Saturday, 11 June 2016

In Which I Attempt to Write an Unbiased, Spoiler-Free Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child PART 1

An In-Depth, Semi-Unbiased, and Spoiler-Free Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 1

This is hard for me to admit, because as far as I'm concerned, JK Rowling is God and everything she touches turns to gold. However, at the interval during part 1 of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I was disappointed. The staging, whilst stunningly well done, was very disjointed. Scenes lasted 30 seconds at times, and jumped from place to place and character to character so quickly it was hard to follow. The plot seemed too farfetched and in places appeared almost contrived. One particularly memorable moment left me wondering if I'd watched 15 minutes of unnecessary plot development simply in order to facilitate a nifty staging trick. I am completely down with the hashtag #keepthesecrets so you won't get any spoilers from me, but let's just say no matter how impressive you can make fancy staging tricks, it's not worth sacrificing the plot for. 

However, after watching the second half of part 1, things began to make a lot more sense. The backstory, I realised, was completely necessary. I feel confident in saying that the slow start, the dragging scene-setting, is absolutely worth it and wholly necessary. Don't let the first half of part 1 disparage you. The play settles down into a smoother rhythm, with emphasis changing from creating backstory to developing the plot just in the nick of time. So breath, fellow HP lovers, put down your stones, because once I'd watched through to the end, I absolutely fricking loved it. 

From the very beginning of the play, the staging is unbelievable. No matter the location being portrayed, I genuinely believed I was right there with the actors. I have had the privilege of seeing a variety of plays at the theatre, and I can say with some confidence that the staging here is some of the best I've ever seen. Props are used unbelievably well to create the scenery, transporting you throughout the wizarding world. Cloaks in particular are amazing, with brilliant use made of them in changing props between scenes. Larger pieces of furniture are also used to brilliant effect, creating both intimate and cavernous spaces which we change between instantaneously. Elements of dance, which I would not normally hesitate to roll my eyes at, are beautiful. What's more, they also further the character development, a feat which is hard to achieve through dialogue, never mind interpretive dance. 

Lighting is used to great effect consistently throughout the play, with one or two moments standing out as being absolutely brilliant. I fully support the removal of the live birds from the play. It is very obvious where the bird would have been used, and frankly just as good a job is done through lighting without exposing animals to any unnecessary stresses, which I am sure would have occurred when 1400 people saw a live owl appear on-stage. Frankly, I'm not surprised the owl did a runner on day one; I think I would have too. Touching briefly on the score, I very much enjoyed it for the most part, although there were a few moments where it sounded a little tinny to me. However, as a whole, the score serves as a wonderful accompaniment to the play, facilitating the emotions beautifully. 

With it being a preview, there were some mistakes. Some elements of magic seem a little non-magical (particularly notable is when an actor turns "invisible" by ducking behind a piece of furniture- from my elevated seats, this didn't quite have the right effect). What's more, actors slipped up several times with words, a few scene changes were a little delayed, and occasionally actors struggled with their costumes- one action I noticed people struggle with particularly was sheathing their wands. However, that is the nature of previews, and there's something quite endearing about it. It almost serves to remind you that you're one of the privileged few lucky enough to get to see the play so early on, which of course is a real pleasure. 

The single biggest criticism I have of the play so far is the dialogue. Genuinely cringe-worthy at times, there are several occasions throughout the play where I found myself wincing at the stilted, slightly forced dialogue. The actors, to their credit, are doing a superb job with the material they have been given. As such, it's relatively easy to tune out some of the most awkward moments. 

I entered the world of the Cursed Child after the interval, clutching my recently purchased fluffy owl, and hoping that it could only be up from here. I spent the next hour and a bit utterly enraptured. As plot development took over, the world of Harry Potter did what it does best- it made you fall in love with these flawed, fragile human beings so lovingly portrayed. Whether it's characters we already know and love, or those without the added pressure of 7 years of backstory to contend with, each person is portrayed exactly as that- a fully formed person. Their failures are exposed to us, but we also see their triumphs, and both are equally important. There have been mixed reactions to the plot (personally by the end of part 1 I had started to love it), especially by those reading the spoilers online. However, building on canon isn't what makes the Cursed Child truly the eighth story. The actors and the producers have truly brought this play to life.

