The book begins as four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are sent to live with an old Professor in the country because of the air raids in their hometown of London, England. One day, as the weather is terrible, the children explore the giant mansion, and Lucy discovers a strange wardrobe. She enters it and disappears into an enchanted forest. She befriends a Faun who calls himself Mr. Tumnus and goes to his house to have tea. He explains everything about the country, Narnia, and the White Witch. The White Witch has cursed Narnia so it's "always winter and never Christmas" (Lewis 14), and she believes herself to be the Queen. After tea, Mr. Tumnus begins crying and confesses he was hired by the White Witch to capture human beings. Lucy explains that it's not too late to let her go, and, out of guilt, he does.
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Lucy returns home and tells her siblings about where she had been and how long she has been away, but the siblings insist that she wasn't gone more than a few seconds. For the next few days, the children ridicule Lucy endlessly. On the next rainy day, the children play hide-and-seek. Lucy feels drawn back to the wardrobe and hides in it, but Edmund follows her in. Lucy takes this opportunity to prove Narnia to him and makes her way through the wardrobe. Edmund goes in after her, and finds himself in front of the White Witch. The Witch introduces herself as Queen of Narnia". She feeds him magical Turkish Delight, and promises him a spot on the throne as Prince of Narnia if he can bring his siblings to meet her. Because he's so greedy, he agrees and the White Witch leaves.
Lucy finds Edmund and tells him that she has been with Mr. Tumnus. As they make their way back to the lamppost, the beacon between Narnia and our world, Lucy tells Edmund all about the White Witch and how evil she is. Edmund, however, disregards all that Lucy is saying and just thinks about his personal desires. When Lucy and Edmund return, Lucy again spins her tale about Narnia. This time she believes Edmund will take her side, but he just tells them that it was all a game and he was indulging Lucy's imagination. This sends Peter and Susan, the oldest, to the Professor's room as they are convinced Lucy's gone crazy. The professor surprisingly tells them that Lucy was probably telling the truth.
Soon after, the housekeeper is taking a group of people on a tour of the mansion, and to avoid interfering, the children hide in the wardrobe. The children all enter Narnia. Lucy's first priority is checking on Mr. Tumnus, but when they get to his house they find a note indicating his capture by the White Witch's police force. Lucy demands that they rescue Mr. Tumnus. A robin guides them further into the woods, where they meet Mr. Beaver. Mr. Beaver tells them that it is too late to save Mr. Tumnus, but if they join him on his quest to meet Aslan they could overthrow the White Witch. He explains that Aslan is a lion, and is a sort of god-figure. He hasn't been to Narnia in a long time, but it is said when he returns that Narnia will be saved. The name Aslan invokes a feeling of joy in Peter, Susan and Lucy. Edmund, however, feels terrible at the sound of it. Mr. Beaver, Peter, Susan and Lucy head to the Stone Table to meet Aslan and realize Edmund has vanished. Edmund has gone to the White Witch's palatial home to warn her of Aslan's coming. Should the children join forces with Aslan, it is written in an ancient rhyme that Narnia will be ruled by the four humans. The Witch is furious and sends a team of wolves to stop the children preemptively. She then throws Edmund in her sled and they all head to the Stone Table.
The beavers and the other children become aware of the change in climate. The snow has started to melt and signs of Spring are evident. As there is no snow for the Witch to travel on, her voyage is slowed. She turns her useless reindeer loose and forces Edmund to drag her and her dwarf to their destination.
When the other children meet Aslan, they are mystified and scared to the point that they can't bare to look at his face. Eventually they become more comfortable around him. Aslan and Peter discuss Cair Paravel, the palace that holds the four thrones. Suddenly, Lucy calls for help as she is being attacked by one of the Witch's wolves. Peter kills it as another one runs away. Aslan's soldiers follow it in hopes of finding Edmund. Just as the Witch draws her knife to kill Edmund, the wolf leads Aslan's soldiers to him. The Witch uses her magic to disguise herself as a tree and Edmund is taken back to the camp where the other children are.
The following day, the Witch arrives and demands Edmund's life, referring to a deep magic that stipulates she has the right to his life. Aslan makes a secret deal with her, and returns to the camp quite sullen. When night falls, Aslan sneaks out of his tent, but Susan and Lucy follow distantly. Aslan recognizes their presence. He tells them they can follow him until he says they must stay back. When they reach the Stone Table, Aslan tells them to leave. They hide themselves in a nearby bush and watch as the Witch and a group of gruesome creatures brutally murders Aslan. Aslan has given his life to save Edmund's. The girls cry all night, without sleep, over the loss and stay at the Stone Table. In the morning, the Stone Table breaks into two pieces and Aslan is amazingly alive. He tells them that a deeper magic aids one who gives their life for another. Susan and Lucy ride Aslan all the way to the Witch's castle where they free all the stone prisoners. They then return to the battlefield, where Peter's army is quickly losing. Aslan defeats the Witch and Peter's forces win the war.
