Is anyone else tired of the 'problem with susan'

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Is anyone else tired of the 'problem with susan'

Postby bardiafox7 » Nov 12, 2019 2:13 pm

I love Narnia. I love it to the gills. I think it's one of the greatest examples of children's literature. But there are two criticisms about Narnia that I'm over: 1. That is nothing more than mere allegory(which CS Lewis denied) 2. That leaving Susan out of the LB is sexist. The latter criticism is laughable to me. Yes I know the whole women shouldn't fight in battles line in LWW was rather sexist, but I feel on the whole that Lewis created his female characters with respect.
Many times they come off as sensible, intelligent, brave and (in the case of Lucy) the model of faith and honesty. But at the same time he never presents them as perfect. He always have them have flaws to be overcome. He does this with his male characters too. After all, Lewis was a Christian and firmly believed in the sinfulness of man and the need of someone greater than us to be our salvation. People who rave that Susan wasn't in the LB selectively forget that there were 3 women present in the story.
Susan being left out in LB was part of her arc. Her tendency to want to behave in silly grown up manner was established in LWW and the wardrobe. Lewis narrates that Susan was annoyed by Professor Kirke's defense of Lucy because he wasn't "acting the way she thought adults should act like" She was the last person to see Aslan in PC. Also, Mr and Mrs Pevensie took Susan to America with them because she acted like "a grown up". It makes sense that once she returned to our world that she would deliberately forget about Narnia and behave like a shallow adult. In many ways, she's what Eustace would've become if he hadn't been turned into a Dragon and learned humility. It was all a part of Susan's arc and the people who criticize the end result were not paying attention. Maybe CS Lewis was far too subtle.
Some critics chide Lewis for leaving Susan out because she embraced sex---that whole nylons and lipstick line. The fact that Aravis and Cor have a son should in itself debunk that. It's not as if Lewis would put implicit or explicit sex in a work for kids. If he had they would be rightly calling him perverted. They merely take the line out of context. It seems to me Susan became what we label as pretentious. She was interested in nothing more than invitations and parties: which means she was obsessed her status and being in the inn crowd. CS Lewis wrote an essay about not trying to insinuate yourself in the Inner Ring. Mark Studdock in That Hideous Strength also had that same flaw. The lipstick and nylons line probably means she was materialistic and too worried about having what the other girls had. He might have written the line as interested in nothing but iPhones and cars today. TAKE NOTE OF THE FACT HE NEVER WRITES THE CHARACTERS CRITICIZING HER ON HER INTEREST IN MEN. That fact alone should CS Lewis make it clear he wasn't calling her out for her sexuality. I see Susan as a cross between Hyancith Bucket from Keeping Appearances and Frasier Crane from Cheers and Frasier; just someone to focused on living her life according to the likes of the elite and popular to the detriment of living an authentic life. If Susan was real and alive today, she'd be obsessed with celebrity culture and trying to emulate famous people like Ariana Grande.
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Re: Is anyone else tired of the 'problem with susan'

Postby Cleander » Nov 12, 2019 7:56 pm

Totally agreed! I think there is a trend right now to sift through older literature in deliberate search of racism, sexism and the like. J.K. Rowling got a little too excited with her claims that Lewis sent Susan to hell for... uh, "maturing." What Susan did is not a normal or good thing, It is not that she discovered sex, nor that she is trying to be more realistic- (after all, in the story's universe, there is no room for doubt that Narnia is a reality)- she has simply become a vain, selfish, insipid person. I suspect that some of those (not all, mind you) who take issue with her behavior being condemned are maybe guilty of something along those lines (maybe they even try to emulate Ariana Grande all the time, idk :D )
I'm probably as sick of hearing about "Susan's shocking fate" as you are, but I suspect that people are still going to talk about it. People are going to want to know what the whole Susan thing means, so I guess it's up to Narnia fans to explain why it isn't misogynist. (-|
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Re: Is anyone else tired of the 'problem with susan'

Postby Courtenay » Nov 13, 2019 1:46 am

I totally agree too, bardiafox7. I remember when I read the Chronicles for the first time (around the age of 7), I picked up on that aspect of Susan's "character arc", as you say — I was saddened, but not at all surprised, at what happened to her in the end. It's definitely foreshadowed. The problem is, so many critics seem to pounce on that scene and completely misread it, then attack Lewis for all sorts of things that he never actually said or even suggested. For example, the claim that Susan was "sent to hell" just goes to show that they've either never read The Last Battle themselves (just read other people's criticisms of it), or else only skim-read it, possibly with their own prejudices already firmly in place, and totally missed what actually happens in the story.

I could go on — I'm sure we all could!! — but there's a really good article on this same website that deals with the claims of sexism and racism in the Chronicles in much more depth, starting off with the "problem of Susan": Are the Chronicles of Narnia Sexist and Racist? Really worth reading.
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Re: Is anyone else tired of the 'problem with susan'

Postby JFG II » Nov 14, 2019 11:28 am

I’m sort of tired of this controversy too. (Just feels so 90’s in its shallowness.) But I think I know why some people hate Lewis for this.

My own personal connection to this Susan issue is complicated. When I first absorbed the final Narnia book as a child, I felt livid anger towards Lewis for getting rid of Susan, and for never mentioning her again; Susan never even appears in TLB. I was a sensitive kid who took that as a personal insult to me for liking Susan in the previous books.

But now I think it really comes down to how you deal with Lewis’s choices in storytelling: Susan does not have much to do in the series other than be a foil for her 3 far more interesting siblings, and be there to even out the 2 genders. In my opinion Susan could have easily have been cut from the PC book and it would not have changed her eventual arc, if anything, it would have made her arc less out-of-the-blue to readers.

Still I find it painful that Susan is just GONE from the series. She felt like an older sibling and it hurt for her to be just... GONE. I did like her overall. Those scenes in LWW where she fussed over her younger siblings. Her graceful cameo in HHB. Her surprisingly tender moment with Peter after he kills the wolf (let’s not forget she saved Lucy from Maugrim to begin with). She was like a big sister you have a love-hate relationship with, and she usually has got your back. That’s what I thought... until the final book.

That’s all I have to say about the books, but the movie adaptations made Susan a stronger character and I applaud them for that. Anna Popplewell was wonderful and beautiful and did Susan justice I think. My one complaint is that Queen Susan the Gentle isn’t meant to be a killer/warrior during battle. And it’s sad that we’ll never see her story arc conclude, because Narnia is being rebooted.
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