So, for those of you who are going to see the play soon, prepare yourself. The wizarding world has opened its doors to us once more. Have faith, more than I did anyway, because JK Rowling really can do no wrong. This is a play, a theatrical production, and transferring 7 years, thousands of words, tens of hours of film, on to a stage not much bigger than my school hall is an incomprehensibly difficult task. In remembering that, it becomes so much easier to see what the theatrical production brings to our wizarding world- because watching it right before your eyes, it truly is magical. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

In Which Bronte's Use of the Gothic is Discussed

Discuss Bronte's Use of the Gothic in Chapter 20 of Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre, although not a gothic novel in the traditional sense of the word, most definitely contains elements and symbols of a gothic nature. Chapter 20 is the culmination of all the gothic symbols reference throughout the book up until this chapter, and in it we see the use of the moon, blood, animalistic symbolism, religious themes, and the language used within the chapter.

 Firstly, the moon. The moon is a predominant feature of this chapter of Jane Eyre, but also features throughout the book. The moon wakes Jane in chapter 20: “her glorious gaze roused me”, and this prepares Jane for the night that she will face. Underneath the moon, the supernatural themes of the chapter take place, and indeed Jane says “dawn was approaching... hope [was] revived.” The moon has a great place in gothic literature due to pathetic fallacy. The moon has long been associated with insanity and also with werewolves and vampires, two ideas that feature heavily in this chapter; furthermore, the moon is frequently used in rituals and spells, therefore giving it ties with magic and the occult. Its presence at the beginning of this chapter foreshadows the events to come throughout. However, another angle must also be considered on this: in chapter 27, Jane sees the moon as a “white human form” that whispered in her heart “my daughter, flee temptation”. Jane answers “Mother, I will”. Here the moon appears to Jane as a symbol of the matriarchal spirit. Although this idea does not necessarily fit with previous usages of the moon, it can also be argued that the moon guides Jane along her spiritual journey which takes her away from Rochester, but also leads her back to him: “The room was full of moonlight” when Jane heard a voice cry “Jane! Jane! Jane!”, and indeed- Rochester has called Jane's name to the moon, aware of its presence by a “vague luminous haze”. Interpreted in this respect, the moon's symbolism is twofold. Firstly, the moon foreshadows the supernatural, as it has long been linked with both this, and also that of vampires, werewolves and magic- themes that feature heavily during this chapter. However, if we look further into the moon, it is the moon that wakes Jane and alerts her to the beast prowling above her, allowing her to be ready for when Rochester calls her. It gives her the strength to quit Gateshead and it eventually leads her back to Rochester- to her home. The moon guides Jane through her journey, admittedly leading her full-circle, however Jane has had time to grow and develop, whilst Rochester has been humbled by time and injury. He understands by the end of the novel that his intentions were wrong: “I would have sullied my innocent flower”, and this understanding allows Jane and Rochester's relationship to survive on equal terms. With the help of the moon, the couple achieve their happy ending.

Following on from the moon as a symbol of vampirism, lycanthropy and the occult, we also see the theme of blood come into play in this chapter. Bertha displays vampiric tendencies, threatening to “drain my [Mason's] heart”. Bertha however, does not stop at blood. According to Rochester, she would drain him of “my energy, my vitality, my manhood”. Rochester also refers to Bertha as a 'hideous demon” who “allured” him in typical succubus fashion. This chapter sees the expression not only of Bertha's vampiric tendencies, but also of her lycanthropic tendencies. Her transformation from woman to fiend is one so unexpected that her own brother could not anticipate it: “Oh it was frightful!... And I did not expect it: she looked so quiet at first.” Blood is spilled frequently within this chapter, and it is not only used as an expression of Bertha's more inhuman characteristics. It also serves to show how what is to Rochester a “mere scratch”, has Mason, in Jane's eyes “weak, wild and lost”. This difference in interpretations of the situation shows differences in the personalities of both Jane and Rochester. Rochester's dismissal and denial of the situation reflects his attitude to life. Frequently, he trivialises Jane's concerns, a characteristic possibly left over from his days as a young man tearing through Europe and trying to leave his past behind him. On the other hand, Jane over-thinks the situation, and has Mason at death's door. These opposing characteristics create conflict and heighten tension between the two characters.

