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Eustace and I

PostPosted: Sep 03, 2018 4:45 pm
by Col Klink
I love "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" but I think Lewis might have failed at writing part of it. Because I'm supposed to really look down on Eustace but actually I agree with him rather than C.S. Lewis or the other characters.

Eustace was crying much harder than any boy of his age has a right to cry when nothing worse than a wetting has happened to him

I can't stand getting water in my nose or wearing wet clothes. I wouldn't surprised if I started crying under Eustace's circumstances too.

Rynelf returned with the spiced wine steaming in a flago and four silver cups...But Eustace made faces and spluttered and spart it out and was sick again and began to cry again

Both sides of my family can't hold alcohol. It makes us throw up.

E says we mustn't grumble because C himself is sharing it with us himself to make room for L. As if that didn't make it more crowded and far worse,

I'm with Eustace. Sharing a room with three people is a pain! What's so great about sleeping with Caspian? I'd be more impressed by meeting a king than Eustace is but that doesn't mean I want to be cooped up with one for who knows how long. If you take that attitude toward royalty, you'll end up like Ahoshta.

Unlike the crewmembers, Eustace never signed up for a dangerous journey. It's not fair for him to take it out on everyone else but I can't blame him for being on edge. Remember that guy who went overboard in the storm? And while we find out what happened to the seven lords, we never find out about their crew.

So has anything I've said won you over to the (very small) pro-Eustace crowd? Or do you have some counterarguments for me? :)

Re: Eustace and I

PostPosted: Sep 04, 2018 1:07 am
by King_Erlian
The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader was the first Narnia book I read, at the age of 6, and of all the characters the one I felt the most kinship with was Eustace. Academically ahead of most of my peers, but small for my age and physically quite weak, I was the kid who was constantly being bullied (and since I didn't reach my adult height until I was 19, this continued right through high school). I didn't side with or help the bullies but I tended to internalise my rage at them. It was pointless telling adults about it because they would take no notice. And from as far back as I can remember, I was a pacifist - Lewis uses the word as if it were something awful. Though at least I didn't like dead animals pinned to pieces of card.

I thought it was a shame in a way that Eustace's conversion meant that he ended up buying in totally with the Narnian philosophy of (noble) war. It would be interesting to imagine a Eustace who was firmly a Friend of Narnia but who had held onto his pacifist principles.

Re: Eustace and I

PostPosted: Sep 05, 2018 3:47 pm
by aileth
Quite enjoyed that take on the matter, Col. I don't think Lewis wanted his readers to hate Eustace, any more than he wanted us to hate Edmund in LWW. He tells it from Eustace's point of view so that we can sympathize with him, even when we know full well that he is behaving like a reprehensible beast. And we've all known people like that ourselves, (or *gasp* been one.) That's part of what makes this writing resonate so much.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with the individual dislikes you mention: being wet, feeling ill and nauseous, and feeling cramped for space. Even complaining about them is natural. Rather, it is Eustace's aggregate bad attitude that needed to be corrected, most particularly his selfishness. Mind you, if he had only been a little irritating, then the contrast after his undragoning wouldn't have been so dramatic.

All that said, I did like Eustace, even before he changed. But then, I didn't have to live with him in that state, either.

King_Erlian wrote:And from as far back as I can remember, I was a pacifist - Lewis uses the word as if it were something awful. Though at least I didn't like dead animals pinned to pieces of card.

I thought it was a shame in a way that Eustace's conversion meant that he ended up buying in totally with the Narnian philosophy of (noble) war. It would be interesting to imagine a Eustace who was firmly a Friend of Narnia but who had held onto his pacifist principles.

What year was this written again? 1950? Shortly after WWII, so still a touchy issue, I imagine. Being anti-war in those days might have quite a different flavour than in our time.

People will argue for or against non-violence, conscientious objection, etc. If you believe in and practice it, that's a good thing. The problem with Eustace's "pacifism" is that he is only interested in applying it to his own case. In reality, he didn't believe in it at all.

Which leads to the question: Did Lewis object to all who held the views of Harold and Alberta Scrubb? Or was it the noisy ones, with their obnoxious superiority, and as we would call it today, virtue signalling? I don't doubt he quite enjoyed pillorying those people's fads in this stinging little caricature.

Re: Eustace and I

PostPosted: Sep 12, 2018 6:55 am
by Col Klink
I see Eustace as being initially more of a comedic character so I guess I wasn't thinking of him as being a character you dislike but can still sympathize with on some level. (I do think C.S. Lewis meant for us to feel sorry for Eustace at a couple of points, mainly when he looks for the picture frame and doesn't see it. But mostly he seems like he's supposed to be a caricature.)

Sometimes I think C.S. Lewis should have described Eustace's parents in more detail. I feel that he relies too much on the readers having the same feelings he has on vegetarians, teetotalers, pacifists, etc. He doesn't really give examples of why those things would be bad. That's not how you write good satire. Experiment House from The Silver Chair is a much better example of how you write this kind of thing.

