The Great Divorce

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The Great Divorce is a work of fantasy by C. S. Lewis that is complementary to Lewis' earlier book The Screwtape Letters.

The working title was Who Goes Home? but the real name was changed at the publisher's insistence. The title refers to William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The Great Divorce was first printed as a serial in a religious publication called The Guardian (not connected to the modern British newspaper of the same name) in 1944 and 1945, and soon thereafter in book form.

Contents

Sources

C. S. Lewis's diverse sources for this work include the works of St. Augustine, Dante Aligheri, John Milton, John Bunyan, Emanuel Swedenborg and Lewis Carroll as well as the American science-fiction author C.S. Lewis mentions in his preface whose name he had forgotten. George MacDonald, whom Lewis utilizes as a character in the story, Dante, Prudentius and Jeremy Taylor are alluded to in the text of chapter 9. The works of Aristotle appear to be alluded to negatively in chapter 1 as being the sort of books sold in the bookstores of the "grey town."

Plot summary

The narrator inexplicably finds himself in a grim and joyless city (the "grey town", which is either hell or purgatory depending on how long one stays there). He eventually finds a bus for those who desire an excursion to some other place (and which eventually turns out to be the foothills of heaven). He enters the bus and converses with his fellow passengers as they travel. When the bus reaches its destination, the "people" on the bus — including the narrator — are gradually revealed to be ghosts. Although the country is the most beautiful they have ever seen, every feature of the landscape (including streams of water and blades of grass) is unyieldingly solid compared to themselves: it causes them immense pain to walk on the grass, and even a single leaf is far too heavy for any of them to lift.

Shining figures, men and women whom they have known on earth, come to meet them, and to urge them to repent and enter heaven proper. They promise that as the ghosts travel onward and upward, they will become more solid and thus feel no discomfort. These figures, called "spirits" to distinguish them from the ghosts, offer to assist them in the journey toward the mountains and the sunrise.

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