Frequently within the book, contrasts are drawn between Bertha and Jane. Whilst Bertha is a “winged condor on the Andes”, a “snarling... dog quarrelling”, a “carrion-seeking bird of prey”, a “tigress”, Jane is a “pet lamb”, a “cat”. These phrases used to describe Bertha are linked back to colonialism, which, as we also see with Adele, is frowned upon within society: “a sound English education corrected in great measure [Adele's] French defects”. Bertha is foreign, which within Victorian society, would have been frowned upon. These colonialisms are used to warn and remind the reader of Bertha's origins, and stress that they are not English. Furthermore, Bertha is the antithesis of Jane. According to Gilbert and Gubar, “the character of Bertha Mason serves as an ominous representation of uncontrollable passion and madness”. This uncontrollable passion and madness echoes that of Jane's when locked in the red room. Bertha represents everything that Jane would be if not educated in a moral, upstanding society. On another level however, Bertha can also be seen as a manifestation of Jane's subconscious. Jane loves Rochester, however fears that her marriage to him may become an imprisonment; Bertha manifests this fear by tearing apart her wedding veil. Furthermore, when Thornfield comes to represent servitude and submission for Jane, Bertha burns it to the ground. Bertha represents the emotions and actions that Jane must keep in check. 

Also within this chapter, we encounter religious themes. In particular, these are seen in the depiction of the cabinet on which the twelve apostles can be seen. Judas, she imagines, is “gathering life and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor- of Satan himself- in his subordinate's form.” This suggests a devilish and supernatural evil. When we add this to the fact that metres away prowls Bertha, referred to soon after as a “mocking demon”, a “wild beast” and a “fiend”, this description becomes even more chilling. Bertha is here being linked to the devil, his presence released by Judas. In a way, Mason could be described as Judas. Here, Rochester is forced to bring Jane into close proximity with Bertha in order to keep Mason alive. However, if it wasn't for Mason's stupidity, this action would not have been necessary: “it was mere folly to attempt the interview tonight, and alone.” Furthermore, Bertha's existence would not have been revealed to Jane were it not for Mason interrupting their wedding day. Mason's betrayal of Rochester can be linked with Judas' betrayal of Christ. 

Finally, language use within the chapter. Bronte uses language carefully, conjuring up vivid and horrifying images within our mind. The entire description of the events that occur on the mysterious third floor simply serve to heighten the tension, mystery, and add to the reader's sense of impending horror- whilst Jane may be naïve, the reader in general is not. Jane relates of “a pale and bloody spectacle”, of a mystery that breaks out “now in fire and now in blood”, creating a “web of horror” in which the reader is firmly ensnared. Gothic texts use gloomy settings, along with a sinister and eerie atmosphere to create both horror, and also mystery. Jane's continual references to secrets, mystery and the supernatural keep the reader in suspense throughout the chapter. However, Jane cannot see through the veneer that Thornfield, and also Rochester wear. 

“'That house is a mere dungeon: don't you feel it so?'

'It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir.'

'The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes'”.

Jane cannot see Thornfield in its true light, and neither can she see Rochester. His secrets stand between them, and they cannot be overcome. 

In conclusion, despite not fully qualifying as a gothic novel, Jane Eyre shares many characteristics with one, and makes use of many gothic techniques. In chapter 20 alone, themes such as the moon, blood, animalistic symbolism, religious themes, and language usage all contribute to a chapter that heightens the suspense and mystery of the book, and leaves the reader on tenterhooks, as they begin to peel back the layers that Jane can see, but cannot understand. © Izzy Garratt 2012

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Etymology Of Words

Today I thought I'd feed your brains with some interesting facts about the etymology of words. Namely, how words in our language have come into being. Here's just a few of my favourites:

Assassin: a murderer, especially one who kills a politically prominent person for fanatical or monetary reasons.

The word assassin originates from the Crusades. Members of a certain Muslim sect performed murders as part of religious duty. These acts were performed under the influence of hashish (a narcotic/intoxicant) and so these people became known as hashashin, which meant 'eaters or smokers of hashish'. Hashashin evolved into the word assassin. Possibly to do with the fact that it's impossible to say hashashin five times very quickly.

Atomic: extremely minute

The word Atomic originates from Ancient Greece, surprisingly enough. The philosopher Democritus developed a theory that the ultimate components of matter must be particles that cannot be divided. He called these fundamental particles 'atoms' or 'uncutables'. The irony is that Science has developed and we have discovered sub-atomic particles- an oxymoron in itself.

Oxymoron: a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms, eg a ground pilot

The concept of sub-atomic particles led us nicely on to our next word- oxymoron. Oxymoron originates from two greek words: Oxy, or sharp; and Moron, or blunt. Therefore, the word oxymoron is in itself, an oxymoron.

