Study Guide

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Contrasting Regions: Narnia and England

By C.S. Lewis

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Contrasting Regions: Narnia and England

Narnian time flows differently from ours. If you spent a hundred years in Narnia, you would still come back to our world at the very same hour of the very same day on which you left. And then, if you went back to Narnia after spending a week here, you might find that a thousand Narnian years had passed, or only a day, or no time at all. You never know till you get there. Consequently, when the Pevensie children had returned to Narnia last time for their second visit, it was (for the Narnians) as if King Arthur came back to Britain as some people say he will. And I say the sooner the better. (1.35)

Our narrator seems to be implying that a revival of medieval heroism is just what 20th-century Britain needs to counteract the after-effects of World War II.

Eustace of course would be pleased with nothing, and kept on boasting about liners and motor-boats and aeroplanes and submarines ("As if he knew anything about them," muttered Edmund), but the other two were delighted with the Dawn Treader, and when they turned aft to the cabin and supper, and saw the whole western sky lit up with an immense crimson sunset, and felt the quiver of the ship, and tasted the salt on their lips, and thought of unknown lands on the eastern rim of the world, Lucy felt that she was almost too happy to speak. (2.53)

Eustace connects his identity with the technological advancement of his own world and its point in history. However, as Edmund observes, Eustace didn't create any of the devices he feels so invested in. Eustace invests his self-worth in something outside himself rather than really getting to know himself and his own nature.

It's madness to come out into the sea in a rotten little thing like this. Not much bigger than a lifeboat. And, of course, absolutely primitive indoors. No proper saloon, no radio, no bathrooms, no deck-chairs. I was dragged all over it yesterday evening and it would make anyone sick to hear Caspian show off his funny little toy boat as if it was the Queen Mary. I tried to tell him what real ships are like, but he's too dense. (2.55)

In Eustace's opinion, things aren't "real" unless they are the biggest and the best of their kind. It must be hard to accept the fact that he himself isn't as big or as good at things as Caspian or Edmund. We also notice that Eustace seems to have trouble distinguishing between meaningful technological advances that really change the way life is lived (such as bathrooms) and unimportant creature comforts (such as deck chairs).

They call him a King. I said I was a Republican but he had to ask me what that meant! He doesn't seem to know anything at all. (2.55)

Narnia is an unashamedly monarchical world: what the king says goes. There's no voting in Narnia, and no sense that representative democracy is desirable or necessary. As much as we like Caspian, we still like to vote on things, too… (By the way, here "Republican" means someone who is in favor of government being a republic instead of a monarchy where a king or queen rules.)

Needless to say I've been put in the worst cabin of the boat, a perfect dungeon, and Lucy has been given a whole room on deck to herself, almost a nice room compared with the rest of this place. C. says that's because she's a girl. I tried to make him see what Alberta says, that all that sort of thing is really lowering girls but he was too dense. (2.55)

Eustace and his progressive parents believe in gender equality – which, in their view, means no chivalry, like giving Lucy a bigger, nicer cabin because she is supposedly more delicate than the men around her. The problem, however, is that Eustace doesn't really think Lucy should be accorded the same rights and responsibilities as the men around her. He's just jealous that she has a nicer cabin on the ship than he does.

"In a civilized country like where I come from," said Eustace, "the ships are so big that when you're inside you wouldn't know you were at sea at all."

"In that case you might just as well stay ashore," said Caspian. (3.16-17)

The Narnians appreciate that a little hardship can be good for the soul. Perhaps in our world we're too concerned about making things comfy while we're traveling and not concerned enough about making a real difference when we get where we're going.

Eustace (unlike most boys) had never thought much of treasure but he saw at once the use it would be in this new world which he had so foolishly stumbled into through the picture in Lucy's bedroom at home. "They don't have any tax here," he said. "And you don't have to give treasure to the government. With some of this stuff I could have quite a decent time here – perhaps in Calormen. It sounds the least phoney of these countries." (6.13)

Eustace may object to many of the customs and manners of Narnia, but he immediately sees a loophole in the way things are run that might enable him to take advantage.

"Machinery!" said Eustace. "I do believe we've come to a civilised country at last." (9.20)

For Eustace, civilization means technology. For the Narnians, it means adhering to a certain code of behavior.

"Do you mean to say," asked Caspian, "that you three come from a round world (round like a ball) and you've never told me! It's really too bad for you. Because we have fairy-tales in which there are round worlds and I always loved them. I never believed there were any real ones. But I've always wished there were and I've always longed to live in one. Oh, I'd give anything – I wonder why you can get into our world and we never get into yours? If only I had the chance!" (15.58)

Looked at from a Narnian perspective, our world is just as fantastic and amazing as Narnia seems to us.

"Dearest," said Aslan very gently, "you and your brother will never come back to Narnia."

"Oh, Aslan!" said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.

"You are too old, children," said Aslan, "and you must begin to come close to your own world now." (16.70-72)

While they are children Lucy and Edmund have a malleability that will allow them to visit and participate in different worlds. As adults, they are required to "specialize," becoming good citizens of one world in particular.

"But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there." (16.76)

Narnia serves an important function in the spiritual development of the Pevensie children.

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