The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce

In "The Great Divorce, " C.S. Lewis's classic vision of the Afterworld, the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly English afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations, and comes to some significant realizations about the nature of good and evil.A stunning new edition of this tim...

DownloadRead Online
Title:The Great Divorce
Author:C.S. Lewis
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Great Divorce Reviews

  • Rachel

    Once again C.S. Lewis shows us how deft he is at cracking open the mysteries of human spirituality and motivation. This book is an allegory for heaven and hell and as he describes each of the characters and how they ultimately choose their eternal reward, we can glimpse a bit of ourselves.

    My favorite part is when he describes a woman who has chosen heaven but whose husband refuses to give up the little devil sitting on his shoulder and ultimately chooses to return to hell. The narrator asks how

    Once again C.S. Lewis shows us how deft he is at cracking open the mysteries of human spirituality and motivation. This book is an allegory for heaven and hell and as he describes each of the characters and how they ultimately choose their eternal reward, we can glimpse a bit of ourselves.

    My favorite part is when he describes a woman who has chosen heaven but whose husband refuses to give up the little devil sitting on his shoulder and ultimately chooses to return to hell. The narrator asks how is it possible that this woman will able to be happy for eternity when her husband has chosen not to be with her. Shouldn't a part of her be sad? The narrator's escort then gives a brilliant explanation of how if hell had it's way it would hold all the joy in the world hostage. It helped me understand how we can still find peace even though those around us may make bad choices.

    The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because the book has a slow start - it takes a little while to get into it. But please persist - you will find that it is worth it.

  • John

    This is my favorite work by C.S. Lewis. I’d give it 8 stars, . . if ‘twer possible.

    In it, Lewis reacts to moral relativism (

    ) by suggesting that “you cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.” He astutely notes that the “great divorce” of good and evil is utterly voluntarily. And he does so by conjuring up this simple tale of a bus ride from a ghostly,

    This is my favorite work by C.S. Lewis. I’d give it 8 stars, . . if ‘twer possible.

    In it, Lewis reacts to moral relativism (

    ) by suggesting that “you cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.” He astutely notes that the “great divorce” of good and evil is utterly voluntarily. And he does so by conjuring up this simple tale of a bus ride from a ghostly, insubstantial hell, to the brilliant, vividly tangible outskirts of heaven. Anyone can take the bus, any one can stay in heaven. But in the end, most sadly return to the grayness below, unable to give up the things preventing them from truly accepting heaven. The bus is loaded with characters full of excuses, foibles and vices. And I think I know everyone on that bus. Some of them I know really well, - too well.

    I have used this short book in many Sunday school lessons over the years because Lewis’ language is so clever and incisive, and his insights are so pointed. I really love this book, and I cannot recommend it more highly!

  • Anne

    I LOVE reading everything C.S. Lewis. I read this book a few years ago and I couldn't put it down. The section of the book that stands out most to me is when the main character observes a conversation between two people (one who lives in heaven and one who is just visiting to see what it is like). The one who lives in heaven had killed someone while he was living on earth and the person visiting could not believe that the murderer had actually made it to heaven-The visiting man basically decided

    I LOVE reading everything C.S. Lewis. I read this book a few years ago and I couldn't put it down. The section of the book that stands out most to me is when the main character observes a conversation between two people (one who lives in heaven and one who is just visiting to see what it is like). The one who lives in heaven had killed someone while he was living on earth and the person visiting could not believe that the murderer had actually made it to heaven-The visiting man basically decided that he didn't want to go to heaven if this man was going to be there...and so he left and returned to hell. I thought it was very thought provoking especially at that time in my life where I was working through trying to know if I "should" try to forgive a certain someone in our family who had done some things that were, well to say the least, seemingly unforgivable. I have often pondered on this question since I read this book: Do I believe in the atonement enough to believe that even a "murderer" could be forgiven and find a place in heaven at the right hand of God. And if I do believe it, could I forgive that person also for whatever it may be that he might have done, and desire to live there too along side him??? think about it...

