This was a rather interesting read. I wasn’t aware of the “problem of Susan” concept, but now I’ll be on the lookout for it while reading, especially writing articles. I’m glad to see though that I’m not the only one who was bothered by C.S. Lewis’ handling of one of his female protagonists.
As a teen I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian for school after having seen the first movie adaptation. And to be honest, this is one of the few series where I enjoy the movies more than the books. Besides that the written originals were somewhat dull, they did have several anti-female lines that, quite frankly, ruined the magic. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone who understands that the books are heavy in their Christian allegory.
This apparent tension between the story Lewis told (or didn’t really tell, in this case) and what his readers wanted from the story highlights an age old question every writer must think on at some point: to give the audience what they want, or tell the story he feels needs to be told?
Anyone who has read and loved C S Lewis’ Narnia books may have encountered what is usually referred to in literary circles today as ‘the problem of Susan’. Susan was the only one of the four Pevensie siblings who survived the train wreck (because she was not on the train or at the station) on Earth which sent the others to Narnia after The Last Battle. In that final book of the series, Susan is conspicuous by her absence. Why? Because, as Peter says, she is “no longer a friend of Narnia” and she is described, perhaps rather uncharitably, by Jill Pole as “interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations”. Several people who are otherwise fans of the Narnia books have a big problem with Susan’s fate. Notably, Harry Potter author J K Rowling once commented: “There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes…
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