Narnia Recap: In which Caspian, Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Reepicheep are captured by slavers.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 3: The Lone Islands
When we last left our boy-king, he and his companions had been captured into slavery. Caspian had been bought by an older (and apparently very privileged) man who had the good grace to disapprove of slavery, but not so much good grace that he didn't feel the need to not repeatedly taunt a slaver who was fully capable of going back to his ship and taking out his frustrations in the form of abuse on his captives. If you all recall, I thought that was a really stellar way to be above the whole slavery thing. Rock on, Privileged Guy!
Meanwhile, Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Reepicheep were hauled back to the slave ship where they saw no one they knew and spent the evening trying to convince Eustace that their Majesties weren't at least partially responsible for the situation, despite the fact that they kind of are by virtue of not warning him that there were known pirate ships prowling in the area and not taking an armed guard with them on their pleasure walk. But, you know, fuck Eustace and whatnot.
But none of the slavery stuff really matters, and it's not as though it's likely to affect the attitudes and outlooks of any of the three children or the chivalric Talking Animal in any way whatsoever, so we therefore don't spend much time on it because we don't really care about the children and the Mouse! Well, I mean, we the readers do -- or, at least, some of us do -- but Lewis and Caspian don't. Lewis presumably doesn't care much about them because, as the author, he knows they are going to be alright and therefore doesn't feel the need to spend a lot of time bothering the child reader about the horrors of slavery. And, for the record, I have mixed feelings about that.
On the one hand, I understand wanting to include slavery in Narnia -- as I also understanding wanting to include a lot of the problematic things in Narnia, including the Othering and the Orientalism -- because we have a lot of cultural narratives that treat fictional-slavery as a fun and exciting adventure to experience and/or be rescued from. The fact that this fictional-slavery is almost always nothing close to resembling actual-slavery is an escapist feature, not a bug. And I tend to try not to hammer too hard on escapism, because it is after all okay to enjoy problematic art.
Yet slavery escapism tends to be a bit of a different kettle of fish than some of the other escapism tropes. Yes, many people legitimately feel trapped in their daily life, and slavery escapism can be a way of throwing that trapped feeling into a sharper contrast -- you're no longer (for example) merely a 'wage slave' or a 'slave' to the whims of [insert one or more: employer / family / spouse / community / church], you're now an actual slave. And you can break out of that slavery through a daring rescue or an exciting escape! But by obscuring the harsh realities of slavery in that escapist fantasy, there's a very real danger of obscuring the actual reality of slavery that real people experience. And I use the present tense there, experience, because slavery is still with us. And that was true in Lewis' day as well.
C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia between 1949 and 1954, or in other words, 4 to 9 years after the end of World War II. During the war, slave labor made up a full quarter of Germany's work force. German plans for an invasion of Britain intended that all "the able-bodied male population between the ages of 17 and 45" should be deported from Britain back to Germany to serve as slaves. And millions of Jews were worked to death in concentration camps:
Millions of Jews were forced labourers in ghettos, before they were shipped off to extermination camps. The Nazis also operated concentration camps, some of which provided free forced labour for industrial and other jobs while others existed purely for the extermination of their inmates.
To mislead the victims, at the entrances to a number of camps the lie "work brings freedom" ("arbeit macht frei") was placed, to encourage the false impression that cooperation would earn release. A notable example of labour-concentration camp is the Mittelbau-Dora labour camp complex that serviced the production of the V-2 rocket.
Extermination through labour was a Nazi German World War II principle that regulated the aims and purposes of most of their labour and concentration camps. The rule demanded that the inmates of German World War II camps be forced to work for the German war industry with only basic tools and minimal food rations until totally exhausted.
It seems unlikely to me that C.S. Lewis could have been unaware that the Germans were using brutal slave labor during the war. In 1942, he published "The Screwtape Letters", and referenced the "concentration camps and labour camps" in the preface:
I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.
In 1948, he again referenced the Holocaust and "slave camps" (albeit Russian ones this time) in a political essay titled "Willing Slaves of the Welfare State". But -- as you can probably tell from the title -- Lewis' view of slavery and the Holocaust seems not to have deepened in the intervening years such that he might have felt that the enslavement and mass-murder of his fellow human beings was so serious that it shouldn't be used as a metaphor on the evils of social welfare and robust mental health services.
