I’m still skeptical. A secret thematic organizing principle for the Chronicles of Narnia?
But I’m open, and I’m listening.
Michael Ward’s opening arguments can be summarized as follows:
- I know that charlatans, ne’er-do-wells, and cranks love to write about Lewis, but I promise I’m not one of them! (His careful style and broad footnoting have persuaded me that he’s telling the truth.)
- Many other sound literary critics have proposed different underlying themes for the Narniad, including Christology and the seven deadly sins. Perhaps they’re on to something.
- Lewis was known to be secretive and even playfully misleading. It should be no surprise, then, that he might hide a major theme in the Narniad. Per George MacDonald, an artist who has to write, “THIS IS A HORSE” underneath a picture he’s drawn is no artist.
Ward spends a lot of time on number three, and interestingly, his first chapter is called “Silence.” Indeed, his argument is partly, by necessity, one from silence. For example, Ward (no relation) must deal with one of the most famous quotations Lewis gave about Narnia, namely that it all started with an image of a faun in a wood (and, ergo, not as a planned septet). Several times I found myself reacting to a claim by Ward with, “Hmm… That could go either way.”
I plan to read the rest of his book to see whether or not it will indeed go his way.