In this post I will be considering the personal growth and transformation that takes place in the male characters within The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle. In both these books all the main characters go through a major transformation but because I have so heavily focused on the young girls in my other posts I will only be discussing the young boys with consideration to these two texts.
The first book I would like to address is The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this book the two characters I will be focussing on are Peter and Edmund. I will be considering what type of transformation or growth takes place through their adventures within the fantasy world of Narnia. When readers are first introduced to this story they learn right away that Peter is the oldest. Readers are given the sense that Peter knows he has to take care of his younger siblings Susan, Edmund, and Lucy; however because the children are sent to the house of an old professor in the country side of England (1) his ownership of this responsibility is lacking. It is not until all of the siblings have entered into the land of Narnia together that Peter begins to act on his position as the eldest of the family. In the beginning of their journey, readers are given the impression that Peter is not ready for this responsibility and that he feels uncomfortable being in a place of leadership. On one occasion Peter even deflects responsibility to Susan but she specifically calls Peter into his role by saying, “No, you’re the eldest” (2). Peter realizes the weight of his sister’s words and begins to accept the responsibility of being the eldest without a full understanding for what it truly means. At this point in the story readers begin to see a change in Peter’s character. Peter becomes more understanding of the effect his actions and words have on others; when he meets Aslan for the first time Peter confesses his part in Edmund’s betrayal saying,
[Edmund leaving ] was partly my fault Aslan. I was angry with him and I think that helped him to go wrong (3).
Meeting Aslan acts as a catalyst for the rest of Peter’s maturing process for it is not long after the two characters meet that Peter is required to step into two significant moments that help him to mature.
The first moment that begins the transformation of Peter’s character is the slaying of the wolf. After hearing Suzan’s horn Peter goes rushing to save his sisters where he sees a huge grey wolf snapping at them. Though Peter did not arrive to save Susan and Lucy alone he is the one called upon to kill the wolf. Peter acted swiftly and “plunged his sword, as hard as he could, between the brute’s forelegs into his heart” (4).
This scene demonstrates how quickly Peter was required to come into his maturity. Peter needed to act regardless of his own safety in order to keep his siblings safe. The narrator tells us that “Peter did not feel brave” (6) but placed the needs of his family above his own. For his actions Peter is knighted by Aslan and at that moment assumes all responsibility that his position as head of the family and future High King of Narnia requires of him. He accepts it all knowing that he has to rise above his fears, personal needs, and desires in order to fulfill the role of protector, provider, and leader for his family and all those in Narnia.
The second moment where readers notice a change in Peter occurs at the Coronation of the Kings and Queens of Narnia. In this moment Aslan and all the other creatures of the land are celebrating crowning the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. It is at this time that Peter’s character has completely transformed from being a playful young boy that lacked the desire to act responsibly into the High King of Narnia. Here all the trials, fears, and challenges that Peter had to face in order to be crowned are recognized and appreciated.
Although Peter’s transformation is successful, the change that occurs in Edmund is far more drastic than the change Peter goes through. In the beginning of the story Edmund is portrayed as selfish, bratty, and undisciplined because of his jealousy towards Peter for his position of eldest and the authority that gives him. But Edmund cannot act out against Peter and so he frequently lashes out on Lucy. The narrator says “Edmund could often be spiteful, He sneered and jeered at Lucy” (7).
Due to his misbehaviour Edmund is constantly being told to how to act properly by Susan who says, “Stop grumbling (9)” on a number of occasions. Peter is also particularly harsh when Edmund misbehaves; he calls him names such as “a poisonous little beast” (10). However, Edmund does change. He learns what it truly means to be a leader along with all the weight and responsibility of that position requires. He demonstrates this understanding on two occasions. The first moment readers recognize a significant change in Edmund’s behaviour is once he realizes the cruelty of the Witch of Narnia and though he remained her captive Edmund’s attitude toward her changed. Before he was willing to defend her and fight for her cause, he even tried to convince Peter to consider the Witch as a good person when he says
Which is the right side? How do we know the Fauns are in the right and the Queen is in the wrong? We don’t really know anything about either (11).
But as the story progresses and he spends more time with the Witch he no longer wished to help her but to escape and conquer the land back with his siblings for those who inhabited that land of Narnia.
The second occasion that readers see Edmund mature is a far more dramatic scene. Readers are able to see Edmund truly change when he is willing to give his life for everyone by risking his own well-being to destroy the Witch’s staff.
In the process of battling with the Witch, Edmund breaks her staff but he also receives a fatal wound when he is stabbed. Edmund comes close to dying because of his actions but he chose to willingly risk his own life in order to protect both his family and those who live in Narnia from the Witches influence. This is the pivotal moment for Edmund; he is no longer thinking of himself, no longer selfishly coveting what is not his but rather considering others before himself and understanding what the consequences of his actions. Later in the story Edmund is also crowned King of Narnia and known for his wise and reliable judgement, he was renamed “King Edmund the Just” (13).