This particular essay reminds me strongly of all those modern American essays where male writers helpfully compare "paying taxes" to "rape". Because things like rape and slavery always make very good metaphors indeed! As does the Holocaust itself! If you can make a metaphor out of the Holocaust to support your point, then you win all the arguments forever. In an passage concerning how the state should treat mentally ill criminals -- incarcerate them with the general population or try to provide them with mental health care? -- Lewis invokes the deaths of millions of Jews while helpfully noting that while the metaphor is apt it will probably seem "shocking". (Helpful note to writers: Sometimes your gut is doing its job by telling you these things! The thing to do in these cases is to listen to your gut, backspace over what you wrote, and find a new metaphor.)
The second is the changed relation between Government and subjects. Sir Charles mentions our new attitude to crime. I will mention the trainloads of Jews delivered at the German gas-chambers. It seems shocking to suggest a common element, but I think one exists. On the humanitarian view all crime is pathological; it demands not retributive punishment but cure. This separates the criminal's treatment from the concepts of justice and desert; a 'just cure' is meaningless.
On the old view public opinion might protest against a punishment (it protested against our old penal code) as excessive, more than the man 'deserved'; an ethical question on which anyone might have an opinion. But a remedial treatment can be judged only by the probability of its success; a technical question on which only experts can speak.
Thus the criminal ceases to be a person, a subject of rights and duties, and becomes merely an object on which society can work. And this is, in principle, how Hitler treated the Jews. They were objects; killed not for ill desert but because, on his theories, they were a disease in society. If society can mend, remake, and unmake men at its pleasure, its pleasure may, of course, be humane or homicidal. The difference is important. But, either way, rulers have become owners. Observe how the 'humane' attitude to crime could operate. If crimes are diseases, why should diseases be treated differently from crimes? And who but the experts can define disease? One school of psychology regards my religion as a neurosis. If this neurosis ever becomes inconvenient to Government, what is to prevent my being subjected to a compulsory 'cure'? It may be painful; treatments sometimes are. But it will be no use asking, 'What have I done to deserve this?' The Straightener will reply: 'But, my dear fellow, no one's blaming you. We no longer believe in retributive justice. We're healing you.' [emphasis mine]
Is that not a great article? I think it is. I think it is the best article ever. I like all the things about it. I like the fact that the author carefully elides the fact that the belief that some criminals are mentally ill and not culpable for their actions doesn't mean that those same humanitarians automatically believe that all criminals are mentally ill and not culpable for their actions.
I also like the question "If crimes are diseases, why should diseases be treated differently from crimes?" which very awesomely obscures the fact that mentally ill criminals aren't charged with crimes simply because they are mentally ill; they're criminals because they committed a crime. It was only during the subsequent investigation, arrest, and trial that it was determined that they committed the crime because they are mentally ill. This is an especially awesome question coming from an apologist who is famously known for limiting the potential answers to an open-ended question in an attempt to force the listener to conveniently select only one choice of three.
Almost-most-of-all (but not quite!) do I like the fact that legal considerations on the subject of mentally ill criminals have been around since at least the code of Hammurabi, and are not some new-fangled liberalism dystopia nightmare that the evil feminists (or vegetarians!) came up with merely in order to persecute the good God-fearing Christians with 1984-esque mind-control designed to wash the fear of God out of their godly systems against their will. I do so much love me a good Privileged Persecution Complex!
But I cannot love the privileged persecution complex most of all because what I actually love most of all is that a Christian man decided that the best way to illustrate his privileged persecution complex was to invoke, as a metaphorical demonstration of how easy it is to persecute Christians, the genocide of non-Christian peoples living in a country where the majority of citizens were Christians and led by a man who was raised in a Christian family and professed Christian beliefs in public as justification for murdering the non-Christians who had supposedly been responsible for the death of Christ. All that is a very clear and compelling example of how the Christians are just a day or two away from being rounded up themselves, just like the non-Christians were. Metaphor accomplished!
All of which is a long -- very long, and very depressing -- way of saying that slavery and genocide are not just cute little metaphors. They are horrible, terrible things, and using them as metaphors for things which are either not-horrible-at-all (in the case of Cozy Slavery and Welfare Slavery) or not-very-likely-to-happen (in the case of the impending incarceration of all Christians in a world where the majority of world leaders profess a faith in God) is not a good idea for about a dozen different reasons.
