy/scifi is actually very common among American evangelicals.

And it's an extremely depersonifying experience for many children; I still clearly remember the trauma of having Patricia Wrede banned unilaterally from the house because dragons were demonic.

I quickly learned to hide all library books from my parents, which is not something that was conducive to my health. FYI.

Trynn said...

I had problems with this part as a child myself. I think I was around 11 or so ish before I could bring myself to get past PC, and by that time, by my own choosing, I was vegetarian. Actually, I had a seventh day Adventist upbringing, and, as the link points out, strict Adventists are vegetarians. In Michigan, most Adventists are towards the conservative end of the scale, so the fact that I grew up eating meat is seen as a bit unusual but not unheard of, at least, in the state of Michigan.

Anyway, as a kid, I just remember thinking: Oh gosh, I am JUST LIKE this bad character! I had to ask my mom what "teetotaler" meant. I was raised with the idea that drinking alcohol is wrong, as is smoking (health reasons). And, even though my parents did nothing to enforce it (until I was old enough to sneak books behind their backs, around 13, and then they gave up) I learned from SDA schools that reading fiction books, especially fantasy and fairy tales, was wrong wrong wrong wrong, because... well I wasn't really told why, I had to go look it up as an adult. Apparently the reason is because it makes people live in fantasy worlds and unfits them for this one.... oh and it makes the bible seem less interesting.

My connections with Eustace, then:

1. vegetarianism
2. doesn't drink alcohol
3. I was the type of kid who kept her window open no matter how cold/wet/windy/whatever it was outside. Actually, I'm the ADULT who keeps her window open no matter what even in the middle of dead winter. I like fresh air. And I like my room cold when I sleep. I don't believe that's a character defect.
4. Sometimes I read non fiction
5. I liked bugs. However, I got the impression that Eustace liked his bugs dead, and that that was why Lewis condemned him for it.

The underwear thing went right over my head. Never noticed it until now.

The "fat children in foreign schools" seems to me, like someone said, to be about British schools in less developed countries that were trying to erase the culture, although back in the 50s it seems like these schools would've been thought of as a good thing, so maybe Lewis isn't referring to that specifically.

When I was that young, I assumed all books were perfect and didn't really analyze anything. I thought that since I identified so much with the "bad" protagonist, I was somehow bad too. But then I was like, well, at least I don't like to bully houseguests!

Lonespark said...

Racecar elves sound like an excellent solution to seemingly intractable problems. Imma go recommend it to Congress.

Makabit said...

Newest Reader--Honestly, I've had people try to amateur-diagnose me with Aspergers lately. Which is--not a good diagnosis.. I am probably even less a candidate than Abraham Lincoln, who is also being put up on many websites as a possible Aspie.

I've MET people with Aspergers. My dear friend was married to a guy with Aspergers for eight years. I've taught kids who were Aspies, both diagnosed and un-but-obvious.

It's not a euphemism for 'socially awkward', 'prone to depression', 'intelligent', 'given to obsessive enthusiasms', or 'reclusive'. It just isn't.

Which says nothing about looking for symptoms in fictional characters, but I do find that people get waaay too into identifying folks with autism spectrum issues on the basis of nothing much nowadays.

This is not intended to be offensive in any way to people who actually are on the spectrum, and I hope it's not. Just an odd phenomenon that I note of late.

Ana Mardoll said...

It is not appropriate for people to diagnose you against your will.

However, as for diagnosing fictional/historical persons, there are legitimately good reasons for wishing to consider possible diagnoses for conditions which are known to be under-diagnosed.

Please everyone return on-topic, as I cannot at the moment effectively moderate a discussion about the genuine problem of under-diagnosis of disabilities in our society.

Makabit said...

But yeah, the actual running away seemed a bit extreme, reaction-wise. Which I guess I interpreted at the time as her not thinking things would end up that desperate, and then getting in over her head and not knowing how to get out, but I can see it bugging like whoa.

I think that's more or less how it was supposed to be--sheltered kid ends up in vile situation, and needs the elves to rescue her--but it just punched all of my buttons at once. For some reason, especially the special note telling any readers who were a similar situation to get help. All I could think was "Sure, I imagine many teenage prostitutes in trouble will relate to this story about a girl with an affluent well-meaning family who have seen the error of their improbable ways and bought a stained-glass unicorn to demonstrate it. Now all they need is racecar elves, and they're set."

Ursula L said...

I found it: chapter 2 says they have flour, water, beer, pork, honey, wine, apples, nuts, cheese, biscuits, turnips, bacon, ham, onions, and a hen-house.

An interesting choice of food. I notice it includes neither sauerkraut or any form of citrus (lemons/limes) the two primary foods used to prevent scurvy before the disease was fully understood.

If Eustice wanted to continue the vegetarian and teetotal ways of his family, he'd be left with flour, water (which has a limited shelf-life at sea compared to beer and wine) honey (maybe, some vegetarians avoid this, as taking it can harm bees), apples, nuts, cheese (maybe, some vegetarians also avoid dairy), biscuits (maybe, were they made with lard or other animal fat?) turnips, onions, and maybe eggs (some vegetarians avoid eggs.)

He might be down to flour, water, apples, nuts, turnips and onions.

And he'd still want to be sure that the cook isn't preparing these foods in ways that use the meat products. Apples and onions fried in bacon drippings are delicious, and frugal when at sea and you don't want to waste the drippings, but not vegetarian.


And even if some Animals are of herbivore species, that isn't the same thing as a human being vegetarian. If there was a Horse traveling with the company, they'd carry oats and hay, because that is what horses, and Horses, eat. That's different from someone who can eat they diet they have stocked the ship for choosing to follow a different diet that excludes the foods brought along. Knowing some Species are herbivore, some are carnivore, and some omnivore by nature is different from having a conceptual space for someone who could be omnivore but chooses to be herbivore.


There are also issues of logistics.

Reepcheep is the only Animal on the trip that we know of. He's also a Mouse, and mice are omnivorous, able to eat the same diet, roughly, as humans.

If you were a Narnian planning a long sea voyage into the unknown, part of the planning would be choosing the crew with dietary needs in mind. It's easier if the crew is omnivorous, and if everyone can follow the same diet. The logistics of a mixed-diet crew become more complicated. Probably reasonable to plan for when you're making a journey of a known distance and duration to a known destination.

If you're traveling into the unknown, knowing you'll be restocking along the way but not knowing where or what will be available, then choosing a crew that is omnivorous and not picky helps ensure that, no matter where you end up, the right foods will be available.

Imagine taking a Panda on the trip, and needing a specific variety of bamboo as their staple food. It would be a disaster.

Gelliebean said...

I read VDT quite a long time ago, probably when I was 8 or so, and without any well-defined sense of historical context I assumed 'strange underwear' referred to something like suffragist bloomers.

Eustace seemed to me a presentation of a child whose parents were more interested in politics and progressivism than in allowing the poor kid to enjoy being a kid; at that age, I couldn't imagine someone being more interested in science and non-fiction than in fairy tales and creative pursuits (since I myself was obsessed with the latter to the exclusion of all else) and therefore concluded that Eustace's parents were overcontrolling and had forbidden any flights of fancy. I was interested in his travel to Narnia as a way to counteract the dreary, grey real-life nothingness he'd been forced into.

Now, rereading the passage for the first time in two decades, all I can think is that (a) it's wonderful for a child to be so interested in something like beetles, to pursue that interest, and to be encouraged in it by his parents; and (b) dismissing that interest as "dead and pinned on cards" is really pretty cruel.

newest reader said...