Religion: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.

Interestingly enough, the word religion comes from the Latin word 'religare', which means 'to bind'...

Dunce: A person who is slow at learning; a stupid person.

Funnily, the word dunce comes from the medieval philosipher John Duns Scotus, whose writings were so impenetrable to readers that his name became synonymous with the idea of a bad scholar.

Maudlin: Self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental

I quite like this word! It comes from Mary Magdelene, a religious figure, who is often depicted crying.

Friday, 5 October 2012

In Which I Write Another Poem


There's no fucking sense in this world any more
No rhyme, no reason, no pattern, no score
We lie in an endless deliberation of delusion
And there's nothing left for us but confusion
We live in a hellhole, surrounded by hate
With the few who survive, alive, reprobates
The masses will fall, through mountains of squalor
And those left behind, will face all our horror
So breathe in the fresh air, while you still can
Before, as chance has it, life makes you a man

In Which I Write A Poem

In The Twilight Of Our Lives

I want to steal the stories on your skin,
I want to lose where you end and I begin.
I want you: heart, body and soul.
Take me inside of you and make me whole.
Although I wish that your pages were empty,
The story not yet told, the time aplenty
But this is the twilight of our lives
And we have lived, and loved,
Now we die inside.
But once more, let us brave the storm,
The story not yet over,
The fire, still warm.
Let us live, and love
And share our lasts, Not our firsts-
Consider this a blessing or
Consider this a curse.

So hush, dry your tears,
This is no time to cry.
Why waste that minute
In the twilight of our lives.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

In Which I Discuss The Origins Of Language

Dear reader,
Five minutes is all I need. If you've got it, read on- and prepare to have your mind blown.

Think about language. It's how we communicate, how we express ourselves. But where did it come from? Obviously, as a child, we pick up language through imitation. Babies imitate the noises the people around them make, and slowly, begin to grasp the complexity of language, meaning and grammar. However, where did this language come from in the first place? How did language begin?

The simple answer is that we just don't know. Language predates history- for without language, how can we express, record and conceptualise the past. However, there are theories on this matter, theories that have arisen relatively recently- all in the last one hundred years. But first, let me tell you a story... a story about The Forbidden Experiment.

There was once a holy Roman Emperor named Frederik II. Frederik was curious about language, and where its origins lay. He decided to conduct an experiment to discover what the first language, the language imparted to Adam and Eve by God in the garden of Eden, was. This, is the Forbidden Experiment.

Frederik took a number of children, the children of peasants, from their parents. He placed them all together, tended to by wet nurses, who were forbidden from engaging with the children; they were forbidden from cooing to them, showing affection or even making eye contact. All noise was banned. The wet nurses nourished the children, but showed no affection nor love.

So as these children developed, it was believed that the language with which they used to communicate would express the first, true, natural language. What do you think happened to them? Would they develop this natural language? Would they even communicate through language, or merely through noises? All babies cry to attract attention. This is a natural form of communication- would language develop and grow from this?

In reality, all the babies died. They could not survive without 'clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments' (in the words of the monk Salimbene di Adam). Namely, the children could not survive without love.

This story, fictional or no, tells us about the idea of the Forbidden Experiment. Supposedly repeated several times throughout history, this experiment has gone down in the mythology of the development of the English Language. However, whilst Language Deprivation Experiments are fascinating, they are also barbaric and cruel. To deny a child the right to communicate is to deny it every chance to be 'normal'.

However, back to the topic at hand- we cannot prove how language arose, however there are several theories:

1) The 'pooh-pooh' Theory: This is the idea that language began with cries of emotion- 'ooh! ahh! ai! ha!' and developed from there into cries expressing emotion, thus associating different noises with different emotions and creating meaning from random, order from chaos.

2) The 'ding-dong' Proposal: Supported by Charles Darwin (author of The Origin of Species and, in short, founder of the ideas of evolution), this theory speculates that an 'unusually wise ape-like animal' may have imitated the growl of a beast, so as to warn others of the danger from this specific beast. This theorises that imitation of sounds within nature created meaning from noise.

3) The 'yo-he-ho' Hypothesis: The idea that some 'heaving and hauling' was required to give rise to these early words. 'The vocal cords were in origin membranes deep in the throat which closed off the lungs, making the rib-cage rigid when some effort is required' (Jean Aitchison, BBC Reith Lectures). Basically, because of the placement of the primitive vocal cords, some effort was required to produce noise. Thus leading to heaving and hauling creating words.