And while I understand the impulse to use slavery as a metaphor, or to include it as a cozy little side-adventure in a children's book, I am on the side of GeniusLemur's opinion that "If your readers would find slavery as it really is too upsetting to take, don't include it". Nevertheless, it's here and we're going to have to deal with Cozy Slavery -- and Caspian's reaction to it.
Caspian's almost total unconcern for his friends -- which we will come to in text in a minute -- seems disconcertingly odd. Barring Bad Writing and a Direct Line To The Author (which I reserve the right to do, both here and in Twilight, because answers like "because S. Meyer told Bella it would all work out okay" would effectively stop all further Twilight deconstructions), we are once again faced with a number of contradictory and not-very-complimentary possible characterizations for King Caspian. These include (but are probably not limited to):
1. Caspian is so self-centered that he just plain doesn't care if Lucy et. al. are being hurt by slavers. This interpretation would make Caspian so callous and unfeeling that he seems like the last possible person who could be deemed a good ruler by the local reigning deity. But, then again, that local deity is Aslan.
2. Caspian is so easily distractable that he cannot remember enough to care that Lucy et. al. are being hurt by slavers. This interpretation would make Caspian less of an unfeeling bastard, but probably no less of a bad ruler. But, then again, Aslan has a bad track record when it comes to distractability as well.
3. Caspian realizes -- subconsciously or consciously -- that he cannot help Lucy et. al. at the moment, and thus does not dwell on the idea that they are being hurt by slavers. This is plausible, and fairly not-assholish, but then again it doesn't seem to ring true for me in the narrative. Caspian doesn't shove his worries aside by staying busy with battle plans; he spends the evening having a pleasant family dinner. It feels like the company of new friends would make it hard not to reflect on the fresh and recent loss of old friends.
4. Caspian believes the slavery to which Lucy et. al. are being subjected to be Cozy not because of a Direct Line To The Author (which we have excluded from consideration), but because he genuinely does not understand what slavery entails. This is perhaps possible: Caspian was a favored son of privilege, and even under the care of his brutal Uncle Miraz he was still pampered as the heir. Yet Caspian has had three full years to hear and reflect on the torments suffered by the Old Narnians, and he must have been involved in adjudicating between wronged Old Narnians and Telmarines, including those Telmarines who left on the Coronation Day Massacre, since restitution would need to be paid to the Old Narnians from the goods the Telmarines left behind. Caspian should possess a minimum of awareness of the horrors that people can inflict on the powerless.
5. Caspian believes the slavery to which Lucy et. al. are being subjected to be Cozy not because of a Direct Line To The Author, but because he thinks that slaves are too valuable to mistreat. This explanation I include only to immediately reject; Caspian has demonstrated that he doesn't consider the value of things in his use or misuse of them by virtue of the fact that he brought Lucy's cordial on a voyage from which he is not reasonably expected to return, and on a ship which he staffed entirely with newly-minted Telmarine "sailors" rather than hiring a few seasoned Galmian sailors, apparently because of national pride.
Anyway, for whatever reason, Caspian is able to soldier on remarkably well in the face of adversity:
Meanwhile Caspian was having a much more interesting time. [...]
“You needn’t be afraid of me, boy,” he said. “I’ll treat you well. I bought you for your face. You reminded me of someone.”
“May I ask of whom, my Lord?” said Caspian.
“You remind me of my master, King Caspian of Narnia.”
I'm not sure what I like most about this exchange: (a) the fact that Lord Bern has enough money to buy slaves on silly whims like this while yet claiming poverty when a crying Lucy begs that they not be separated, or (b) the fact that Lord Bern claims to despise slavery yet doesn't seem to intend to release this boy that he bought based on his pretty face -- either legally through whatever process allowed for by the island government or illegally by smuggling the boy to wherever he might choose to go.
Lord Bern doesn't say anything about freeing Caspian and keeping him on as a paid servant should he so desire, even though that would seem to be a better "fear not" opening than a bland statement of well-treatment. (And considering that a great many masters think of themselves as Tough But Fair and hold out a carrot -- "do good work and I'll be good to you" -- before a stick. That doesn't make their self-assessment correct.)