Aspermoth--you are right about the shortage of good media representation, which reinforces stereotypes. I am sorry I did not make clearer how a classification that tries to sweep together both people who can't speak and people who speak and write better than the average, seems quite unsatisfactory. Likewise, some folks aren't very social because they are afraid or awkward, and others because just not that interested. And so on. I found that the description of either end of "autistic spectrum" didn't match me close enough to feel right. Some people had tried to rope me into it, and soon learned to shut up. Others who knew me just as well said that they had worked with actual autistics/Asperger's syndrome people and that sure wasn't me. Conflation of such disparate types is fair to no one, either people like me or real autistics, whatever that actually is.
I am sorry if I have bothered you, and hope that this helps.

Makabit said...

Oddly, I never disliked Eustace. I was always rather fond of humorless scientific types in books, since I will never aspire to be anything of the sort myself. I see that people find the description of him and his family horribly hostile, but to me it was simply a description of a familiar sort of people. I certainly never registered 'vegetarians are bad', or 'wearing faddish underwear is bad' as the message.

However, this conversation about the virtues of fantasy and fairytale is raising vague memories of a Mercedes Lackey book I hated deeply, an urban fantasy sort of thing with a young teenage runaway working as a prostitute--because, it turns out, her well-meaning but MEAN upper middle class suburban parents took away all her fantasy novels and unicorn posters.

I read it shortly after "Sacred Ground" and it was the point at which I had to back off Mercedes Lackey, shaking my poor old head a little. It was clearly presented with the best of intentions, as was "Sacred Ground", and I just didn't have enough different ways to say "OH HELL NO."

Isabel C. said...

Oh, man, I remember that one. And I mainly remember thinking that, had I been that chick, I would so not have ever gone back to my family once I had a non-horrible-prostitution option like living with racecar elves, because Fuck Those Guys, Hate You Forever.

But yeah, the actual running away seemed a bit extreme, reaction-wise. Which I guess I interpreted at the time as her not thinking things would end up that desperate, and then getting in over her head and not knowing how to get out, but I can see it bugging like whoa.

newest reader said...

LIke with the rest of the series, I read this when I was 12, and took more things at face value than now--that is, a lot more gullible. One thing that I might have questioned if it hadn't just slipped under my notice is how Eustace is described as a "puny little person". In this, Lewis was like some other authors who made all the villains, even temporary ones, have some physical imperfection/flaw, or what is considered such. Like, in the next chapter, the girl who squints and has freckles and so isn't wife material for the [presumably] strong, hardy, 20-20-visioned Caspian. Or so that's how it seemed to me. Annoying, at the very least. I suppose that after seeing the light, Eustace magically became fit and strong beyond the expected result of any lifestyle changes--all right, I'm being sarcastic. I grew up with enough body image issues it's a wonder I'm still alive.
As for his being on some autistic spectrum, I have noticed that that whole concept has been stretched so wide as to become nearly meaningless; some people attempt to apply it to anyone who is introverted or has unusual interests, and it does not smell right. There is more than one way to be non-neurotypical, and I suspect we need a bunch of different spectra.

Aspermoth said...

"As for his being on some autistic spectrum, I have noticed that that whole concept has been stretched so wide as to become nearly meaningless; some people attempt to apply it to anyone who is introverted or has unusual interests, and it does not smell right."

Or maybe we like to diagnose characters because we have so little representation in the media that we take what we can? Honestly, this entire last section of your comment bothers me quite a bit, and I can't quite put my finger on why.

Isabel C. said...

Heh, yes. I was somewhat south of San Fran, but I also disliked Eustace because I associated him with Those People Who Gave Out Apples on Halloween, and also those people who went off about how they wouldn't tell their kids about Santa Claus because blah blah untruth blah blah, and generally everyone on the Central Coast who hated fun. Of which there seemed to be many.

This was neither a fair nor generous attitude, but ten-year-old Izzy was neither fair nor generous. ;)

Boutet said...

Content Note: Familial abuse

When I was a child and first read the Narnia series I was in a very bad home situation with my family. My parents fought daily, my mother was very unstable emotionally and was often verbally abusive and not-infrequently physically abusive. My brother was also verbally and physically abusive, but on a more constant basis, at school and home and in the community. From that perspective the Pevensies' life looked like paradise for me even before they went on magical adventures, with siblings who generally at least showed some concern for each other. Edmund and Eustace are both introduced as bullies so I was immediately against them, equating them with my own brother (especially since Edmund was shown bullying his sister). So a lot of the problematic stuff having to do specifically with Edmund and Eustace never even registered for me. I never questioned Edmund's death sentence.
And that's kind of interesting, because a lot of the other problematic stuff did register and bother me. A very selective point of view I guess. Now with the distance of time and after a lot of slow reconciliation with my family I look at the two boys more sympathetically.

Unrelated: A lot of people are saying Silver Chair was their favorite but it was my absolute least favorite. It was the one book I would skip over when rereading the series. I really liked the Magician's Nephew and the Horse and his Boy as well as the Voyage.

Ursula L said...

I think that Lewis may be doing some interesting things with point-of-view, as well.

The first chapter seems to be very much from Edmund and Lucy's point of view, looking at Eustice.

We gradually begin to get Eustice's point-of-view from his journal.

And once he's been a dragon and "converted" to Narnianism, his POV is folded into the general POV of the book.


This ties back, in some ways, to the presentation of vegetarianism and open windows. We're told about that from Edmund and Lucy's POV. They are children sent to stay with relatives while their parents have to be away. They aren't really guests, to be accommodated in the way that the Scrubb family would accommodate adults invited to stay. They're being looked after as a favor to their parents, one of whom is a sibling to one of Eustice's parents.

This creates a very different social dynamic from being an invited guest. "They're treated as temporary children of their aunt and uncle. "While you're under our roof, you'll live by our rules." Their parents instruction would be "While you're staying with your aunt and uncle, obey them as you would us, be good, and don't cause trouble or complain" because the parent knows they are asking their sibling for a huge favor, care of their children for weeks or months, and they want their kids to be easy to care for, the least burden possible.

So even if the Scrubbs are not "aggressive" vegetarians, the favor they are doing for Edmund and Lucy's parents, to care for their children while they are away, has the effect of forcing Edmund and Lucy to be vegetarians for the duration.


There is also the context of rationing in Britain during and after WWII to consider.

Meat was strictly rationed. So even while with their parents, Edmund and Lucy would know meat to be a desirable food, which they had only limited access to. A treat. And being sent to live with people who saw that treat as undesirable would be strange. The limitations on diet imposed by rationing was unpleasant. But then being sent to live with people who made you eat a diet that was subjectively worse than the limits of rationing could easily lead to resentment.

Heating fuel was also rationed. This puts the open windows in a different light. Heat, expensive, valuable heat, would escape through those open windows in cold weather. The Scrubb household was either constantly cold because they couldn't get the fuel to keep the house warm while the windows were open in cold weather or they were, somehow, getting around rationing to keep the heat running in a wasteful way.

Steve Morrison said...

I can see both comments now.

Lily said...

I feel bad for Eustace, personally. I tend to want house guests to leave me alone since I tend to not have the spoons to deal with fourteen people at a time. Yes, bullying is bad, but Eustace's interests seem healthy enough to me. And what if he just can't tolerate meat the same way I can't tolerate fruit? (I have an allergy to bananas & latex.)


Steve Morrison said...

Uh-oh, something is strange about the comment feed; I see two comments by Isabel C. in the sidebar, but I can only load the first one in the main windows. (Oh, and my apologies for the blockquote fail last night.)