But then I think it would have totally bogged down the beginning of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader if he had done that. It's not supposed to be a tract about modern trends; it's an adventure story taking place in Narnia. That's what the people want to read about so it's better to give it to them as soon as possible. =))

Just so people know, while I do mean everything I wrote, I wasn't super offended by Eustace's portrayal or anything. (Though I can certainly understand why a teetotaler, non-smoker, pacifist or vegetarian would be. Well, actually I'm a non-smoker and I'm still not offended.) I do think that Eustace was a bad person overall. I just don't disagree with him as much as Lewis did. I'm being playful with this topic and not angry. :)

Re: Eustace and I

PostPosted: May 25, 2019 4:25 pm
by Cleander
Sometimes I think the only things I have in common with Eustace are the bad ones. :-s Fortunately I think it has helped me a bit to see those things shown for what they are in the character of Eustace. (Though I'm not a scientific rationalist, or whatever the philosophic title is for a general disdain for all things spiritual or beautiful.) Eustace's arrogance and self-pity manifested itself in the book in ways that struck a little close to home for me, and I think it was helpful that I began to recognize that in myself.
But aside from that, I'm pretty sure that if I was whisked off to a world that's apparently been stuck with roughly 14th century technology for its entire 2000 year existence, I'd at least be tempted to brag about the advancements of our world... especially if Caspian and Drinian DID start talking about the Dawn Treader as if it was the Queen Mary. =))

Re: Eustace and I

PostPosted: May 26, 2019 6:56 am
by DiGoRyKiRkE
I can definitely see where you're coming from, Cleander, and honestly, I'd never thought of Eustace in this light before.

My first introduction to his character was in the BBC version of the film (which I watched prior to reading the book.) as such, David Thwaites will ALWAYS be Eustace in my book. He really brought that character to life for me, and did such an amazing job at portraying a character that one automatically disliked. Thwaites did such a fantastic job, that when I did finally get around to reading VODT for the first time, I found "book Eustace" to be a bit more tame than "Thwaites Eustace" even though we get more instances of him whinging and complaining in the book than we do in the BBC adaptation.

I feel like all of us know people like Eustace. People who, no matter what you've done, they've done it twice. No matter what you own, they own something nicer. No matter what you do, they've done better. Such people also refuse to be wrong under any circumstances. These people are a part of our lives, and while we may not "dislike" them as people or as individuals, everybody who knows somebody like this will say that they are an emotional drain to be around.

I think the point of him being a vegetarian is not because he has an objection to eating meat, but rather because it shows him to have better self control than his peers. His family doesn't drink, not on religious grounds, but rather that they have something over which they can feel superior. They are pacifists not because they disagree with the horrors of war, but because they dislike the self sacrifice that comes along with one's country being embroiled in a war (think rationing of commodities, loud noises interrupting one's sleep, etc....)

Part of Eustace's transformation personally definitely has to do with stripping away these things. We see him eating meat (the carcass of a dead dragon) violating his vegetarianism. We see him rather non-pacifistically slaughter the native wild pigs of Dragon Island and giving them as provisions for the ship. When he is brought to his lowest point, he realizes that he has no need to put on these airs any longer. . . He is quite literally the "least of these" so to speak. Subhuman. An animal. And that experience humbles him, and changes that mindset in his life.

From that point on, I think we see such a change in Eustace, not because Aslan spiritually changed him, or because he has had some great revelation, but rather because he saw that he was accepted, and cared for by those around him, even when he didn't have the ability to put on the airs that he had done so his entire life. It is this new found freedom, this liberation to be one's own self, that allows him to learn all of the other things that he does (kindness, a relationship with Aslan, sharing, basic human decency, etc...)

And as the books progress, we see Eustace getting stripped away more and more of what society has made him (think early in The Silver Chair, where we see how his relationship with bullies has changed since his adventures in Dawn Treader) and more and more of an individual.

This is classic Lewis theology. . . in that as we strip away more and more of the things that we think make us better than others, we become closer and closer to God, and as a result, become more ourselves than ever before.

So in the end, I think it's okay to dislike Eustace. I think it's okay to sympathize with him and feel sorry for him to an extent. We can all identify with the fact that we have certain expectations for our lives, and that when said expectations fall short, it is frustrating. We all complain. We all put on airs for those around us. It is only when we lose those things, and are stripped down through an encounter with Christ, that we become truly ourselves. (Although, like post-conversion Eustace, we still have moments when we are, as Lewis puts it, "Very Tiresome" ;)) )

Re: Eustace and I

PostPosted: May 26, 2019 6:39 pm
by Cleander
It's funny you said that you'd never thought of Eustace in that light before. I'd never thought of him in your way either! :D
It does seem like his rules are just props for vanity, but I guess I didn't entirely notice how those "convictions" get violated after he becomes a dragon. Though, I will say I've often thought that the more "rules" a person has, (as opposed to actual convictions), the more likely they are to break them. That's what's interesting about Eustace. He's almost like the Pharisees, but in a non-religious way.