I kind of think that Bern genuinely doesn't intend to release the boy -- to do so would run the risk that Caspian might want to go back home to his family on the island, and Lord Bern would be out the purchase price for his shiny new slave. Instead he just says he will "treat him well", presumably as his master. So it's nice to see that Lord Bern is not just a privileged asshole, he's also a hypocrite.
And I am not entirely sure that Lewis himself doesn't seem to get that. I think we're supposed (at this point in the narrative) to take Bern as a genuinely good guy who really can't afford to buy a whole parcel of slaves. This is narratively convenient since the separation of Lucy et. al. from Caspian heightens dramatic tension and forces Caspian to stay and fix everything (rather than just leave then and there), but I think it's also intended to highlight Bern's virtue for spending more than he can afford to buy from a Bad Slavery into a Good Slavery the boy who looks like his dear old friend. Isn't that nice?
But the thing is, I don't think it's nice to buy a slave from Bad Slavery into Good Slavery and then keep them as a slave. Not even if it's to recoup some of the money you couldn't afford to spend by parlaying it into free labor. Owning slaves, no matter how good and nice a master you are, makes you a slave-owner. And, in the same way that one cannot be Nice and a Rapist, one cannot be Nice and willingly a Slave-Owner. Both involve transgressing the human right to choice in order to invoke ownership over someone else's person, and hostility to choice is anathema to any claim of real and genuine niceness.
“My Lord,” he said, “I am your master. I am Caspian, King of Narnia.”
“You make very free,” said the other. “How shall I know this is true?”
“Firstly by my face,” said Caspian. “Secondly because I know within six guesses who you are. You are one of those seven lords of Narnia whom my Uncle Miraz sent to sea and whom I have come out to look for—Argoz, Bern, Octesian, Restimar, Mavramorn, or—or—I have forgotten the others. And finally, if your Lordship will give me a sword I will prove on any man’s body in clean battle that I am Caspian the son of Caspian, lawful King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Emperor of the Lone Islands.”
“By heaven,” exclaimed the man, “it is his father’s very voice and trick of speech. My liege—your Majesty—” And there in the field he knelt and kissed the King’s hand.
“The moneys your Lordship disbursed for our person will be made good from our own treasury,” said Caspian.
And the two things I like best about this passage is that (a) Caspian is willing to brashly undergo trial by combat in a situation where, were he to die, no one back home would ever know what happened to Lucy et. al. and they would be trapped in slavery forever and (b) Caspian's first and immediate concern after having the whole slave-or-king thing settled is not "how can I save my friends", but rather a statement of reimbursement for Lord Bern.
Which just makes Lewis' earlier quote about boardrooms being the place where greatest evil occurs, more so than in the lesser evil concentration camps, that much more what-the-fuckery. Because as much as I deplore the metaphor and as much as I bristle at the idea of measuring which of a series of places and situations is objectively 'more evil' (with the inevitable result that victims will be invisibled in the process), I can certainly sympathize with the idea that leaders and owners of corporations sometimes do Very Bad Things. Sure.
But then you get stuff like this where Good Guy 1 is a no-kidding slave-owner (because you wouldn't want him to take a loss on that transaction would you?) and Good Guy 2 is more interested in making sure that said loss on transaction is taken care of before they get to the bit about saving his friends' lives, and these are supposed to be good guys yet they are embodying that very same corporate mentality that commodifies people in service to profit.
“They’re not in Pug’s purse yet, Sire,” said the Lord Bern, for he it was. “And never will be, I trust. I have moved His Sufficiency the Governor a hundred times to crush this vile traffic in man’s flesh.”
And this just makes no sense. The money isn't in Pug's purse because ... why? Does Bern have a line of credit open with the pirate? Lord Bern who deplores slavery has a line of credit open to the local slaver? The same pirate-slaver who Bern verbally abuses and openly scorns, and who has no reason to trust that Bern will pay up when he comes back to collect unless he knows from experience and has sold to Bern before?
“My Lord Bern,” said Caspian, “we must talk of the state of these Islands. But first what is your Lordship’s own story?”