Isabel C. said...

Actually, on further thought, I was perfectly set up to dislike Eustace: demon-child with ridiculously contrarian I-hate-whatever-you-say-is-good-for-me personality, in a section of SoCal whose liberality strikes me as rather twee even now, during the Captain Planet era. Lewis could've presented him as an angel come to Earth and I would've hated the kid.

Trynn said...

I don't even remember The Silver Chair. I know I read it once, just so I could say I'd read the whole series, but for the life of me I don't even think I knew what the plot was when I was reading it...

Another way I was like Eustace: I had very few friends as a child (low social skills.) I didn't understand why it made me a bad person

I think my favorite was still LWW, partly because I LOVED to pieces the concept of randomly finding another world. The Magician's Nephew was either a close second or my actual favorite, because of the same thing, but now I realize that it's because Diggory and whatshername (Jill?) were more relatable as characters; they were distinct people with different personalities, whereas the Pevensies (unless we count preconverstion Edmund) all kind of sounded like the same person.

LWW was also a huge favorite because I LOVED the story of Jesus dying for us. I had (have) a warped conception of God as a meanie anyway, so the whole Aslan being terrible thing sailed right over my head.

Makabit said...

Naomi, this, yes! I grew up in San Francisco, and I instantly identified the Scrubbs as those people (often parents of friends) who were boringly humorless and sincere about a wide variety of (perfectly good) lifestyle choices and political stances they took, and tended to have no qualms about telling my ten-year-old self that whatever notions I might have picked up from my own parents were quite wrong. I instantly identified the atmosphere of suffocating self-righteousness and Strong Ideas when I first read Dawn Treader, and actually tend to be rather baffled when people protest that these folks are being trashed for being vegetarians and wearing special underwear and being interested in progressive's not that, it's that they do ALL of it, and, I also fill in from my own life experience, are irritating about it.

So the shorthand that's being used here made perfect sense to me, even generations away from Lewis. And as someone who themselves has dabbled in vegetarianism, nonsmoking and progressive education. Ruth McKinney has some hilarious details about friends of hers who were into the same sorts of things in the U.S. at about the same time the books are set.

That said, I always sort of liked Eustace, because I could also figure out that from his end, Lucy and Edmund must have been viciously annoying as well.

Also, not that this matters, but can you imagine what vegetarian English food in the 1940s must have been like? Think of how awful those 1970s cookbooks seem now.

Theo Axner said...

Yeah, that.

It's a fair point, though, that the Narnia stories in particular are full of unexamined colonialist privilege - that's sort of what I meant with Lewis being against colonialism whenever thinking consciously about it, as such. As Steve noted we see this both in his non-fiction and in the Space Trilogy, where several of the villains are explicitly associated with colonialism. At other times, like in parts of the Narnia books, there's plenty of cheerfully unquestioned colonialist assumptions in the story.

In fact, I think you see this with Lewis on a number of matters. When he actually engages with an issue straight on and thinks clearly of it as what it is, he often ends up with a decent point of view, while as we've seen ad nauseam lots of undigested prejudices float along in the subtexts of his fiction.

Frenchroast said...

The part that always threw me as a child is the bit about wearing "special underclothes." I had NO idea what on earth that was supposed to mean or refer to until you provided that link. Now I feel less WTF about it, so many thanks.

The opening is one of those instances where Lewis would have been much better served to show us Eustace's actions/habits rather than tell us, because just telling us makes his critique of Eustace pretty useless, for all the reasons Ana and other have enumerated. Lewis always seems to favor telling over showing (hence Prince Caspian).

That said, I never liked Eustace, because I had a cousin who liked to bully me whenever I got stuck visiting, similar to the description given at the end of the opening. So I always equated him to her.

GeniusLemur said...

I think you've got it here. It's that old chestnut any writer's heard a million times: show, don't tell. It may be what Lewis is talking about made perfect sense at the time, or made perfect sense to someone with Lewis' general views, or just to Lewis himself, but it's obsolete now, and we have to speculate what he means. If he'd shown us, we'd at least understand that Lewis considers these behaviors unnatural, or faddish, or whatever, even if we don't agree with him.

Theo Axner said...

Also: I don't think Lewis would be against colonialism.

As Steve pointed out, Lewis was in fact very critical of colonialism at least when thinking consciously about it. Apart from the bit in The Four Loves there's an interesting essay ("Religion and Rocketry", IIRC) where he glumly speculates on the prospect of Western imperialism spreading through the galaxy, and what we'll do to any alien peoples we might encounter:

We know what our race does to strangers. Man destroys or enslaves every species he can. Civilized man murders, enslaves, cheats, and corrupts savage man. Even inanimate nature he turns into dust bowls and slag-heaps. There are individuals who don't. But they are not the sort who are likely to be our pioneers in space. Our ambassador to new worlds will be the needy and greedy adventurer or the ruthless technical expert. They will do as their kind has always done. What that will be if they meet things weaker than themselves, the black man and the red man can tell. If they meet things stronger, they will be, very properly, destroyed.

Steve Morrison said...

I think that holds more weight than someone's stated views to the contrary.
More weight for what purpose, though? Originally all this was about whether CSL would have made a character pro-colonialism as a sign of bad moral character. He might have done that even if he were the world's worst hypocrite on the topic. In fact, he did make Weston a colonialist in the Ransom trilogy, although one of the "exterminate all the brutes" school rather than the "take up the white man's burden" type.
But having said that, I admit I'd never thought of the "fat foreign children" passage as referring to colonial schools; the closest I could ever come to making sense of it was the "Eustace reads communist propaganda for pleasure??!!" interpretation!

Lonespark said...

Diggory and Polly.

Nina said...

Re: Silver Chair - me too! I barely even remember it because I only read it once or twice, when I read the rest over and over.

Nick said...

Ana, I felt the exact same way about Eustace when I first read this book. I found him annoying, but didn't dislike him nearly as much as I had disliked Edmund -- he was more *entertainingly* annoying than thoroughly obnoxious. (Something I really liked about the movie is that they actually did make movie!Eustace properly obnoxious at the beginning, as he was probably meant to be read.)

The list of Things That Are Wrong With Eustace did confuse me when I first read it, I remember. "Vegetarians, non-smokers" made me go "oh, that's nice"; I didn't know what a teetotaller was; "special kind of underclothes" made me go WTF; the comments about the house's decor were totally neutral to me; I thought the beetle thing was a bit creepy (although I did have to read it twice because I read "Eustace liked animals" and thought "oh, that's nice" before I finished the sentence); and the rest was either totally neutral or just kinda strange. It wasn't until I got to the "Eustace is a bully" paragraph that I realised "Oh, hang on, we were supposed to dislike all that stuff." The bit in a later chapter where Eustace says he's a republican also threw me, because my family are all (Australian) republicans too. It was actually the first time it occurred to me that there was some serious bias in these books.

Amaryllis said...

Yeah, maybe I've been reading too much Angela Thirkell or something, but that comment about "fat foreign children" reminds me of the way that food was still an issue in Britain for years after the war. And there was a kind of feeling that, "we won the war, with a huge amount of effort and sacrifice and suffering. And now there's still no meat or butter or petrol... but our former enemies are getting aid and help... no one's helping US!"

Unattractive, maybe, but understandable.

Naomi said...

Oh, hurray, we've gotten to the Dawn Treader! My favorite is actually "The Silver Chair," but I am very fond of "The Dawn Treader," as well (in all its problematic glory).

