Banality of Vice - Book Club, Week One

Richard Oelze, “the Expectation,” 1936, MOMA

Richard Oelze, “the Expectation,” 1936, MOMA

I have often thought that my personal hell would be waiting in line at the DMV for eternity. For Lewis, it seems his personal hell would be waiting in a bus line. In the first chapter of The Great Divorce we find ourselves, with the narrator, in a bus queue on "a long, mean street" in what can only be described as a drab and nondescript street. There's an underlying annoyance, a fussiness, and then, suddenly, violence. 

What on earth is wrong with humans?

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"Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer, or Reason, usurps its place and governs the unwilling. And being restrained it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of desire." 

The idea of a "shadow" of desire will become important later...

Note. The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he
wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils
and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s
party without knowing it.
— - William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


Blake is using satire to criticise the banal evil he perceived in the corpulent, unempathetic wealthy rulers of England who claimed temperance and restraint as the ultimate virtues while exploiting the poor and ignoring the helpless.

Lewis agrees with Blake that desires are important, and that a simplistic restraint is not the answer. But, certainly, a wild pursuit of desire without direction is not the answer either. 

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Listen in to my discussion with Joel on the podcast to hear more. 

And chime in with your own thoughts!

Answer these questions:

1. Why do the people want to get on the bus? what is "wrong" with these people?

2. What stuck out in this chapter to you? What did it remind you of? How did it make you feel?

Chime in on Facebook or Twitter to discuss!

Oh, and if you want to learn a little more about William Blake, Check out Malcolm Guite's podcast series on him at the link below. Malcolm is an Anglican priest, Poet, Cambridge professor, and dear family friend. I recommend all his writing!

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Read chapters 2-4!

Cheers friends! See you next week!

Joy Clarkson1 Comment