Study Guide

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Fate and Free Will

By C.S. Lewis

Fate and Free Will

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. (1.1)

Eustace's unpleasant name seems to reflect his unpleasant personality, even though he was named before his personality developed.

"I do not know what it means. But the spell of it has been on me all my life." (2.23)

We find it a little irritating that Reepicheep has been living with a prophecy all this time and didn't think to mention it once in the previous book, Prince Caspian.

"Did you know I was there all the time?"

"Well, of course I knew when I let the Duffers make themselves invisible that you would be coming along presently to take the spell off. I wasn't quite sure of the exact day." (11.11-12)

As a magician, Coriarkin has a general sense of things that are fated to happen in the future, but he doesn't know exactly how they will come about.

"Oh dear," said Lucy. "Have I spoiled everything? Do you mean we would have gone on being friends if it hadn't been for this – and been really great friends – all our lives perhaps – and now we never shall."

"Child," said Aslan, "did I not explain to you once before that no one is ever told what would have happened?" (10.50-51)

We suspect that Aslan can't tell Lucy (or anyone else) "what would have happened" because there is no such thing. Even though Lucy and the others make their own choices in life, Aslan knows what they're going to do, so there's only one possible future. It's a classic case of free will and predestination coming together – they seem to conflict, and yet Aslan makes them work together.

"Can't again," said Caspian. "What do you mean?"

"If it please your Majesty, we mean shall not," said Reepicheep with a very low bow. "You are the King of Narnia. You break faith with all your subjects, and especially with Trumpkin, if you do not return. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person. And if your Majesty will not hear reason, it will be the truest loyalty of every man on board to follow me in disarming and binding you till you come to your senses." (16.37-38)

Caspian's "fate" is his role. His responsibilities as King of Narnia circumscribe his possible actions and lock him in to one particular way of living. In some ways, he is the least free of anyone in the book.

"It's no good," he said. "I might as well have behaved decently for all the good I did with my temper and swagger. Aslan has spoken to me. [. . .] It was terrible – his eyes. Not that he was at all rough with me – only a bit stern at first. But it was terrible all the same. And he said – he said – oh, I can't bear it. The worst thing he could have said. You're to go on – Reep and Edmund, and Lucy, and Eustace; and I'm to go back. Alone. And at once. And what is the good of anything?" (16.48)

When Caspian resists the ordering of events that Aslan has intended, Aslan steps in and gives him direct and specific instructions. We sort of think this is cheating: shouldn't Aslan be leading Caspian toward the right decisions with gentle suggestions? Maybe this is a small flaw in the novel's plot.

They did not even try to stop him, for everything now felt as if it had been fated or had happened before. (16.56)

Is there a difference between feeling like something is "fated" to happen and feeling like it has already happened? Is déjà vu like destiny?

The children got out of the boat and waded – not towards the wave but southward with the wall of water on their left. They could not have told you why they did this; it was their fate. (16.58)

Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace just know what to do when they get to the eastern edge of the world. Maybe being that close to Aslan's country has sharpened their intuition.

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