All of the children are crowned Kings and Queens, and Edmund is knighted for his role in the battle. Aslan sneaks out amidst the rejoicing, and the children grow to be great rulers. One day, as they are hunting a mystical deer that Mr. Tumnus had told them about, the children find the lamppost. Many years have passed in Narnia and they don't recognize its significance, but they decide they must forget about their hunt and pursue this new journey. They find themselves on the other side of the wardrobe not a moment after they had gone in. They quickly tell the Professor all about Narnia and, once again, he doesn't doubt their truthfulness.
Main Theme: A sinner's life is never a pleasant life.
"Edmund, who was becoming a nastier person every minute, thought that he had scored a great success, and went on at once to say, 'There she goes again. What's the matter with her?'" (Lewis 36)
Here, at the beginning of the novel, Edmund is just getting back from his encounter with the White Witch. His corruption by the Witch-who symbolizes Satan in the novel-is just emerging. It shows how quickly Edmund is becoming a very unlikable person. People by nature do not like being disliked. His only reason for dismissing Lucy's story to the others is that he was annoyed with her for being right; he's also mad that she said terrible things about the Queen of Narnia.
"The Dwarf obeyed, and in a few minutes Edmund found himself being forced to walk as fast as he could with his hands tied behind him. He kept on slipping in the lush, and mud and wet grass, and every time he slipped the Dwarf gave him a curse and sometimes a flick with the whip. The Witch walked behind the Dwarf and kept on saying, 'Faster! Faster!'" (Lewis 96-7)
Edmund was constantly being punished for doing nothing wrong. In fact, he tried to aid the Witch by warning her of Aslan's arrival and by bringing his siblings to Narnia. Just previous to this quote, Edmund was forced to watch as the Witch took harmless animals' Christmas presents. This could be considered a form of psychological or emotional torment. His only downfall was still sinning, by following the Witch's rules.
"When at last she was free to come back to Edmund, she found him standing on his feet and not only healed but looking better than seen him since-oh, for ages; in fact ever since his first term at that horrid school which was where he had begun to go wrong." (Lewis 146)
After Edmund was nearly killed in the line of battle, Lucy revived him with her gift from Father Christmas. After that, he was cleansed from all his sins. He began to not only feel better, but look better as well. His trust and admiration from his siblings as well as all Narnians grew. Edmund felt as if a weight had been lifted and he was a much better person for it. This quote shows the result of living a sin-free life.
Secondary Theme: Good triumphs over evil.
"It was the oddest thing to see those two faces-the golden face and the dead-white face-so close together. Not that the Witch looked Aslan exactly in his eyes; Mrs. Beaver particularly noticed this." (Lewis 113)
The first time in the novel that the head power of good and the head power of evil meet face-to-face, the Witch cannot look Aslan in the eye. Much like a dog shows it's owner who is dominant, the Witch shows her inferiority to Aslan. On a small scale, this is foreshadowing the downfall of evil at the hands of a more powerful force-the powers of good.
"The battle was over a few minutes after their arrival. Most of the enemy had been killed in the first charge of Aslan and his companions; and when those who were still living saw that the Witch was dead, they either gave themselves up or took to flight." (Lewis 145)
This quote is a good example of a literal interpretation that good triumphs over evil. Aslan had killed the White Witch within seconds of setting foot on the battlefield and the evil forces that followed her were overthrown within minutes. This shows just how much more powerful good is than evil.
Secondary Theme: Blaming others for your on downfalls is unjust and foolish.
"Even as it was, he got wet through; for he had to stoop to go under branches, and great loads of snow came sliding off onto his back. And every time this happened he thought more and more how he hated Peter-just as if this had been Peter's fault." (Lewis 74)
Edmund gets mad with Peter for putting him in this predicament, when in actuality Edmund brought it all upon himself. He could have told the others about the White Witch from the beginning, he could have ignored the warnings from Mr. Tumnus, Lucy, and the Beavers, and he could have chosen to stay with the other children instead of heading out alone for the Witch's castle. Peter had no doing in Edmund's poor choices.
"'So you really were here,' he said, 'that time Lu said she'd met you in here-and you made out she was telling lies.' There was a dead silence. 'Well, of all the poisonous little beasts-' said Peter, and shrugged his shoulders and said no more. There seemed, indeed, no more to say, and presently the four resumed their journey; but Edmund was saying to himself, 'I'll pay you all out for this, you pack of stuck-up, self-satisfied prigs.'" (Lewis 45)
Although Peter has every right to be mad at Edmund for lying through his teeth and making Lucy seem crazy, he shrugs it off and doesn't hold it against Edmund. Edmund, on the other hand, gets very angry at Peter and begins to blame him for all of the guilt he feels inside. Edmund once again could have avoided that guilt by keeping his mouth shut, but he let slip the fact that he had already been to Narnia, leading to his present state.