    This is a WONDERFUL book and I recommend it to EVERYONE! Let me know your thoughts...

  • Nikki

    I just listened to the audio of "The Great Divorce." It was my first reading of this book, and I know there will be many re-readings in my future. I feel a first reading was really just a glimpse of what it will be like to delve into it again and again. First of all, I must say that I adore Lewis's writing style and that his stories really resonate with me. And I know I'm just beginning to touch the surface. I have read Narnia a couple times and I read "The Problem with Pain" last year. I'm eage

    I just listened to the audio of "The Great Divorce." It was my first reading of this book, and I know there will be many re-readings in my future. I feel a first reading was really just a glimpse of what it will be like to delve into it again and again. First of all, I must say that I adore Lewis's writing style and that his stories really resonate with me. And I know I'm just beginning to touch the surface. I have read Narnia a couple times and I read "The Problem with Pain" last year. I'm eager to continue venturing into his writings. His Christian perspective is inspiring and is quite a good fit to my own ideas/musings/wonderings/beliefs.

    My favorite part of "The Great Divorce" :

    In great anguish, a woman declares, "I'd rather die!"

    She is reminded, "You are already dead."

    In further anguish, she cries out, "Then I wish I were never born!! What are we born for??"

    She is answered, "For infinite happiness. You can step out into it at any moment."

    The idea of happiness always being accessible, always being available, is beautiful. We don't have to wait for heaven. It's already here...

  • Mike (the Paladin)

    One of my favorite (if not my favorite) C. S. Lewis works (and I am a C. S. Lewis fan). The insight in this book about God and man's relationship with Him is wonderful.

    I suppose that many who read this will already know that I'm a Christian. I won't belabor it, if you're interested I'm happy to discuss if you don't want to I won't push my thoughts on you.

    This is a very readable book and while I suppose the Christian aspects will be obvious it is also possible to simply read the book as a novel.

    One of my favorite (if not my favorite) C. S. Lewis works (and I am a C. S. Lewis fan). The insight in this book about God and man's relationship with Him is wonderful.

    I suppose that many who read this will already know that I'm a Christian. I won't belabor it, if you're interested I'm happy to discuss if you don't want to I won't push my thoughts on you.

    This is a very readable book and while I suppose the Christian aspects will be obvious it is also possible to simply read the book as a novel. There are some overt "teaching sections" but the book is constructed as a fantasy story told from a narrator's point of view. I've read novels from the point of view of other religions and didn't suffer or find myself suborned into some belief against my will, so I don't think non-Christians would necessarily have a problem with the book. As to Christians I believe most will enjoy this book and find an (strangely when some of it is considered) uplifting story that is also thought provoking, enlightening and even instructional. If you are a non-Christian or even irreligious you might try it and see if you can approach it as a fantasy...that is up to each reader of course.

    On the religious and philosophical front, the title is a response to Blake's, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and though the book isn't a direct answer to this work it provides a contrasting and opposed view. Blake's work was written long before this one (1793) and is not as well know as this book. It's not at all necessary to have read it to enjoy this work. I only include this piece of information because I know some will be curious about the title.

    Finally (and again), yes this is a Christian book and if you are a Christian and approach it so I believe it's possible to get much from this short read. In studying the Triune-God and wanting, hoping for even a little more understanding about His plan for us and the provision He has made this book was/is (for me) amazing. C.S. Lewis was a wise man and close to God, and he left us an abundance of that wisdom (from God)in his writings.

    Highest recommendation.

  • booklady

    Lewis wrote

    in response to William Blake’s famous poem,

    . Lewis didn't believe such a marriage of good and evil was possible on any level. He wrote,

    Lewis wrote

    in response to William Blake’s famous poem,

    . Lewis didn't believe such a marriage of good and evil was possible on any level. He wrote,

    is my favorite by C. S. Lewis and perhaps one of my all-time favorite novels, although I'm at a loss to explain why. It's not really great literature, yet I've lost count of the times I've read it. Maybe it's because of its simplicity; it seems to get people and their ‘issues’ right. Maybe it's because it makes Heaven and Hell as simple as our one choice, where do you want to go? It all boils down to, your will or God's?