“Short enough, Sire,” said Bern. “I came thus far with my six fellows, loved a girl of the islands, and felt I had had enough of the sea. And there was no purpose in returning to Narnia while your Majesty’s uncle held the reins. So I married and have lived here ever since.”
1. Reimburse Lord Bern for money lost.
2. Query Lord Bern about what he's been up to for the past decade.
3. Rescue friends.
I want to give Caspian credit here, to assume that he's trying to ingratiate himself with Bern in order to get as much help as possible to aid his friends. And yet, if that were his aim, he could have been a little less brash in his whole bring-me-a-sword-so-I-may-slay-thee routine. Yes, it panned out, but it was a risk: he might have seriously have alienated Bern. And I want also to acknowledge that this is very likely just another product of Bad Writing: Lewis wanted to work in Bern's backstory as soon as possible so that he could forget about it; now it's done and he can check that off the list.
But I just can't do either, because I'm looking at patterns and not at individual instances. There's a point at which I have to acknowledge that Caspian doesn't spare a moment of worry or thought for his friends until the final paragraph in this chapter -- and even then, only to excuse himself for not worrying pretty much at all. Sure, it could be Bad Writing. But it could also be Bad Philosophy, the idea that words like "slavery" are merely metaphor, nothing more than literary coinage to be spent when making a point. When slavery isn't really real to you, it's easy to treat it as nothing more than a Privilege Pokemon Card to summon in arguments, and it's easy to forget that things like Moneys and Backstory are of far less importance than freedom.
“And what is this governor, this Gumpas, like? Does he still acknowledge the King of Narnia for his lord?”
“In words, yes. All is done in the King’s name. But he would not be best pleased to find a real, live King of Narnia coming in upon him. And if your Majesty came before him alone and unarmed—well he would not deny his allegiance, but he would pretend to disbelieve you. Your Grace’s life would be in danger. What following has your Majesty in these waters?”
“There is my ship just rounding the point,” said Caspian. “We are about thirty swords if it came to fighting. [...]
After a little more conversation Caspian and Bern walked down to the coast a little west of the village and there Caspian winded his horn. [...] Then the boat put off again and in a few moments Caspian and the Lord Bern were on deck explaining the situation to Drinian. He, just like Caspian, wanted to lay the Dawn Treader alongside the slave-ship at once and board her, but Bern made the same objection.
(It's not Susan's horn. I cut that explanation because it was long, but basically: Trumpkin has it.)
So ... thoughts. One is that, again, this sort of situation should have been foreseen way in advance of this emergency. The local regent hasn't had contact with the "King of Narnia" in approximately one thousand years because the "King of Narnia" hasn't existed for approximately one thousand years. The Telmarines -- and their King Caspian the First -- killed him off, assuming a king even existed after the Pevensies popped back into England. King Caspian the First could be considered the King of Narnia in the sense that he conquered the area and wiped out nearly all the Narnians, but that's a debatable point of verbiage that Caspian should have expected his territories to debate. Especially since, due to the Telmarine avoidance of the sea, no diplomatic relations between Telmarine-occupied Narnia and the Lone Islands have apparently ever been conducted.
So Caspian walking into the Lone Islands and saying 'sup, I'm the king around here was always going to have to be handled with great tact and grace, especially if Caspian only brought thirty swords along with him. He is Aragorn walking into Gondor, and someone -- anyone -- should have already pointed out long ago that this situation was going to be both dangerous and fraught. Yet apparently no one did.
“Steer straight down this channel, captain,” said Bern, “and then round to Avra where my own estates are. But first run up the King’s banner, hang out all the shields, and send as many men to the fighting-top as you can. And about five bowshots hence, when you get open sea on your port bow, run up a few signals.”
“Signals? To whom?” said Drinian.
“Why, to all the other ships we haven’t got but which it might be well that Gumpas thinks we have.”
“Oh, I see,” said Drinian, rubbing his hands. [...]
Caspian was sorry for the others languishing in the hold of Pug’s slave-ship, but he could not help finding the rest of that day enjoyable. Late in the afternoon [...] they entered into a good harbor on Avra’s southern shore where Bern’s pleasant lands sloped down to the water’s edge. Bern’s people, many of whom they saw working in the fields, were all freemen and it was a happy and prosperous fief. Here they all went ashore and were royally feasted in a low, pillared house overlooking the bay. Bern and his gracious wife and merry daughters made them good cheer.