"And now there was no mistaking it, and all four children stood blinking in the daylight of a winter day. Behind them were coats hanging on pegs; in front of them were snow-covered trees." (Lewis 44)
The children have just set foot in Narnia as a group, and they will remain there for the duration of the novel. This is the inciting force of the novel. The children have the option to turn around and go back through the wardrobe, but their desire for exploration pushes them onward into this new land.
"There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again), stood Aslan himself."
This quote serves as the climax of the novel. Aslan has just come back to life after the White Witch and her evil minions brutally murdered him on the Stone Table. Aslan's revival foreshadows the downfall of the Witch and the triumph of good over evil.
"And now, as you see, this story is nearly (but not quite) at an end. These two Kings and two Queens governed Narnia well, and long and happy was their reign. At first much of their time was spent in seeking out the remnants of the White Witch's army and destroying them, and indeed for a long time there would be news of evil things lurking the wilder parts of the forest-a haunting here and a killing there, a glimpse of a werewolf one month and a rumor of a hag the next. But in the end all that foul brood was stamped out." (Lewis 149)
As the novel comes to a close, the children (or adults, now) reign over Narnia. They are very good at ruling and are beloved by all Narnians. Soon, all of the evil is irradicated from Narnia and everyone lives peacefully as Narnia was intended to be. However, as Lewis says, the story is not quite over. In the very end, the children must return from whence they came, leaving Narnia behind for the foreseeable future.
"There was crisp, dry snow under his feet and more snow lying on the branches of the trees. Overhead there was a pale blue sky, the sort of sky one sees on a fine winter day in the morning. Straight ahead of him he saw between the tree trunks the sun, just rising, very red and clear. Everything was perfectly still, as if he were the only living creature in that country. There was not even a robin or a squirrel among the trees, and the wood stretched as far as he could see in every direction. He shivered." (Lewis 22)
Lewis paints a picture here of a perfectly calm Winter day. One can imagine themself on such a day, the smell of snow in the nostrils, the moisture in the air. The rising sun stings the eyes, and so they squint. The sun gives a brief sensation of warmth, until the Winter breeze sweeps through the body once more, causing shivers down the spine.
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"Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and beeches and elms. Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away altogether. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor and overhead you could see a blue sky between the treetops." (Lewis 97)
This quote seems to show an accelerated change in seasons from Winter to Spring. In late Winter, one can smell the mist from the melting snow as the runoff seeps into the soil; in early Spring, one can smell the flowers starting to bloom as they secrete their pollen. Everywhere, the ground is moist, making it sink to the slightest touch. The colors of Spring are radiant when compared to a long Winter.
Main Character Development:
"'Come and sit with me here on the sledge and I will put my mantle around you and we will talk.' Edmund did not like this arrangement at all but he dared not disobey; he stepped onto the sledge and sat at her feet, and she put a fold of her fur mantle around him and tucked it well in." (Lewis 27)
Edmund does not like the White Witch at first, but as she becomes more an more kind to him, he begins to trust her more. When she feeds him the enchanted Turkish Delight, he becomes infatuated with the idea of the Witch and becomes her loyal servant. This shows character development because in a matter of paragraphs, Edmund turns from reluctant obedience to loyal admiration.
"'She was jolly nice to me, anyway, much nicer than they are. I expect she is the rightful Queen, really.'"
This quote shows Edmund's growing servitude to the Witch. He quickly places her at the top of his priorities-list and is fully ready to leave his family behind altogether. He believes that the Witch has treated him exquisitely, but she was merely sweet-talking him to get what she wanted. He soon finds out that her good nature is only temporary.
"Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to each of them in turn, 'I'm sorry,' and everyone said 'That's all right.'
Finally repenting for his treason to his family and Narnia, Edmund asks his family for forgiveness. Aslan tells them all that there is no reason to dwell on the past as Edmund is truly sorry and regrets betraying them. Edmund is finally over the Witch's charm and is ready to stand alongside his siblings wherever they may go.
Primary Conflict: Human versus Human
"'A lot we could do!' said Edmund, 'when we haven't even got anything to eat!'
Shut up-you!' said Peter, who was still very angry with Edmund." (Lewis 48)
There is a constant conflict between Peter and Edmund. It is common for there to be sibling rivalry, but Peter, however, holds himself back because Edmund is his younger brother. If they were not related and Edmund had committed such vile acts to the others, Peter would have left him for worse. The conflict is more raging on Edmund's behalf, as he is constantly walking in Peter's shadow and feels inferior, fueling his hatred for his brother.