    Another part of the book which I think is worth quoting is from a conversation between Lewis and his Heavenly ‘guide’, George MacDonald on page 96:

    ‘“...love, as mortals understand the word isn’t enough. Every natural love will rise again and love forever in this country: but none will rise again until it is buried.”

    “The saying is almost too hard for us.”

    “Ah but it’s cruel not to say it. They that know have grown afraid to speak. That is why sorrows that used to purify now only fester.”

    “Keats was wrong, then, when he said he was certain of the holiness of the heart’s affections.”

    “I doubt if he knew clearly what he meant. But you and I must be clear. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels. The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.”

    If C.S. Lewis was alive today, he might have to revise that statement about lust being turned into a religion; aside from that, I couldn’t agree with him more.

    When we went to see

    performed back in March 2012, it was announced that the rights to this Lewis book had also been purchased for adaptation to stage. Reread again in anticipation of going to see as a

    tomorrow, November 8, 2014 in Dallas.

  • Werner

    I've classified this book on my "Christian life and thought" shelf, which is one of my nonfiction shelves. Technically, one might argue that this is a work of fiction, a made-up narrative that uses the device of a dream vision to supposedly describe places to which no earth-bound human has ever been. But here, as with some of Hawthorne's short stories/essays, the fiction is so message-driven that any dividing line separating it from an essay is thin indeed. It's very much a narrative about ideas

    I've classified this book on my "Christian life and thought" shelf, which is one of my nonfiction shelves. Technically, one might argue that this is a work of fiction, a made-up narrative that uses the device of a dream vision to supposedly describe places to which no earth-bound human has ever been. But here, as with some of Hawthorne's short stories/essays, the fiction is so message-driven that any dividing line separating it from an essay is thin indeed. It's very much a narrative about ideas, and the fictional framework is just a vivid stage for these, with a few props, and the use of dramatic dialogue; here (unlike in his Chronicles of Narnia series or the Space Trilogy) Lewis' didactic purpose so overwhelms the story that it's not fair to evaluate it as fiction.

    A professor of medieval literature, Lewis was quite familiar with Dante's

    . I am not; but I can recognize the conceptual similarity from general descriptions of the latter. Here too, we have a journey that encompasses Heaven and Hell (which, Lewis suggests, also serves as Purgatory for those who don't choose to stay there); and here, too, the narrator is furnished with a guide in the person of a famous author. (One of my Goodreads friends calls this work a "rip-off" of Dante's classic; perhaps we could more accurately call it a sort of homage, or an extended literary allusion.)

    Whatever Dante's purpose was, however, Lewis clearly states in the short Preface to this work that it's not intended as a literal speculation as to what the real Heaven and Hell may be like. Rather, he uses his narrator's fictional journey as a literary conceit to make a series of major and minor points about how God relates to human beings, and how we relate to God and each other. A key message here is that God doesn't will any humans to be damned. (This would exclude the idea of Calvinist predestinarianism, despite Lewis' suggestion that the eternal perspective obviates some earthly theological distinctions such as this.) Rather, there are those who exclude themselves from Heaven, because their attitude won't let them embrace it. As the book suggests (and the Goodreads description quotes), there are two kinds of people, those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God ultimately says, in sorrow, "Thy will be done." (We could also characterize them, based on the portrayals here, as those willing to recognize a God outside themselves, and those determined to be the god and center of their own universe.) The author holds up a kind of moral mirror in which readers can see how their own attitudes and actions reflect --and it's one that reveals a lot of human self-centeredness, blaming of others for everything we refuse to take responsibility for, self-deceit and hypocrisy. The type of fictional framework, ostensibly a description of unseen realities but not intended to be taken as literally so, and the quality of the rigorous, uncompromising, spiritually-grounded ethical thought, is reminiscent of the author's (also excellent)

    .