So, one of life's great mysteries is something intrinsic to the very basis of our society. Language. As with many of the unknowns in the Universe, we can hypothesise as to the origins of language, but we just cannot know. It's amazing to think that something we take for granted, something we use every day, something that has allowed us to achieve every success of mankind, great or small, is so little understood.

My 5 minutes are up. Have I changed your perception of the English Language? I'd love to hear what you think...

© Izzy Garratt 2012

In Which Till We Have Faces Is Discussed

C.S. Lewis' 'masterpiece', Till We Have Faces is extraordinarily illusive. I swear to god there is literally no online help on it whatsoever. Therefore, seeing as it's one of my A-Level texts, that puts me in a wee bit of a pickle.  So, in order to save others the 6 hours of work that it took me to write my two essays, feel free to take a look. Aren't I nice...

By the way, if anyone plagiarises my work, I will cry. You have been warned.

How Does Lewis Simultaneously Release All The Information We Need To Us Whilst Maintaining The Illusion That Orual Is Writing For Her Own Period?

Till We Have Faces opens with our protagonist, Orual, who is seen through two sets of eyes. At the beginning of the book, Orual, in a way, has two faces: that of the naïve child of her past and the bitter, twisted old woman she has become. This is most prominent in the line: ‘that was the first time I realised that I am ugly.’ The change of tense simultaneously represents Orual’s childhood realisation-this was-; and how this has haunted her throughout her life-I am-. Orual is writing for a very specific purpose: she is retelling the story of her life ‘to accuse the gods… as if I were making my complaint before a judge’ with the hope that it may be read in the Greeklands, where they can decide whether or not the gods have been just towards her. In this way, Orual is writing for her own period and time- she is registering her complaint concerning the gods. However, this is also a tool used by Lewis in order to slowly reveal to us the information that we need. This manifests itself in three different ways throughout the text: foreshadowing, the unreliable narrator, and the language of the text.

          Firstly, foreshadowing. The entire book is littered with foreshadowing. Future events are constantly hinted at; for example, the book starts with the lines: ‘I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods. I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend through whom they can hurt me.’ Though merely the opening passage to Till We Have Faces, we can ascertain from this so much: firstly, we are told that she has 'not much to fear from the anger of gods'. This implies that she may have done or be about to do something the gods may not approve of. Secondly, we can assume that she is lonely. 'I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend'. From this we can ascertain conclusions about how her life has played out because, thirdly, she says: ‘I am old now.' All this information we pick up on, and we recognise. Foreshadowing is a technique here used throughout the book to ready us for events to come. For example: ‘the god of the Grey Mountain, who hates me, is the son of Ungit.’ This prepares us for events concerning the god of the Grey Mountain, letting us know of future interaction and bad feeling between them. Another example would be when Orual says ‘I do not know that I have ever (to speak of things merely mortal) been in such dread’. This readies us for things not strictly mortal, readies us to step outside the boundaries of the natural world and into a world where things may not be as they seem. Throughout the book, Lewis uses Orual to forewarn and prepare us for what is to come. Maintaining the pretext that Orual is writing to complain, to report, Lewis uses her to work to hint of things to come; so that when these events do occur, we are more than ready.

