(urth) OT: The Problem of Susan

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Sat Nov 27 16:11:51 PST 2004

Adam -

I too have been travelling & so have a HUGELY full in box & not much
time in which to reply ... but ...

Yes, I did take it as NG's intent that "the Professor" was Susan. I
can't see how the story makes _any_ sense at all otherwise. And
certainly that's the only element that would give it any legitimate
place in a collection of fantasy stories.

> [...] there's nothing in the professor's
> thoughts, as we're shown them, to indicate that she's Susan (I could be
> wrong about this, since it's been a long time since I read the Narnia
> books.) 

I read it thus: The Professor has continued in the line of denial 
that some think is the only meaningful interpretation of the last
we hear of her in _TLB_. Because she still denies Narnia there
would be no such hints in her thoughts.

> And of course, there's the problem of how, if the Narnia books are
> true, did Lewis know about the events in The Last Battle, since all the
> witnesses died without returning to Earth? 

That's pretty much true for all the Narnia books ... nothing in them
suggests that any of the children ever talked to Lewis at all...

> If you do think that the professor is Susan, then your dislike of the story
> is more understandable. While I don't think, as you apparently do, that it
> would be illegitimate for a writer to try and continue Susan's story while
> rejecting Lewis's Christian worldview, I agree that "The Problem of Susan,"
> if read as such, doesn't continue Susan's story in an interesting way.

H'mmmph.  Not what I said. I said 

> Gaiman doesn't deal with the problem of Susan at all; Susan Pevensie
> lived in a particular world where a particular set of things were true, even
> if she came to deny some of them. Gaiman has written about a vaguely
> similar character in a completely different world where those things are
> not true, and so it does not (in my opinion) provide any real conclusion
> to, or even any real commentary upon, "the problem of Susan."

Note that I did not say it would not be acceptable to reject the Christian
worldview in such a sequel - but if you are to reject it, you must 
acknowledge and deal with its influence on what has gone before, not
simply decide that Aslan and the White Witch were lovers with no 
explanation offered at all. (Yeah, yeah, I know, it's a dream sequence.
It's also the most blatant example of what I'm talking about.)

> Of course, if Susan's denying Narnia is not meant to be equivalent 
> to rejecting Jesus, then there is no "problem of Susan." But, as I 
> said before, that doesn't seem to fit with the quotation from Lewis
> you gave earlier. 

To be sure, I agree; and I therefore think that the "problem" at that
level is somewhat exaggerated _to begin with_. Nonetheless, it is
there and is a real problem: but a writer who wants to deal with the
"problem of Susan" needs to deal with the problem in the rules in 
which it was stated (so to speak), or else they're simply waving a
wand and saying "Here's a problem I like better."


"Saddam would still be in power if he were the President
of the United States, and the world would be a lot better off."
     -- The Forty-Third President, 10/8/04

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