    Unlike some Christian works, this one doesn't come across with the "all Christians are moral exemplars, and non-Christians are scumbags" vibe that non-Christians understandably tend to find offensive. Both God's judgment and grace, Lewis suggests, probe much more deeply into the heart and soul than surface religious affiliation; there are professed Christians (even an Anglican bishop!) in his Hell, and we hear of at least one pagan who's found his way to Heaven. However, I'd recommend this more to Christian than to non-Christian readers. That's not to say that some open-minded non-Christians wouldn't be interested in reading it, or couldn't profit from doing so. But I think Lewis presupposes some basic Christian concepts about God and the afterlife that, probably, most non-Christians would find hard to take as starting points. It's more suited, I think, as a stimulus for Christian moral and theological reflection about how we live, think, and relate to God and others. (Nonfiction Lewis works that I'd more readily recommend for non-Christian readers would include

    ,

    , and

    .)

  • Fergus

    Imagine that you awoke one morning to find yourself wandering the streets of a grimy, gritty little twilit city in the middle of Nowhere.

    You meander past endless shuttered and decrepit storefronts advertising nothing anyone would ever possibly want or need...

    ...to find yourself joining a long queue that is forming in a dark, gloomy side street.

    You wait and wait, not knowing for what earthly reason you are there, among a crowd of obnoxious and surly rivals for the front of the line.

    Where are we?

    Imagine that you awoke one morning to find yourself wandering the streets of a grimy, gritty little twilit city in the middle of Nowhere.

    You meander past endless shuttered and decrepit storefronts advertising nothing anyone would ever possibly want or need...

    ...to find yourself joining a long queue that is forming in a dark, gloomy side street.

    You wait and wait, not knowing for what earthly reason you are there, among a crowd of obnoxious and surly rivals for the front of the line.

    Where are we?

    Well, first off, we’re dead.

    And this is Hell, of course!

    Our worldly attitude while living has decreed it.

    That, says Lewis, is where most of us will start our Journey (and his friend and fellow Inklong Charles Williams agreed).

    And why the lineup?

    You are being given a second chance - to board a tour bus to Heaven.

    And if you like it... you won’t ever need to come back. You may have to work a bit, though... no, actually, MUCH MORE than a bit...

    But wait till you see Lewis‘ HEAVEN!

    C.S. Lewis‘ Magical Mystical Tour will show you a strange kind of paradise - a BRIGHT, ZANY, and very HARD and SOLID place of eternal ‘rest’ your current mindset may not be ready for!

    A place of truly tough CHALLENGES.

    Things will not be what they seem, and as Lewis‘ buddy T.S. Eliot warned, we‘ll have to discard all sense and habitual notions once we get there!

    But they’re both really only reminding us of that old, old shanty, ‘better get-a ready cause I’m giving you the Warnin’...

    So don‘t shoot the messenger...

    Just don‘t miss that bus!

  • nostalgebraist

    I find myself in a strange place. Everything is unutterably beautiful, unusually large, and disproportionately heavy and rigid. My weight cannot bend the grass, and I cannot lift an apple. Also, I'm semi-transparent now. A blindingly luminescent human figure approaches me.

    C. S. LEWIS: Hello there. I'm C. S. Lewis.

    ROB: What is this place?

    C. S. LEWIS: Why, this is heaven, of course. You can tell because everything here is so Real, and so joyous. The earth you knew was but a collection of dim shado

    I find myself in a strange place. Everything is unutterably beautiful, unusually large, and disproportionately heavy and rigid. My weight cannot bend the grass, and I cannot lift an apple. Also, I'm semi-transparent now. A blindingly luminescent human figure approaches me.

    C. S. LEWIS: Hello there. I'm C. S. Lewis.

    ROB: What is this place?

