The Great Divorce

31 October 2006

C.S. Lewis’ very short book, The Great Divorce is a fictional work that follows the journey of a group of people in Hell who take a trip to Heaven. Like his Screwtape Letters, this book provides some excellent insights into the psychology of humankind.

During this trip to Heaven, the inhabitants of Hell are given a chance to repent and enter the kingdom of God. Each person upon arrival is eventually greeted by a person from Heaven who tries to convince the unrepentant to receive salvation. It is almost painful to read as these inhabitants of Hell steadfastly refuse to repent. It is painful to see the characters accept Hell and reject Heaven, but it is even more painful because it is easy for us to see our own flaws represented by these unrepentant people.

Lewis’ construction of Hell as a place where the unrepentant wander around and never achieve satisfaction or fulfillment is conspicuously lacking searing flames and torturing demons. And although Lewis may not have meant for The Great Divorce to be a systematic description of the nature of Heaven and Hell, I think that he is certainly on to something. The vision of Hell found in this book is, I think, closer to the reality of Hell than the traditional Dante-esque version of torture and pain. But the primary accomplishment of The Great Divorce is that it shows us the psychology of unbelief, even when manifested in ourselves.

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