I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, which is populated by disproportionate numbers of PhDs, dried-up hippies, and Nader voters. So I actually knew quite a lot of vegetarians as a kid, when I read this (and, since it was the 1980s and not the 1950s, most of the adults I knew were non-smokers). The way I read the description of Eustace's parents was heavily informed by the sarcasm suggested in "very up-to-date and advanced people" -- I assumed they were not MILITANT vegetarians, exactly, but the sort of people who when you get together, are always delicately patronizing about whatever it is that you are doing that they refrain from doing (eating meat, drinking coffee, consuming wheat and dairy if they've gone on the paleo diet, whatever) and obviously judgmental about your lesser choices even if they don't exactly come out and say so. The sort of people who would never, ever believe that you couldn't live on a vegetarian diet (or a paleo diet, if that's the thing they've recently gotten into) -- it's just that you are doing it WRONG, somehow, and they have lots of advice that will fix your problems and if you say you've tried it already they nod sympathetically but clearly don't really believe you -- no matter what you say, the only problem is that you're doing it wrong. Always. THAT sort of vegetarian.

Madison has a LOT of these. So I always felt very comfortable judging Eustace's parents, because that sort of barely-restrained superciliousness is truly, profoundly annoying.

Paul A. said...

So ... is the young master Scrubb supposed to be a Mormon, possibly?

The article Ana linked to in the OP says not.

Arresi said...

Whether or not there are British Mormons, I think I remember that one of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories featured Mormons as the bad guy. (Or was based on a real-life story that involved Mormons, maybe?) So they weren't unknown to the Brits by Lewis' time. I couldn't tell you if they were among the things he was trying to reference with this passage.

And, while I don't particularly like the passage that follows, I actually do like the first line: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." We immediately know that Eustace Clarence is an unfashionable boy's name, to the point that having it will get a child a negative reaction, probably bullying. That's a hint as to the setting (he's somewhere and when that Eustace Clarence is an unfashionable and unfortunate name), character (he either won't or can't use a nickname), and a bit about his personal history (whoever named him was both the sort to like unfashionable things, and to give children names they will be teased over). The second half tells us that he's done a fair amount of bad things, but not quite enough to deserve having a name that sets oneself up for bullying.

And I actually liked A Horse and His Boy and The Silver Chair growing up. I still like Aravis and Lasaraleen, and the city of the dead. And while I can't remember much of what happened in The Silver Chair, I do recall liking Puddleglum and the scenes around the giants castle (and, while I was frustrated with Jill, I was also sympathetic to her in a way I don't think I was with Edmund and Eustace).

Ana Mardoll said...

I can't get into it deeply here, but in brief, I realize that Lewis said he was against colonialism. I also think the Narnia books are a long love letter to colonialism as a concept (Dawn Treader in particular is about going around claiming islands for Narnia and making the inhabitants more Narnian), and I think that holds more weight than someone's stated views to the contrary.

Theo Axner said...

Regarding the significance, or lack thereof, of Experiment House, I think Andrew Rilstone's old essay on the subject is well worth reading, much like anything else he's written about Lewis:

Experiment House: Is The Silver Chair a critique of progressive modern education?

He concludes it's a bit more complicated than that. But do read the whole thing, it's not very long and it's funny. :)

Sample quote:

I don't think this could be taken as a picture (even a satirical one) of a 'progressive' or 'free' school like Summerhill. What Lewis has done is taken the public schools of his childhood (complete with an Inner Ring of Bloods who Eustace spends his time 'sucking up' to); given it a modern tinge and introduced a few of his personal bogeymen like Freudianism and technology. Chapter 1 of the Silver Chair would be little different if Pole and Scrubb were a pair of fags and 'Them' were the house prefects: 'Someone's got hold of that Scrubb kid. He's quite unmanageable this term. We shall have to attend to him next.'

Incidentally, considering what he says about his three boarding schools in Surprised by Joy, I can only assume that the remark that this bullying would have been 'found out and stopped in half a term' at an 'ordinary school' is intended ironically.

Marie Brennan said...

This is a fascinating exercise in what people bring to the story as they read it. I, too, have known people I would describe as "up-to-date and advanced," where those words are not meant as a compliment, so like some of the other commenters here, I automatically fill in certain obnoxious traits of behavior that Lewis doesn't explicitly put in the text. I still make frowny-faces at him for implying that vegetarianism etc. are somehow dumb things to do, but I do so while reading the Scrubbs as being sanctimonious proselytizers for what they have decided is the only sensible way to live.

Likewise, "fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools" does not imply to me "Eustace likes to read about other cultures." I take "model schools" to be up-to-date and advanced in the way his parents are, so I automatically gloss the whole thing as a colonialist enterprise: these "model schools" are the ones Britain is building in other countries to teach them the Right (read: British) Way of Doing Things. Does Lewis ever say that? Not at all. But my own mental context attaches that kind of significance to the words he does say, ergo I take a particular message from that phrase.

Which is why I found the link to the string underwear thing interesting. I hadn't known about that before, so all I could think (inasmuch as I ever thought about this) was that the underwear was either extremely uncomfortable in some kind of health-nut way, or else it was something newfangled like the "liberty bodice" Diana Wynne Jones mentions in A Tale of Time City, likewise set in WWII. (Except that I think the liberty bodice was a fairly mainstream thing by that point.) Anyway, having context for what was current at the time Lewis was writing changes my own reading in interesting ways.

DavidCheatham said...

A few lesser-known definitions of 'teetotaler' include not just someone who doesn't drink, but who has pledged never to drink, or who promotes the lack of drinking in others, or even be a member of organizations that promote such things. I.e., by 'teetotaler' he may have meant 'People who complain about other people drinking', because the word can mean that. I don't know if that was actually what Lewis was saying, but it is possible to read the text that way.

OTOH, he doesn't say that Eustance's parents tell others not to smoke or others not to eat meat, (And I think it's a mistake to just go ahead and read that into the text without any evidence of it.) so it seems likely by 'teetotaler' he just meant they don't drink.

Incidentally, even if Eustance's _parents_ did all that, why would that make _Eustace_a bad person?

The only thing that is a bad thing (As opposed to perfectly fine hobbies) and under Eustance's control is 'bullying' house guests, and I have to give Eustance a bit of slack here: Occasionally his quiet house is invaded by four people he does not actually like, all of whom are implied to be stronger, and apparently more active, than he is, who are now the center of attention in the house instead of him, and he probably ends up being forced to do stuff he does not like to do.

It's basically the most trivial complaint I can imagine against a child, 'Acts petty and takes out his frustrations on other children when forced into situations he does not enjoy'. (Which I realized, after I wrote that sentence, is a perfect way to describe Eustance during this book also.) It's a complaint I want to respond to with 'Uh, have you met any children? Ever? Or even read _the previous books_?'.

Oh, but the narrator helpfully _tells_ us he likes bossing and bullying, so that's all right then.

Aspermoth said...

To talk about the science book thing, I think C.S. Lewis was trying to say that one shouldn't read non-fiction books and completely exclude fiction and fantasy from our lives: he believed that children need to read fairytales, myths and legends. The fact that Eustace scorns fiction and thinks it to be silly and/or childish (I can't remember his exact problems with it) is a character flaw in Lewis's eyes because he believed there is nothing silly or childish about fantasy and that it is necessary for a healthy mental life.

The problem is that what Lewis actually says seems to disparage the idea of reading non-fiction at all, which is a terrible, terrible thing. Reading is reading, whether you're reading fairytales or plays or poetry or a manual on how the internal combustion engine works, and not everybody has the same tastes in books. Perhaps one day Eustace's interest in technology would have led him to adult science fiction books and the discovery that fantasy in one form or another is just as valid. Disparaging a child's interest in science and sociology because you personally think he should be more interested in dragons and buried treasure is just mean-spirited.

