Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

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Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby King_Erlian » Jul 05, 2013 7:29 am

(Not certain whether this should go in this area or the "Talk About Narnia" area, but here goes...)

When Lewis wrote LWW, the character of Professor Kirke was the Voice of Reason - the sensible adult who could respond to an unusual situation without prejudice. When some people would say (like the Lady of the Green Kirtle) that to be reasonable and rational, you shouldn't believe in any other worlds, or in anything supernatural, or in anything divine, Professor Kirke showed that to be truly reasonable and rational one should be open to the possibility of all of these things if the evidence supported it. He had no reason to believe in Narnia especially, but he didn't dismiss it just because it lay outside of his own experience.

That's why I feel it somewhat weakened the story when Lewis then made Professor Kirke having visited Narnia himself when he was a boy. He was no longer the impartial observer, suggesting that Narnia might be true because it best fitted the known facts (Lucy was known to Susan and Peter to be more truthful than Edmund, and she was clearly not mad); he knew Narnia to be true because he'd been there. I can appreciate that, when Lewis was creating the characters for The Magician's Nephew, it made more sense to use a character whom the readers had encountered before, especially as it provided an explanation for where the Wardrobe came from. Still, I feel that in doing so, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe lost something.

What do you think?
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby coracle » Jul 05, 2013 4:57 pm

We have moved this to Talk About Narnia, as you see. Thanks, King_Erlian!
Interesting topic: discuss! :D
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby Lion's Emblem » Jul 05, 2013 9:30 pm

Well, I don't think that having Kirke visit Narnia as a boy weakens his character as the rational one at all. When reading LWW first, we don't really know who the professor is - he is mysterious, but we trust him and know that he is wise. I think the same idea carries over even when we know he has been to Narnia himself, only it's more effective. Even if this hadn't been the case, I think he'd still believe that Lucy had been to Narnia, that he was open to all reason of thought. It's an element of his character. Think of The Last Battle, "it's all in Plato", Kirke is a professor after all.

I don't think anything is lost on the character at all. If anything, I think there's a deeper understanding when we know that Digory has been to Narnia before.
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby King_Erlian » Jul 09, 2013 2:17 am

My point was that I think Lewis' original intention in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe was that the Professor be a character who was "neutral" - he had no reason to either believe or disbelieve in Narnia, yet it strengthened the case for Narnia being real if such a neutral character could come forward and say, "Actually, the evidence we have so far points in favour, even if one's gut reaction is to say this is absurd."

Later, when he began to write The Magician's Nephew, Lewis needed a boy character living a generation or two earlier than the Pevensies, and the Professor was an obvious choice. However that means he lost his neutrality; he was already one of the Friends of Narnia, and so the idea of a neutral character supporting the side of belief on the grounds of the available evidence was lost.
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby Meltintalle » Jul 15, 2013 8:27 am

If you are reading in publication order, you don't learn that the Professor has been to Narnia until much later. If Lewis had revealed in LWW that the Professor had been to Narnia (or anywhere else) it would have affected our perception of the scene. But he doesn't. There are several books in between to settle the idea of Narnia, adding that the Pevensies continue to be in contact with him, before we return to the Professor, which I think is why it doesn't harm his credibility as a voice of reason.
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby Varnafinde » Jul 16, 2013 3:12 pm

King_Erlian wrote:[...] Lewis needed a boy character living a generation or two earlier than the Pevensies, and the Professor was an obvious choice. However that means he lost his neutrality; he was already one of the Friends of Narnia, and so the idea of a neutral character supporting the side of belief on the grounds of the available evidence was lost.


I agree that the neutral character was lost. Rereading the arguments after having read that Digory Kirke is a Friend of Narnia may give a small sense of cheating - he pretends just to use logical arguments, but he's actually read the answer book ...

But I still think it made sense to use Professor Kirke as the boy who saw the beginning of Narnia. Someone from his generation was needed, and it might have been a bit much to introduce yet another person.