    C. S. LEWIS: Why, this is heaven, of course. You can tell because everything here is so Real, and so joyous. The earth you knew was but a collection of dim shadows, in whose corners you sometimes glimpsed a bit of the Real world you now see around you. Here, your ever-unsatisfied yearning finds its object! Your yearning for

    for things

    --

    ROB: -- my yearning for

    C. S. LEWIS: Look, it’s a metaphor. This is an allegory, all right? The physical “substantiveness” of this world stands in for a fuller kind of “substantiveness” lacking on earth.

    ROB: But there are so many choices of metaphor that would have at least made heaven seem

    , the way that fuller substantiveness would. Instead I’ve just been dropped in a sci-fi world where I have difficulty walking across the diamond-hard grass and live in mortal fear of rain. But let us leave aside that minor objection for a bigger one. You say this is heaven, and yet the people here are so mean, so heartless! Do I have to be an asshole to go to heaven? Just now I saw the saved soul of a murderer smugly conversing with his hell-imprisoned former boss in terms like these:

    C. S. LEWIS: I intended you to have precisely that reaction. The point is, there is one thing that matters — a

    — and all second things are irrelevant once you have placed that thing first. The Ghost ought to have seen that in comparison to the reality of heaven, salvation, Christ, a little thing like a murder on earth really

    nothing to bother about. The murderer gave himself up, and the boss did not, and this condition of their inner selves was all that mattered, in the end.

    ROB: But surely one can only get a sense of another person’s inner self by observing their outward actions. If this murderer is really now so virtuous, why does he speak to the boss in this tone of grotesque innocence, in this manner which seems to imply he

    what the boss is worked up about, although he must? Or has he lost his reason? (Does heaven make us stupid?) It is possible to disagree sternly with someone while still treating them as if they are another human with dignity, and not a child to be patted on the head and condescended to (“that is a little hard to understand at first”). He antagonizes the boss without apparent justification, and he sounds more like a stoner or a cultist than like someone who’s really learned a deep secret about the universe.

    C. S. LEWIS: He

    bring the boss around. Only the boss can do that. If you had quoted the rest of the exchange, your reader would see that the boss is so obsessed with how well he thinks he has lived his life, and with his aversion to receiving “charity,” that he can’t even think about giving heaven a try even when it’s laid out before him.

    ROB:

    say that, and so of course does the reader who follows his caricatured words on the page. Your virtuous murderer does not make the same argument. He doesn’t even try to help the boss see where he’s gone wrong. Is there nothing wrong with this refusal to stretch out a hand to a sinner who might become more virtuous?

    C. S. LEWIS: But now you’re thinking merely about the

    of actions. What matters here is not that the murderer perhaps harmed the boss in this exchange, while the boss did no harm to the murderer; what matters is only the role their actions played in their

    internal universe. Again, what matters is not harm to another — even murder — but cultivation of good qualities in the little walled garden of one’s own soul. As I write in Mere Christianity:

    ROB: And so in my own life, in which I am forced to ration out my willpower, indulging my anger in some cases and not others — it does not matter how I choose? Whether I indulge it when it tempts me to tear up a blank piece of paper, as opposed to when it tempts me smash the happiness or the very body of another human being — ?

    C. S. LEWIS: If you indulge your anger, and thereby fan it further, you’ll have to live with that angry aspect of yourself for eternity. Make yourself good and eternity will be heaven to you; make yourself bad and it will be hell.

    ROB: But I can’t just stop having bad impulses altogether. I’m weak. I’m not perfect. As I recall, this sort of thing is a cornerstone of your faith.

    C. S. LEWIS: Precisely. And that’s why the only answer is in salvation, not in the sort of “rationing” you describe. Some manage their lives responsibly so their sinful nature harms few and they brighten the lives of many; some commit the worst crimes known to man. It doesn’t matter to God.

    ROB: It doesn’t matter to God that the victims of atrocities suffer as they do?