           Secondly, the unreliable narrator. Orual is an unreliable narrator for a number of different reasons. Firstly, in the beginning of the book, she is a child. She has a child’s mind and understanding, and thus our understanding, through her, may be limited. Secondly, she is ‘old now’ and her memories and recollections may have become faded through time; finally, and perhaps most importantly, Orual is angry, and resentful: ‘I will accuse the gods, especially the god who lives on the Grey Mountain’. These emotions do not facilitate impartiality. The book is related to us from Orual’s point of view, which considering her aims, may be biased. However what does this allow Lewis to do? The technique of the unreliable narrator allows Lewis to release the information we need, but in a form that cannot be trusted. Orual fails to understand many things about herself and those around her. In her reportage, she may aim to present an unbiased, evaluation of the events that have passed, but her interpretation and understanding of what is happening to other characters cannot be fully relied upon. Lewis guides us through the book in this manner, so that to the alert reader, the revelations at the end are no surprise: they have already seen through the mistakes and self-deceptions Orual has made along the way. In this manner, Lewis releases the information that we need to us, allowing us to foresee the path that the book will take; however throughout the book, we retain the illusion that Orual is writing for her own period: at first to register her complaint with the people of her time, and then to retract it.
          Finally, the language of the book. Language is what reveals the events of the story to us- through it the story is told. The language used to tell this story is chosen very carefully and specifically. We see this in several different ways, the most important of which is its alienness. Phrases occur throughout the book which we are perfectly capable of understanding, but jar in our consciousness: ‘shore me’; ‘we were booted’; ‘greyed the last red hair’; ‘the Ungit-smell’; ‘a small rain beginning’; for all of these phrases, our understanding of the concepts expressed is the same, but they give us a foreign feeling, an alien feeling. It separates us from the body of the text, making it feel like Orual is writing for a different time, almost a different world. This allows us to stand at a distance from the book and observe. By preventing us from becoming lost in the plot, Lewis allows us to become observers, not readers. Till We Have Faces, Lewis’ masterpiece, is not just a story, it has a moral. It does not merely tell of events that have occurred to Orual, but is a record of Orual’s self-realisation and awareness. By using the phrases referenced above ('shore me', 'a small rain beginning'), Lewis makes us stop, think and consider; which in turn helps us to understand what he is trying to convey. Lewis uses language to hold us at a distance from the story, hiding this behind the pretext of a culture which is alien and different to ours in so many ways.


          In conclusion, Lewis uses a variety of techniques to maintain the illusion that Orual’s intent when writing Till We Have Faces is at first to register her complaint, and then to retract it. He also employs these techniques to release information to us in a variety of methods throughout the book: His use of foreshadowing prepares us for what is to come through Orual’s simple, first-person narration. His second technique of the unreliable narrator allows us to experience not only the plot development of Till We Have Faces, but also the character development of Orual as she awakens to this self-realisation throughout the book. Finally, Lewis uses language masterfully to deceive our minds into believing not only that Orual is writing for her own time period, through the construction of grammar in ways less familiar to us, therefore creating an alien feel to the text; but he also uses this feeling of alienation to separate us from the text, allowing us to stand at a distance, and in some ways, be the audience she wanted so desperately at the beginning of the book- to reassure herself that it was not she who was wrong, but she who had been wronged: ‘Perhaps their wise men will know whether my complaint is right or whether the god could have defended himself if he had made an answer.’

What Are The Key Things That We Need To Know/Carry Forward For The Rest of the Story? What Has, In Some Way, Been Highlighted?