It makes sense for Kirke to advise the Pevensies to be cautious about who they talk to about Narnia, and not to do it too much. We find later that he has lived by this advice himself - he didn't blurt out that he knew about Narnia, he waited till later before he even admitted that he had been there. So he can use Reason even though he's not completely neutral.
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby Eustace » Jul 19, 2013 9:08 am

This is a really interesting topic. But, even if he went to Narnia before, his adventure did not teach him the logical reasoning that he used in LWW.


Also, as seen later in the Last Battle, Susan thinks they were playing games as children and stops being a friend of Narnia. Although, Digory did not live as long in Narnia as Susan did or go back to Narnia until the Last Battle, he still did not forget it. (Granted he had the wardrobe and his mother lived.)

Not to mention one of my favorite lines of his is:"What do they teach them at these schools?”

I think this line in itself says why I believe he is still a very powerful character in being the voice of reason despite also having gone to Narnia before.
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby Varnafinde » Jul 20, 2013 5:06 am

Eustace wrote:This is a really interesting topic. But, even if he went to Narnia before, his adventure did not teach him the logical reasoning that he used in LWW.
[...]
Not to mention one of my favorite lines of his is:"What do they teach them at these schools?”


Another typical line is "It's all in Plato" :)

He's a Professor, he's clearly had a classical education, and that would be where he has learnt the theory of logic and how to use it for logical reasoning.
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby Cleander » Jun 25, 2019 5:25 pm

If he is the voice of reason, that would explain why he's one of my favorite characters. :D
His appeal to Plato seems to reinforce that idea, but I think he only functions as a Voice of Reason in the stories occurring later in his life- I doubt that the voice of reason would ring a mysterious bell, in spite of all common sense. If he is supposed to be Reason, it would seem he grew into that role.
Hmmm... at the moment I'm writing a fantasy novel involving a voice-of-reason kind of character... perhaps Professor K. could serve as inspiration??? I must think on this...
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Re: Professor Kirke as the Voice of Reason

Postby Reepicheep775 » Jun 30, 2019 1:51 pm

I think that the scene with Peter, Susan, and the Professor is weakened if Professor Kirke has been to Narnia before and already knows that it exists. However, I'm not sure that MN is entirely to blame because I think there are already strong hints at the end of LWW that Professor Kirke has had previous experiences with Narnia.

C. S. Lewis wrote:And that would have been the very end of the story if it hadn’t been that they felt they really must explain to the Professor why four of the coats out of his wardrobe were missing. And the Professor, who was a very remarkable man, didn’t tell them not to be silly or not to tell lies, but believed the whole story. “No,” he said, “I don’t think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe door to get the coats. You won’t get into Narnia again by that route. Nor would the coats be much use by now if you did! Eh? What’s that? Yes, of course you’ll get back to Narnia again some day. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it. And don’t talk too much about it even among yourselves. And don’t mention it to anyone else unless you find that they’ve had adventures of the same sort themselves. What’s that? How will you know? Oh, you’ll know all right. Odd things they say — even their looks — will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open. Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?”

I have a hard time believing that the Professor had reasoned all of this out without having actually been to Narnia, or at least having known people who have been.

Eustace wrote:Also, as seen later in the Last Battle, Susan thinks they were playing games as children and stops being a friend of Narnia. Although, Digory did not live as long in Narnia as Susan did or go back to Narnia until the Last Battle, he still did not forget it. (Granted he had the wardrobe and his mother lived.)

This is interesting because, if Susan can convince herself that Narnia doesn't exist after years of reigning as a queen, I could easily imagine Digory beginning to doubt his own experiences and turning to philosophy to make sense of them. Especially if memories of Narnia become like memories of a dream in the same way memories of our world become when you are in Narnia. I could even see his doubts and questions about his childhood experience becoming the catalyst for Digory becoming a professor and making the pursuit of truth one of the main goals in his life.
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