When considering the maturing process depicted in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe it is arguably very traditional. Both the characters Peter and Edmund are challenged and pushed to mature like many young people at their age are in today’s society. Peter and Edmund both were required to act responsibility and learn what it meant to be a leader but also how to accept the consequences of their actions. However when considering Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle a different kind of maturing is demonstrated by using the main character, Will, and all the trials and challenges he has to overcome while struggling to find his place in the world and what that means for him in his every-day life.
Unlike in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in Lee Maracle’s work, Will’s Garden, Will is already a young adult and has successfully breached the gap between childhood and adolescences. Throughout the course of Maracle`s book, Will`s journey is focussed on a deeper more personalized type of maturing. In the story readers learn that Will is about to participate in a “becoming a man” ceremony within his Sto:loh community. During the time leading up to and after this ceremony, Will encounters several significant situations that enable him to link cultural understanding with spiritual understanding. Many of the encounters that shape Will occur within his interactions at his high school. For instance, the most critical moment in Will’s time at high school is when he disrupts the normative behaviour of his peers by addressing the entire cafeteria. He says,
I want your attention one more time. I have been mistreated by almost everyone in this room … Today is the last day I put up with any abuse. I just want to get along, enjoy my friends, and get through three more years. Don’t give me a hard time (14).
In every altercation, argument, or aggressive conversation Will is able to navigate and resolve the situation effectively because he has learned interconnectedness of world he lives in. Will knows the world is dependent on all sorts of people working together. He realizes that sooner or later he has to establish a neutral ground in order to successfully communicate. It’s almost as if Will is saying, “I live on this planet too, and I’m not going away so deal with it, I’ll respect you if you respect me.” The only difference is that Will makes his claim in an irrefutable way that not only captures people’s attention but demands their respect. This directly ties into the native philosophy of living. Respect is more than just getting along, its learning from one another and accepting responsibility for each other as well as recognizing the impact of ones words and actions (15).
Another influential moment for Will is when he recognizes the value of past, present, future family. Throughout the book, Will often daydreams or meditates on stories that he has been told about his grandparents. These stories allow Will to learn how to cope with difficult situations that he is experiencing in his own life and act as a guide for Will to follow. Will does not question or ignore their significance but rather appreciates the lessons that he is able to gain from his past family. Will also acknowledges the influence of his present family and lists each person during his speech at his becoming a man ceremony and thanks them for their help. Will continues to demonstrate his value of family when he mentions the possibility of his future with Lei-Lani, Will says,
I cannot see myself not caring. I have had so much caring in my life. I have had buckets full of consideration, devotion and tenderness all I have to do is pass that on (16).
It is through Will`s readiness to listen to his all the members of his family, whether it be past, present or future, that readers gain the assurance Will understands the value of being devoted to his family. The last defining moment that helps shape Will`s character is when he discovers his talents and decides how he will use them in order to fulfill his role in society. Will understands that it is possible to create a balance between both his native origins and Western culture; he decides that he will make it his goal in life to combine both in order to better the health of the planet. He says:
I want to learn our science first, to ground myself in the science of our holy knowledge then tailor their science to fit mine. I am going to struggle in an activist way to detoxify this earth, to make this world more responsive to her, and to treat her like the beautiful, flexible, fragile and deserving woman that she is (17).
Through the course of this book Will transforms drastically. He begins as a young adult who consistently questions all aspects of his life and ends as a young man that understands who he is and what goals he wants to achieve. Will decides that he will interact with people in a respectful way, he chooses to be loyal and faithful to his family and friends, he continues to exercise and demand the right of choice in all aspects of his life and because of this, Will determines the type of man he wants to be at the age of sixteen and leaves no doubt in his mind or the mind of the readers that he will not waver in his decisions.
In both books, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle the male characters mature. However they mature in different ways, is one form of maturing more effective than another? Does society favour one type of maturing process over another? Or is it simply a difference in culture and if so, could Western Culture benefit from placing importance on the maturing of an adolescent into a man within our society?
- Lewis, S.C. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Harper Collins Publishers Inc. New York, 1995. (1).
- Lewis, 128.
- Lewis, 128.
- Lewis, 131.
- Lewis, 131.
- Lewis, 26.
- Lewis, 4
- Lewis, 56.
- Lewis, 62.
- Lewis, 183.
- Maracle, Lee. Wills Garden. Theytus Books. Penticton BC, 2008. (133)
- Humphreys, Sara. Lecture notes. Trent University. July 10th/2012.
- Maracle, 124.
- Maracle, 121.