Steve Morrison said...

It's worth noting that Clive Staples Lewis hated his own first and middle names; he insisted from early childhood on being called "Jack".

Ana Mardoll said...

A scrub is a guy who thinks he's fly
And is also known as a buster
Always talkin' about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass
So (no)
I don't want your number (no)
I don't want to give you mine and (no)
I don't want to meet you nowhere (no)
I don't want none of your time and (no)
I don't want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side
Of his best friend's ride
Trying to holler at me
I don't want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me


Song lyrics aside, there's a reason why name-based bullying is wrong, and it bothers me to see Lewis engage in it.

redsixwing said...

Calling someone a "scrub" is definitely an insult on the order of "lout," though a rather old-fashioned one to my USian ears.

I kind of love name localization, especially when the connotation rather than the denotation is the important bit.

Vulpis Contra said...

I didn't get my hands on Dawn Treader until I was about sixteen, and the Eustace thing screamed Bullshit at me right away - although I know if I'd read it at the same time I read LWW I would have passed right over it. It seemed, and still seems, like Lewis had created this character with all the annoying, undesirable traits he could think of for the express purpose of throwing rotten fruit at him. Rereading the passage today, the thing that jumps out at me most is the idea that all the things that are 'wrong' with Eustace are the fault of his parents not raising him the way Lewis thought children should be raised. He's got a lot of "all these newfangled ideas, back in MY day rar rar shake cane" and "spare the rod, spoil the child" nonsense bound up in his description of Eustace and his parents, and it seems to me like he was writing a cariacture of new parenting styles he disapproved of in order to throw rotten fruit at *that.* People who tell other people how to raise their kids are always, always, ALWAYS annoying.

Honestly, he reminds me of nothing so much as Clint Eastwood yelling at that chair.

Tigerpetals said...

Those were my favorites too! Well I think at first I didn't like Silver Chair that much, and it was LWW. But by the third and maybe second time, that was it.

Ursula Vernon said...

Was just going to mention the chickens. Although they are apparently not Chickens, which is a damn shame, because that would have been AWESOME.

Although I suppose eating Chicken eggs brings up its own ethical it abortion? What if there's no Rooster, so presumably they're non-viable? Do Birds feel weird eating the eggs of non-sentient beings?

Narnia had so many fascinating issues that never got suitably addressed for either nine-year-old or thirty-five-year-old me.

Marie Brennan said...

Oh, I agree Eustace is supposed to be Wrong. Eustace is ALWAYS supposed to be Wrong, pre-conversion. But I was responding to the question about how he *felt* about the food.

Fair. I mostly meant to aim at the fact that shipboard food was, in reality, often quite frightful, but we can probably assume it's lovely in this case Because Narnia.

Isator Levi said...

Personally, if I was on a strange boat, I'd be seeing storms over every horizon as well, partially because I've read accounts of how the weather can change rapidly on the open sea, and partially because I wouldn't find too many tricks from being on a tiny tube of overturnable wood in the middle of a vast wet nothing that I can fall into.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, I agree Eustace is supposed to be Wrong. Eustace is ALWAYS supposed to be Wrong, pre-conversion. But I was responding to the question about how he *felt* about the food.

Marie Brennan said...

He notes in the chapter 2 diary that the food is "frightful". The ship seems to have no refrigeration, and I'm not an expert by any means on sailors' diets, but I would assume that there's a lot of cured/smoked/salted meats on board, and maybe some raw or dried vegetables and fruits?

This being Narnia, I'm sure they actually have food that preserves well and is also very tasty to boot. (Imported lembas, maybe?) I don't have a book on hand, but I'm pretty sure Eustace calls it "frightful" in the same passage where he's wailing about the enormous storm that is coming to drown them all (when of course the weather is fine) -- in other words, it's set up as more of his whinging, rather than a fair analysis of reality. And nobody's going to get scurvy on a Narnian voyage; that would ruin the cozy adventure.

My thanks to the people who provided the colonialism quotes; I wasn't familiar with those before.

Ana Mardoll said...

He notes in the chapter 2 diary that the food is "frightful". The ship seems to have no refrigeration, and I'm not an expert by any means on sailors' diets, but I would assume that there's a lot of cured/smoked/salted meats on board, and maybe some raw or dried vegetables and fruits?

Your comment also reminds me/us that Narnia SHOULD be aware of vegetarianism, since there are vegetarian Animals. But Reepicheep is (apparently) the only Animal on-board, which is very vexing to me.

Isator Levi said...

I know at as close as the early 19th century, you were still stuck with hard biscuits.

I think that even when the medical benefits of fruits and vegetables were determined, you were still basically forced to stock the ship with enough to tide the crew over at the beginning, and hopefully give them a reserve to live off of, and then prioritise pulling into port or shore to restock.

I think drying the vegetables actually damages the vitamins, removing the benefit of consuming them in the first place.

Scribblegoat said...

"Whatever his intellectual disapproval of colonialism, Lewis does not strike me as someone who would approve of British/white/Christian people taking up the practices of Indian/brown/non-Christian people. In this context, the Scrubb family was not merely following fashions in lifestyle, they were moving towards a non-white/non-Christian lifestyle."

CN: bad imperialist terminology

That made my brain go "click." Thank you for clarifying for me what I was wandering toward above with the imperialism versus Orientalism thing. I'm willing to grant Lewis a measure of moral superiority for realizing that colonizing the savage = not okay, but he's still expressly using the "civilized versus savage" phrasing. And the specification that "civilized" mankind enslaves those weaker than themselves, without qualifying "weaker" as meaning "unprepared for their virulent diseases, charitable enough to not think 'serial killer' when confronted by a stranger, and employing social structures that are arguably less conducive to thinking that a military presence equals ownership of a faraway land." Orientalism creates a JUST FABULOUS element of victim-blaming for colonialism whether or not one ascribes to colonialist thinking per se.

VMink said...

This sort of passive-aggressive militantism is something that Lewis seems to have a particular bugaboo about. I recall in The Screwtape Letters, he makes much ado about a fine 'wine' made from pariah which he describes as someone who basically says (if I recall the quote correctly) "Is it really such a bother that I might have one, just one, perfectly-made piece of toast with jam, dearie?" (Not exactly what I recall being the definition of 'pariah,' to be honest.) Basically a person who insists that their demands aren't all that onerous to satisfy, so would you be a dear and just submit to these demands and nobody will get the Sighing, all right? That's a good boy.

Though it's also likely that Lewis is being an irritable codger and rebelling against anything new and different that attacks "traditional" values and beliefs.

Scribblegoat said...

Every so often I realize how much I would have liked C.S. Lewis, as based on most of what he ever wrote that wasn't fiction. I'd have enjoyed having him as a professor, too (apparently Treebeard's "Hoom-HOOM" was inspired by the booming sound of Lewis's lectures as heard through a wall). The quotes that have been shared in comments about his feelings toward fan creation and toward imperialism match some of my deeply held beliefs about beauty and art and justice and such things, and so are sometimes really jarring when I've gotten to so dislike his Unfortunate Implications and the narrator of his fiction.

Further cautionary tales about conflating author and narrator, I suppose.

ETA: Also about conflating Orientalism with colonialism, rather than viewing these separate sins as kissing cousins.

Scribblegoat said...

Agreed: I'm left feeling wincingly sorry for a very awesome kid somewhere in the past few decades who was read this and came away with the impression that he was bad for thinking bugs were cool.