    C. S. LEWIS: Here you are, hung up yet again on

    people. None of it really matters — whether you nurture and strengthen the beings around you or torture and destroy them. What matters is whether, in the end,

    , you made yourself into more of a good, virtuous guy in the process. (And thus prepared yourself for an afterlife of goodness.)

    ROB: That’s quite solipsistic, isn’t it?

    C. S. LEWIS: Look, you are focusing on big numbers when I’m speaking of infinities. Are you really

    to conceive of the sort of reality I am depicting, one in which there are things so much more important than anything in your earthly world that they dwarf every earthly blessing and atrocity?

    ROB: I can conceive of it all right. But I don’t think you have depicted it.

    C. S. LEWIS: How so?

    ROB: Your heaven is a world of great big pretty solid things, populated by blissed-out, monstrously indifferent creatures who seem to have no sense of morality whatsoever. In your book, a busload of sinners leave hell for a heavenly vacation, and while you portray them as cartoon figures — straw men — they at least ask some legitimate questions, suffer from some affecting and recognizable human pains. It is not just that the saved souls in heaven are unable to help them, not that these souls do not meet some sort of halfway compromise with sin — the saved souls no longer even seem to have concepts of right or wrong. They describe heaven in appetitive terms, as a pleasant tasty thing which the damned could have if only they’d reach out and snatch it:

    Near the end we meet one of the most “virtuous” among them (“one of the great ones”), and she spends her time strolling about in the company of a retinue of singers and musicians who continually sing her praises.

    C. S. LEWIS: Oh, come on now. It’s an allegory. As I write in Mere Christianity about depictions of heaven:

    ROB: Well, if you meant to portray “ecstasy and infinity,” you ended up portraying a vapid virtual-reality paradise, one that fills you with enough narcotics you can no longer remember what it was like to think or care and then leaves you wandering carefree across realer-than-real CGI vistas. Is there any reason to think, after all, that we are really in heaven and not in the land of the Lotus Eaters?

    C. S. LEWIS: But here the residents are virtuous, and what they experience is joy, the very holy substance of it, not some idle earthly pleasure.

    ROB: You say that, but there is absolutely nothing in your book to substantiate it. Whatever you choose to call it, what you wrote was a land of Lotus Eaters.

    C. S. LEWIS: But isn’t that what true joy would inevitably look like, from your perspective? My book is called “The Great Divorce” because I don’t believe goodness and badness can or should make any sort of compromise, any meeting-in-the-middle. Every example on earth you have seen of people without wretched feelings is an example that makes you wary — but goodness is goodness, and contains no wretched feelings. That is why it is wrong to say that “the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved”:

    ROB: You’re saying that your “joy” is a purely pleasant experience, and things like human sympathy have to be eradicated because they sometimes harsh one’s mellow. And you’re conflating that purely pleasant thing with goodness, so that goodness is not a thing with any other people in it, but a pure narcosis that can contain nothing novel that might worry or startle or uplift us. A sealed womb, impermeable to any outside world.

    C. S. LEWIS: You won’t mind about the distinction between self and other, if you’ve made it here. (“When you have drunk of [the fountain] you forget forever all proprietorship in your own works. You enjoy them just as if they were someone else's: without pride and without modesty.”) None of that will matter anymore. Only God will matter. You’ll have nothing to yourself any more; you will have given up everything of yourself and replaced it with God. Can’t you stretch your mind and imagine that sort of world — that dramatically different yet authentically joyous world?

    ROB: I might if I had some tool to help with the stretching — say, some work of fiction that rewrote all these fearsome and abstract things in terms I could feel and touch. A well-written, well-constructed allegory.

    C. S. LEWIS: I’m sorry. I’m just not very good at those.

Best Free Books is in no way intended to support illegal activity. Use it at your risk. We uses Search API to find books/manuals but doesn´t host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners. Please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them


©2018 Best Free Books - All rights reserved.