Throughout the first few chapters of C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, certain elements are highlighted which then go on to appear again and again throughout the story. These recurring themes or ideas form the ideology of the novel, each coming to its own separate conclusion. The main themes of Till We Have Faces include: Barbarianism, Death, Misogyny, and Love.
           Firstly, barbarianism. Highlighted especially strongly throughout Orual's childhood, we are constantly shown how in Glome, life can be both barbaric and cruel. Our first example of this is seen in interaction between the Fox and Orual: 'we sometimes, in a bad year, have to cut someone's throat and pour the blood over [Ungit]'. Animal and human sacrifice are integral to the cult of the Goddess Ungit; however the barbarianism of this practice, even for the age in which the book is set, is highlighted by Fox's reaction to Orual's words: 'He shuddered when I said that and muttered something under his breath.' The stark differences between the Greek culture and Glome's culture is thus shown- highlighting for us the barbarianism of Glome as a whole. The theme of barbarianism continues throughout the first chapters of the book: King Trom, in grief and anger, stabs a wine steward to death and threatens to send the Fox to the mines- a certain death sentence. Orual encourages her tutor to flee, but he prefers honourable suicide. He will be 'resolved into our elements'; however despite this belief, he still trembles. Again, barbarianism is highlighted within this passage- the Fox asks Orual 'are you still a barbarian?' when she reminds him of the doctrines of the worship of Ungit- that those who commit suicide 'lie wallowing in filth- down there in the land of the dead.' The contrast between the faiths of the Greek Culture and Glome's culture is again strong here, with Orual's faith presented as barbaric, and the Fox's as noble and 'according to nature'. This theme continues and develops throughout the novel, and in a way, Orual's development of self-awareness at the end of the book can be seen as her passage from the barbaric way of thinking that she upholds before, to the civilised understanding she develops.
          The theme of barbarianism within the novel links in strongly with the theme of death. Life is cheap in Till We Have Faces, with instances of premature, natural death; sacrifice; murder; certain death sentences; and discussion of suicide occurring within the first two chapters alone. This theme, highlighted in such concentration at the beginning of the book, continues throughout. The people of Glome worship Psyche for her 'healing touch', however upon the Priest of Ungit's announcement that Psyche must be offered as expiation, they soon turn on her. Drought and plague disappear following Psyche's death, which the Fox interprets as a coincidence, but denies that Psyche's death was in vain for she died 'full of … courage and patience' and 'to love, and to lose what we love are equally things appointed for our nature'. This quote displays the Fox's belief that Psyche's death has not been for nothing, as both love and loss are given to us by the gods to help us grow and become stronger. This theme of death continues throughout the novel, but is initially highlighted to us in the very beginning: we are first presented with with abstract concepts of death through sacrifice, then natural death, then the murder of the wine steward, the famine and plagues of the masses, building up to the apparent death of a character we have come to love- Psyche, a character who makes 'beauty all around her'. Thus, as we navigate the beginning of the book, the theme of death is slowly introduced to us, with each occurrence of the theme growing in gravity and seriousness, until it reaches a crescendo with the supposed death of Psyche. In this way, the theme of death is highlighted to us gradually, but powerfully.
          The third theme we see within the book is that of misogyny. King Trom, Orual's father is openly contemptuous of his three daughters, assigning them to the care of slaves. His eldest two daughters receive an education only because Trom wants his educated Greek slave, the Fox, to hone his skills for his future sons: 'if a man can teach a girl, he can teach anything.' This theme is even present in the normally educated and wise Fox, who is offended by women who do not cover their faces with a veil; however as a slave, he must remain silent. The matter of succession is also an issue within the text, as with no male heirs, Orual inherits Trom's throne. Despite the suggestion of a hasty match with some royal from a neighbouring kingdom, Orual decides that as she has grown up with the derision of her father for being a girl (and an ugly girl at that), she will rule alone. Orual laments that the only crime the gods consider unforgivable is one that cannot be remedied- that of being born female. Misogyny is a theme present throughout the book, and is the driving force behind many pivotal moments of the book, for example, where Orual comes to a realisation that 'this is where men, even the trustiest, fail us' and that she is the only one who truly cares for Psyche: 'She lives at the very outskirts of their thoughts... You are alone Orual... No help will come.' From this she makes the decision to embark upon the disastrous second trip up the Grey Mountain. Misogyny is present throughout the book, but is highlighted to aid our awareness and understanding of the novel from the very beginning.
The final and most important theme is that of love. The characters in Till We Have Faces display complex examples of love- both platonic and sexual. As a child, Orual loves her half-sister Psyche above all. The love that Orual has for her sister is unhealthy- it takes rather than gives. Orual's love for Psyche is such that she desires her for her own happiness, not for Psyche's happiness. Evidence for this can be seen where Orual claims her half-sister as her possession: 'she was mine. Mine. Do you not know what the words mean? Mine!' This idea of possessive, destructive love is displayed from the very beginning of the novel. Orual's attachment to Psyche, the pleasure she receives from her presence and her protective, possessive dominance over her all foreshadow the love that is to develop and fester between them. However, Lewis also contrasts Orual's inability to love truly and freely with examples of real, giving, sacrificing love. The Fox realises he shouldn't use his love to beg Orual to refrain from fighting Argon, and says: 'I was wrong to weep and beg and try to force you by your love', here showing his understanding of how the power that love gives you over a person should not be exploited. Orual displays her unawareness of this concept where she says to Unsit that she could have forced Bardia to stay home. Unsit replies with indignation, saying: 'keep him to myself at all cost? Make him so mine that he was no longer his?… Queen Orual, I begin to think you know nothing of love.' Through this theme, Lewis not only deconstructs false love, but also shows by contrast, the beauty of true, pure, giving, sacrificial love. Orual's misconceptions about love are highlighted at the start of the novel, and we follow them through to the very end, where Orual realises, understands and repents of the errors of her ways.
          In conclusion, the themes that we see at the beginning of the novel, including Barbarianism, Death, Misogyny, and Love, play crucial roles within the novel as a whole. Lewis highlights ideas to us for very specific reasons, namely so that we can follow them throughout the course of the novel, watching them develop, change, and at the end, conclude. 

© Izzy Garratt 2012