Ursula L said...

I wonder if Lewis's disapproval of vegetarianism is in any way coming from him connecting vegetarianism with Hinduism and India?

Whatever his intellectual disapproval of colonialism, Lewis does not strike me as someone who would approve of British/white/Christian people taking up the practices of Indian/brown/non-Christian people. In this context, the Scrubb family was not merely following fashions in lifestyle, they were moving towards a non-white/non-Christian lifestyle. I'm thinking particularly of how some British people chose to follow Gandhi as a moral/spiritual leader, adopting vegetarianism, a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, etc. based on Gandhi's teaching and reasoning.

In the context of Lewis's religious goals in writing these stories, characters who were open to non-Christian spirituality as being valid and guiding their life would be inherently suspect. And as Narnia brings children to accepting Christianity once they are back home, Eustice is changed, by Narnia, to reject the non-Christian inspired practices of his family and to embrace things (like eating meat) that Lewis considered Christian/British.


I also wonder what Eustice ate in Narnia before his "conversion." Did he try to maintain his vegetarian diet? And if he did, was the ship supplied to provide a balanced diet? Would whomever was in charge of the cooking know how to prepare genuinely vegetarian food, or would there be the problem of salt pork seasoning dried beans and ham winding up in lentil soup?

That type of problem would be enough to make anyone unhappy, and to make them appear unreasonable if thrown into a cultural context where no one has heard of vegetarianism, which is what Narnia seems to be, and what Edmund and Lucy consider normal while in Narnia.

It would also help explain Edmund and Lucy not liking staying at the Scrubbs'. They're used to eating meat, and being thrown, probably for weeks or months, into a vegetarian household, without anyone considering their consent to this lifestyle change, might be unpleasant, particularly for children. Peter gets the treat of staying with the Professor, and Susan gets the treat of going to America, but Edmund and Lucy are sent to live with their odd relations, in a spartan lifestyle not of their choosing. Unfamiliar food, physically uncomfortable because they're not used to leaving windows open no matter the weather, missing their immediate family and feeling abandoned when everyone else is off having fun.

Makhno said...

My memory is of finding pre-conversion Eustace annoying even when I was feeling sorry for him. My sympathies were limited partly by the antagonism between him and Reepicheep, whom I loved, and partly by the fact that I felt I would have found DT a wonderful adventure (far more so than any of the other Narnia books) and couldn't altogether see why he didn't feel the same way. I was, however, very young, and this whole description of his home life had gone completely over my head; if I'd been reading the book a few years later I probably wouldn't have got past there before throwing it aside, and would have missed the only book in the series I still remember with real fondness. Until I read Kit's takedown of this passage, I had completely forgotten it - except for the beetles pinned to boards. Child-me found insect-collecting a deeply creepy, incipient-serial-killer-ish hobby, and that bit made me shudder. Now... meh. Frankly I'd still find it creepy in a modern child, but this book's set in the '40s, when it was fairly mainstream, and probably the only way a child with an interest in insects would get an opportunity to study them.

Aspermoth said...

You know, it could just be me, but aspects of this description make me wonder if Eustace might be on the autistic spectrum. A lot of the elements of his life choices, such as diet and having the windows open, could point to sensory issues, and it would also explain why he's an automatic target for bullies (for being different) and why he has such difficulty getting on with the Pevensies. Plus it would explain the 'bullying' of house guests: they're in his space, disturbing his routines and removing his privacy, so of course he's going to feel particularly put out by them. Although if he is, this just raises further problems because these aspects are described as character flaws and are 'cured' though the book, which is just a host of Unfortunate Implications all by itself. And of course I could just be projecting because I'm autistic myself and the idea of sharing my bedroom with a cousin I dislike is quite frankly abominable to me. So that's just a thought, I suppose.

Isator Levi said...

It's my recollection that Communism may have been more widely known and greatly feared in Britain well before it became a big thing in the United States (i.e. before the War). Churchill was definitely well known for greatly despising it.

I'd say the post-War regards for it became somewhat more mitigated when reconstruction requirements induced people to elect the Labour Party, who introduced all kinds of favourable reforms.

Nina said...

This book and Horse and His Boy were my favorite Narnia books, so I'm excited to be jumping in!

I have to say, I didn't care for Eustace much at all when I read the books, but I also tended to take things at face value in books and go along with what the narrator/author wanted me to think - I'm supposed to dislike Eustace at the beginning of Dawn Treader? I dislike him! I've now read several discussions on Eustace getting the short end of the stick, so I'm sensitive to it, but I wonder how I would have seen it if I had read it later in life but before I encountered other people's comments. Because, really, I don't smoke or drink (much) and I love to leave the windows open...what's wrong with that?

I reread Horse and His Boy a few years ago for a C.S.Lewis book club and was struck by the racism that had gone right over my head as a kid. I still enjoyed the book, but...yeah, that definitely affected my appreciation.

MaryKaye said...

Lewis writes about his own schooling in _Surprised By Joy_. It's similar enough to George Orwell's account that I don't suppose it's far from true, in which case he was intensely miserable. It's weird to find him attacking newfangled schools both here and in _Silver Chair_. (I was attending an experimental school myself when I read _Silver Chair_ and that part made me very angry.)

Dawn Treader, Silver Chair, and Magician's Nephew were the ones I liked as a kid. I don't know how I would have ranked them. (Among my childhood experiments with library science was "organize books by how much I like them" but I didn't split up series. It turns out that reorganizing your library takes a *long* time if you order them that way, but at least it's an interesting process.)

Marie Brennan said...

I believe it to be a reference to children in communist countries, too. I found links saying that the Scrubb's were reading communist propaganda, though I can't link to them from bed.

Also: I don't think Lewis would be against colonialism.

Communism would make sense, too, though I don't know much about how well it was known/how it was viewed in Britain at the time.

As for colonialism, it isn't so much that I think Lewis would have been against it as, he would view that sort of reading material as very banal (in the Changeling sense, if there's anybody here who knows that particular obscure gaming reference). It isn't "other people's ways of living are interesting!," it's "here's the approved way of doing X, and isn't it splendid that Other People are learning it." Which fits in with my mental gloss of the Scrubbs as being sanctimonious.

All of which, of course, is part of my tendency to try and read a story in a way that makes it coherent. I was clearly supposed to find the Scrubbs unpleasant; therefore I looked for meanings in what Lewis said that would support such a view of them.

Elise Kumar said...

I don't remember what I thought of Eustace as a child, but I am pretty sure that The Silver Chair was my favourite Narnia book, and still is.

Like some other commenters I had a lot in common with Eustace as a child: we were a smug vegetarian "new age" family. I think I just smugly thought the author was wrong to condemn vegetarianism, and disliked Eustace for the rest of it. Apart from his name which I think we can all agree is AWESOME and I spent a long time trying to work out what Lewis meant by him "almost deserving" the name because he didn't appear to me to be close to deserving such a great name.

Isator Levi said...

Yeah, I don't really get the bit about Eustace Clarence being a name to inflict upon somebody either, although maybe that's just because I associate the name Eustace with crotchety old farmers who keep scaring little dogs with oversized masks.

Jane Carnall said...

I recognised when I read this passage (can't remember if on first reading, but certainly on second or third - I re-read the Narnia books a lot as a child) that C.S.Lewis was making fun of parents like mine, and as a follow-through, children like me. My parents were (and are) "vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers" - and I was used to the idea already that many people had funny ideas about what vegetarians were like and why we didn't eat meat.