"The two elder ones did this without meaning to do it, but Edmund could be spiteful, and on this occasion he was spiteful. He sneered and jeered at Lucy and kept on asking her if she'd found any other new countries in other cupboards all over the house." (Lewis 20)
Edmund is a very confrontational individual, and finds reasons to pick fights with people. Here, he's seen poking fun at Lucy, the youngest of the four, for her "lies" about discovering Narnia. By doing this, Edmund is only giving Lucy a reason to be angry with him and to dislike him from that point on. Luckily for Edmund, Lucy is at an innocent age and cannot hold a grudge, for if she could, Edmund would be jeered at for years to come.
Secondary Conflict: Human versus Self
"Up to that moment Edmund had been feeling sick, and sulky, and annoyed with Lucy for being right, but he hadn't made up his mind what to do." (Lewis 35)
Edmund is found battling his wits on what is the right thing to do. Should he betray Lucy and benefit himself or should he tell the others, give Lucy the satisfaction she's been looking for and accept the fact that things can't always go his way. In the end he decided to go with the latter, but he had been personally conflicted for days on what to do.
"But behind him, on a much higher seat in the middle of the sledge, sat a very different person-a great lady, taller than any woman that Edmund had ever seen. She also was covered in white fur up to her throat and held a long straight golden wand in her right hand and wore a golden crown on her head. Her face was white-not merely pale, but white like snow or paper or icing sugar, except for her very red mouth. It was a beautiful face in other respects, but proud and cold and stern." (Lewis 24)
The White Witch symbolizes Satan. She is considered a god in her own mind, and as such attempts to overthrow her superior, Aslan. She is attractive at first, the way the devil is, as she intends to lure you in from the very beginning. Later in the novel, Mr. Beaver calls her out on being the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea's hangman (or next in command), but she is quite clearly no longer on good terms with the Emperor. She makes reference to a deep magic that gives her the right to anyone who commits treason against Aslan and Narnia. As the Bible says, the devil gets the rights to any soul that has sinned and has not been forgiven.
"I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion-the lion, the great Lion." (Lewis 64)
In this novel, Aslan symbolizes Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God is therefore symbolized by the Emperor, but Christians know that there is no difference between Jesus Christ and God, as they are one entity in three forms (the other being the Holy Spirit). Not much is said about Aslan's appearance, other than that he is a lion. This is likely due to the fact that the face of God is indescribable. A key fact of Aslan's symbolism is his sacrifice of himself. Just as Jesus died to save mankind from their sins, as did Aslan to save Edmund. Also, just as Jesus rose from the tomb, Aslan rose from the Stone Table. The symbolic references to the Bible are countless, as the whole book revolves around such symbolism.
"This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of air raids." (Lewis 1)
This quote provides two key details about the setting. It provides information about the time period, as the air raids would have been in World War Two. This puts the time line somewhere between 1939 and 1936. It also tells about the previous living conditions of the family. People in London lived in constant fear during the War. The thought that a bomb might be dropped at any given time never left their heads.
"It was the sort of house that you never seem to come to the end of, and it was full of unexpected places. The first few doors they tried led only into spare bedrooms, as everyone had expected that they would; but soon they came to a very long room full of pictures and there they found a suit of armor; and after that was a room all hung with green, with a harp in one corner; and then came three steps down and five steps up, and then a kind of little upstairs hall and a door that led out onto a balcony, and then a whole series of rooms that led into each other and were lined with books-most of them very old books and some bigger than a Bible in a church. And shortly after that they looked into a room that was quite empty except for one big wardrobe, the sort that has a long looking glass in the door. There was nothing else in the room at all except a dead bluebottle on the windowsill." (Lewis 3-4)
New living conditions are now observed. Instead of a small home in London, the children resided in a giant mansion with multiple rooms and endless staircases. Perhaps the wardrobe being in a room by itself shows just how much space the Professor has that he can reserve a room entirely for a wardrobe.
"The next thing they saw was a pavilion pitched on one side of the open place. A wonderful pavilion it was-and especially now when the light of the setting sun fell upon it-with sides of what looked like silk and cords of crimson and tent-pegs of ivory; and high above it on a pole a banner, which bore a red rampant lion, fluttered in the breeze which was blowing in their faces from the far-off sea." (Lewis 101)
Location is described here, a pavilion in a secluded area in Narnia. Living conditions are also addressed. Though it may not be a mansion, it is the nicest place in Narnia that we have yet heard of. Also, pertaining to living conditions, a great camaraderie is displayed between everyone living in the pavilion.
Narrative Point of View: Third-person Omniscient
"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy." (Lewis 1)
As one could presume, a story beginning with, "Once there were..." or any variation on such a phrase will be told in third-person omniscient. It is not told from another character's perspective, for if it were, the character would not say, "Once upon a time..." or the like.
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