I didn't quote it because the passages were getting unmanageably long, but from the time Caspian blows his horn to here at the end of the chapter, there are three separate parenthetical statements hastily explaining where Susan's horn is and how the ships are maneuvering around and that Lord Bern ordered some mysterious preparations for the following day. (Which are mysterious because clearly Caspian and his scant thirty solders don't need all the information available to them at this time. Surprises on the day of a tense situation are always wonderful things! Wheee!)
Between these parentheticals and a lot of the info-dump at the end here, it seems as though these passages were hastily written and then never properly edited. Caspian has a horn, and it's not Susan's -- yet why did he not blow it when they first saw the unwholesome looking slavers whose countenance the children did not trust? (If Bern hadn't come along, the ship would never have known what happened to them.) Bern has a line of credit with the slaver and didn't immediately offer to free Caspian, but his workers are all happy freemen who just don't want to live elsewhere.
And also, Bern is prosperous -- with acres of land and dozens of happy workers and all the children he could ever want -- because Good People have Good Things, and we can all please forget about Bern pleading poverty for being unable to buy a little girl who could not have been much different in age from his own "merry daughters" and who -- in a non-Cozy world -- would now be facing horrors of abuse and privation while Bern and his family make "good cheer". Because Good People also look the other way when little girls are enslaved, because it's not like you can save the whole world, and you wouldn't want Lord Bern to be poor, would you? It's just like Jesus said: "When I was enslaved, you purchased my freedom. Unless that purchase would have cut into your yearly gross earnings and undermined the stockholder's profits, in which case you purchased my freedom only if I reminded you of your former best friend, but not if I reminded you of your current daughters."
And this is, incidentally, Reason Number #247,890,121,598 why equating Goodness with Prosperity is a really, really bad idea. Theologians can debate for eternity what, precisely, it means in Matthew where Jesus is recorded as having the following interaction:
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
When Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
But if I had to give my opinion, it would be that spiritual perfection is flatly impossible when profit becomes a priority in place of goodness. You can either give your possessions to the poor and risk beggaring yourself in a quest to buy slaves and free them, or you can have prosperous land and happy workers and merry children and make good cheer with your wife while explaining to weeping little girls that you would love to buy her from slavery, really, just as you bought her golden-haired friend on the grounds that he reminded you of your childhood friend, but if you did buy her then the quarter-year profits would suffer. But you can't do both.
What's especially sad is that C.S. Lewis seemed to get this when he was ensnaring his fictional victims in The Screwtape Letters, but apparently got it less so when he was crafting his fictional heroes like King Caspian and his new best friend Lord Bern. Once again we see the all-too-human disconnect between theology and practice.
Moving on. Caspian and Drinian are having fun with their play-battle preparations and the nice tour and good dinner, so it's probably worth mentioning that Caspian "was sorry" even though we've seen no actual evidence of that. And, of course, that he can't help the fun he's been having. Because any time Caspian does something objectionable -- even if the objection is something mild like, I'm sure he's a very nice boy, but I do think it's worth noting that his ancestor slaughtered thousands of innocent Narnians -- the narrative immediately pops up to sternly inform us that not only is Caspian innocent, he can't help these things.
He could not help finding the rest of the day enjoyable. It literally wasn't possible. It wasn't like he chose to have a merry, cheerful dinner with Bern's gracious wife and his lovely not-freckled daughters rather than a solemn, serious dinner while they went over their plans one more time and he prayed on his knees for an hour before an early bedtime that Aslan might spare Lucy et. al. from the worst abuses of slavery. There was no choice in the matter. It couldn't be helped. You're all unreasonable ingrates to suggest otherwise.
And thus are we given a character who never owns his own choices -- for good or ill -- but rather one for which excuse after excuse is made on the grounds that no other way of acting was even possible, let alone desirable.
In the end, it's not so much that Caspian loses himself in pleasure because he has a Direct Line To The Author. Instead it's that we're instructed to ignore Caspian losing himself in pleasure because Lewis tries to invoke a Direct Line To The Reader. We're not given the choice to judge Caspian's actions for himself, because there's no choice available for us to judge -- Caspian just can't help the things he does.