I concluded that C.S.Lewis was one of those people when he went on to explain that the Scrubb parents "wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open." (After all, we'd never been told anything about anyone's underclothes in any other book in the Narnia series, except to be told that Narnian clothes are very comfortable even when they're your best clothes.) Since it was already my experience that people who assumed they knew about how vegetarians live were comically wrong, I just dismissed this bit.

(And through a lifetime as a vegetarian, have got unfortunately used to the idea that the meat-eating majority will both feel free to lecture me on my dietary choices because I am not eating "normally", and simultaneously claim that vegetarians are always telling them what they should eat.)

This on the other hand made sense to me: Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.

I understood that this meant Eustace did not read books about fantasy and magic and did not have or want a pet or much enjoy watching living animals, not even in the zoo. Therefore (this would be the third Narnian book I had read, I expect) he would not enjoy Narnia since he wouldn't enjoy the Talking Beasts, and he wouldn't understand the magical element.

That was me reading Narnia before I was ten. Since then (and discovering more about C.S.Lewis) I've got less and less comfortable with this passage... but as a child, no: it might have bothered me if this was the first Narnian book I'd read, but as it was the third, my recollection is that I just wanted to dive right in...

alrightuhhuh said...

I'm sorry if you've talked about this before, but can any of the regulars (or the writer herself) explain choice-auditing? I just started reading these Narnia deconstructions (which I am loving), but I'm not sure what that is. I even googled it but I got a bunch of articles about the police in Africa. It sounds like it's another way of saying "questioning other's choices" but it also sounds like there's more to it.

Steve Morrison said...

Also: I don't think Lewis would be against colonialism.
Actually, I disagree. Whatever his other faults, Lewis made it very clear that he despised colonialism and imperialism; here is a passage to that effect from The Four Loves:
If our nation is really so much better than others it may be held to have either the duties or the rights of a superior being towards them. In the nineteenth century the English became very conscious of such duties: the “white man’s burden.” What we called natives were our wards and we their self-appointed guardians. This was not all hypocrisy. We did do them some good. But our habit of talking as if England’s motives for acquiring an empire (or any youngster’s motives for seeking a job in the Indian Civil Service) had been mainly altruistic nauseated the world. And yet this showed the sense of superiority working at its best. Some nations who have also felt it have stressed the rights not the duties. To them, some foreigners were so bad that one had the right to exterminate them. Others, fitted only to be hewers of wood and drawers of water to the chosen people, had better be made to get on with their hewing and drawing. Dogs, know your betters! I am far from suggesting that the two attitudes are on the same level. But both are fatal. Both demand that the area in which they operate should grow “wider still and wider.” And both have about them this sure mark of evil: only by being terrible do they avoid being comic. If there were no broken treaties with Redskins, no extermination of the Tasmanians, no gas-chambers and no Belsen, no Amritsar, Black and Tans or Apartheid, the pomposity of both would be roaring farce.
Dinesh D’Souza would have hated him.

Ursula Vernon said...

I always enjoyed Dawn Treader (although Silver Chair and Horse and His Boy were my favorites) but when I re-read them recently, I definitely noticed that I was very sympathetic to Eustace. The only evil we ever learn of him is what the narrator TELLS us, and by that point in the books, I was so skeptical of the narrator's reliability (re Eustace and Susan) that I found myself thinking "Dude! Seasickness is not cool! And he's really trying to do the sensible thing--he's in a foreign country, he's scared, he keeps trying to get to the British embassy and everybody's mocking him!"

The only really BAD thing I saw Eustace do was the bit with Reepicheep's tail, which was, yeah, pretty inexcusable. But everything else is basically the narrator telling us not to like Eustace, and by this point, I find myself disliking the narrator a great deal more.

JenL said...

Growing up Adventist, I also thought the list of things wrong with Eustace was ... odd. We weren't vegetarians, but we didn't drink coffee, or smoke, and I knew there wasn't anything *wrong* with being a vegetarian. And I read a decent bit of non-fiction, even though I preferred fiction.

I really felt like the other characters were at least as bad as Eustace, and that his "sins" were entirely reasonable given his circumstances. I felt bad for him for being punished the way he was, and really felt like he'd been set up. It wasn't until later that it occurred to me that it was the *author* who'd set him up...

Chris Doggett said...

Looking at these books as an adult, I'd describe the "Problem of Eustace" as a version of the classic "Problem of the Sinner".

If you want to write a religious allegory or fiction aimed at a religious audience, and you want to tell a story of redemption or salvation, then you need a Sinner as one of your characters. Lewis wanted to have Aslan "save" someone, which and it couldn't be Lucy (pure!) or Edmond (already saved!) so we get Eustace. Eustace has to be a Sinner, someone In Need Of Saving, so he has to have flaws and traits that are negatives.

But, he's also a protagonist, and we, the readers, should like him once he's Saved, so he can't be seen doing anything really awful or bad that would keep us from liking him later. A lot of Christian fiction features milquetoast sinners like this: their "badness" is mostly of the informed sort, with a little bit of antagonism on the side.

So we get nebbish Eustace, whose faults are mostly not his own (instead fobbed off on his Not-Appearing-In-This-Book parents) and who is being set up to behave badly only because he doesn't like the Pevinses, and wasn't happy about them being invited to his home with the expectation that he be company to them. Once Eustace starts liking the Pevenses, and is away from his parents, he can "become" a likable character and be "saved".

Leum said...

My favorite book in the series was The Horse and His Boy, with Dawn Treader a close second. I've never been a fan of the "forced into awesome fantasy land then forced to leave" subgenre of fantasy, which is why DT loses out to HAHB*. As I recall, I kinda enjoyed Lewis' rants about the evils of liberalism in DT and Silver Chair as I found them amusing, sorta like listening to Grandpa Simpson. Despite being a vegetarian, going to an alternative school, believing smoking was awful, etc I don't think I took Lewis' criticisms personally; they were too absurd for that.

*I also didn't recognize the epic levels of racism when I read HAHB. If I were re-evaluating the books that would probably knock it down at least a notch.

Ana Mardoll said...

I believe it to be a reference to children in communist countries, too. I found links saying that the Scrubb's were reading communist propaganda, though I can't link to them from bed.

Also: I don't think Lewis would be against colonialism.

Thomas Keyton said...

I think when I was a kid I focused mainly on the fact that Eustace was (allegedly) a bully and disliked him because Edmund and Lucy did, and I liked them (critical reading skills: I did not have them). The rest of it, though, I definitely remember thinking "okay, why is this here? how is it relevant to why I should dislike him?" (IIRC, one of the terrible horrible things about his school in SC is that it was coeducational, at which point I definitely figured out that Lewis and I were operating from very different starting premises.)

depizan said...

I automatically gloss the whole thing as a colonialist enterprise: these "model schools" are the ones Britain is building in other countries to teach them the Right (read: British) Way of Doing Things.

That seems more likely, but - to continue the exercise in filling in the blanks - I assumed it was a swipe at Communist countries, or the fact that the sort of people Lewis seems to be dissing would like Communist countries. I suspect that's a very American assumption I'm making.

Ana Mardoll said...

The problem is that what Lewis actually says seems to disparage

The Problem of Eustace in a nutshell, I think. We could talk for years about what Lewis might have "meant" and how it could be interpreted in a more kindly way, but when you take his actual words without the apologetics, we're left with a serious problem.

ETA: I'm also a little cynical about an Author of Fairytales talking about how children need to Read More Fairytales, ha.

Steve Morrison said...

Re the story format: this is essentially an Old Irish form called an immram, a voyage from island to island on the way to an otherworld; Wikipedia has an article which I'm unable to link because Disqus. (Disqus is the Jasper of commenting software.)
Re the portrayal of the Scrubbs: last year Mari Ness did a readthrough of the Narnia books on Tor blogs. When the topic of the Scrubbs came up in the entry on VDT, someone pointed out that the Scrubbs were probably based on the Sandals from E. Nesbit's books (it's comment #8 on that page; if someone else could link it I'd be much obliged).

Ana Mardoll said...

Ironically, the trope of the annoying latte liberal is so common they don't really need to be based on anything. I'm reading Pratchett's Hogfather, and what do I see but Eustace Scrubb in the middle of the book. Yet I doubt the similarities were an intentional homage.

Though, of course, Lewis did enjoy imitation, so it wouldn't surprise me. But it doesn't make the characterization less problematic in my view.

depizan said...

tended to have no qualms about telling my ten-year-old self that whatever notions I might have picked up from my own parents were quite wrong.

Which is exactly the same thing Lewis is doing here.

Lewis may intend to trash people for "suffocating self-righteousness and Strong Ideas" but by using the ideas themselves as the bad thing, he's also trashing everyone else who subscribes to those ideas, whether or not they, too, are assholes.

Which is why it's bad to use this kind of shorthand. It's a classic case of doing exactly what one hates, but to the other side.

depizan said...

Whereas, Lewis would've lost me as a reader on page one. I grew up in a vegetarian, non-smoking household, called my parents by their first names, and was interested in science. Needless to say, as a kid (and even now), I wasn't much on reading books that started off by telling me that I was bad and wrong for those things.

I don't doubt that there are asshole vegetarians (there are asshole _anything_s), it still seems like bad practice to shame people for, say, vegetarianism, as opposed to assholery.

Mime_Paradox said...

Choice-auditing, in this context, boils down to implying that liking a specific thing--particularly, things that don't, in and of themselves, cause harm--makes a person immoral or worthy of attack. For example, there are lots of reasons to believe that Twilight is a bad piece of writing. This does not mean that people who like it are inherently bad people, that they shouldn't be allowed to enjoy it, or that they should be attacked or shunned specifically for liking it. Even if there exist people who like it because they believe, then the reason to attack or shun that person is because they believe Edward Cullen presents an example for every man to follow, rather than because they like the book.

In this specific case, the narrative of Dawn Treader is auditing choices when it attacks Eustace before we even meet him, and saying that he'll deserve whatsever coming to him, because he's made life choices the narrator doesn't like, even though these are a) created by the author, and b) pertain to no one but Eustace himself. Sure, one is perfectly free to dislike vegetarians or people who read non-fiction; this doesn't make people who do so bad people, as Lewis implies. least, that's how I understand the concept.

alrightuhhuh said...

Thank you for the explanation! I could tell I was missing something, but I couldn't figure out what.

rikalous said...

Yeah, A Study in Scarlet has evil Mormons in it.

I always took the snipe against Eustace's name as being about the sound of it, rather than the meaning or unfashionability. It just struck me as very non-euphonious.

Anna said...

I like your deconstruction of the first line: I also like it, but have never thought that hard about why I like it, I just think it's a good line. You explained exactly what makes it a good line nicely.

I also enjoy the parallel between the "Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it" line and the line which introduces reformed!Eustace in Silver Chair: "His name unfortunately was Eustace Scrubb, but he wasn't a bad sort"

Marie Brennan said...

None of which, I'm betting, ever goes rancid or moldy or gets weevils in it . . . .

(Historical sailing ships had a lot of those things, too. It's just that on a long voyage, pretty soon the fresh food ran out and they were stuck with biscuits and salt pork. It's been a while since I read VDT, but I don't remember that ever happening to them. Gee, it's nice to be a Narnian.)

Dav said...

Caspian dropped his hardtack into his beer, and bent to the task of scraping off the thick crust of salt and slime covering his meat ration. Beneath, the pork was shimmery bluegreen, the same color as the wings of a particularly fine young Botfly at court. Caspian knocked as many maggots out of the biscuit as he could, and sucked on the softened remains. He was careful not to bite down with his loose teeth, but that didn't stop his gums from bleeding.

Across the table, Eustace doggedly ate the last turnip, skirting the soft rot. "Should have known to separate the apples," he mumbled, but at Caspian's glare, skipped a lecture on ethylene gas and its ripening effects.

The Mouse made his own vitamin C, of course, but no one had agreed when Eustace suggested rationing the fruit for the human crew. Eustace wondered if Reepicheep would be left alone, after scurvy finished them all, or if the Mouse would find a new crew amongst the Albatrosses and Sharks that even now circled the ship.

Photon said...

We immediately know that Eustace Clarence is an unfashionable boy's name,

I always thought the "he almost deserved it" was about his last name. Maybe it is because I read the book in German, where his last name is Knilch (=lout). I'm not sure if Scrubb carries that much of a negative connotation, though.

TheDarkArtist said...

So ... is the young master Scrubb supposed to be a Mormon, possibly? They wear special underwear, they're teetotalers, don't smoke, live humbly, etc. It's not exactly what Mormons do, but it seems like it paints a picture that's supposed to bring to your mind (if you're an American) of Mormons.

Then again, were there Mormons in England when Lewis wrote this? I'd imagine there were and are some British Mormons. I don't know, just a thought. Especially considering the way that many conservative Protestants seem to feel about Mormonism.

redsixwing said...

Why, we can't have Animals on board! Just imagine it - Bears climbing the rigging as if it were their native trees, Eagles in the eagle's nest, Dolphins pointing the way through the tides and acting as emissaries and messengers to the underwater Animals (surely there must be some. Anemones, anyone? Talking Octopodes?) ... that would be -

- oh.

I didn't like Eustace, as a kid, because he seemed like a close cousin to the schoolyard bullies I dealt with on a much-too-regular basis. His parents were distant and sort of strange? Well, my parents were distant and had some habits not typical to my community, and I managed not to turn into a bullying creep when they invited people over, even if they were staying for a while and even if I didn't like them. It meant I avoided them, rather than confronted them, but Eustace's behavior at the beginning of the book really bothered me.

I felt bad for him not liking the food (edit: or not being able to EAT the food, I've had vegetarian friends before who couldn't eat meat without being sick, even just a little bit to flavor other things, which among other things taught me some delightful recipes) and being seasick, though, and his later fate...

I'll just leave this here. I know I've linked it here before, and I probably will again, but...

Eustace. EUSTACE. All the feels.

Edit2: Hm. That may cause a FEELINGSPOST later. Ana, if you prefer, I'll keep it to myself.

Ymfon Tviergh said...

[i] Why, we can't have Animals on board! Just imagine it - Bears climbing the rigging as if it were their native trees, Eagles in the eagle's nest, Dolphins pointing the way through the tides and acting as emissaries and messengers to the underwater Animals (surely there must be some. Anemones, anyone? Talking Octopodes?) ... that would be -

- oh.[/i]

I. Can. Not. BELIEVE I've never noticed this before! Someone really needs to write that version of the story, preferably set in Chris' hypotetical Narniaverse with the Bacteria and Mitochondria.

Maggie said...

I get a no-true-Brit feeling from the disdain of Eustace. The Pevensies are athletic, jolly good, short-pants-wearing Britons. The right kind! Eustace is a weirdo with ~open windows~ in his house.

I never liked him aside from that (which I imagine I just glossed over as a kid because I didn't understand what the problem with open windows, etc, would be), getting the impression that the whole family was a humourless, joyless bunch. Kinda like the Dursleys I suppose.

Incidentally, this was my favourite as well.

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