The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In defense of Edmund (and Peter)

Contrary to my usual practice, I have no specific thesis I'm defending. I merely wish to make remarks on Edmund's behalf to the end that those who have seen him in a more negative light than myself might see him in a better light. So no specific thesis, but a specific purpose. Forthwith:

Edmund's first words: "'Oh, come off it!' said Edmund, who was tired and pretending not to be tired, which always made him bad-tempered. 'Don't go on talking like that.'"
So this is not a flattering opening, but Lewis provides a partially exculpating reason for the remark.

Edmund's second words: "'Trying to talk like Mother,' said Edmund. 'And why are you to say when I'm to go to bed? Go to bed yourself.'"

Again, not Mister Sweetypie, but, let's face it, his sister was being bossy with "It's time you were in bed." Any one who's observed oder sisters knows they do often have an annoying proclivity toward acting as maternal second in command. I think Ed's remark was testy but fair.
After the quibble about going to bed, Peter doesn't try to boss anyone, he simply states "I shall go to bed now." He gets the kids excited about exploring for birds the next day, and Edmund joins in the excitement with everyone else.

Edmunds third remark: "'Of course it would be raining!' said Edmund.

Given that he had ended the previous night in mutual excitement about exploring the woods, I think I'd be disappointed as well. Now Lewis probably did not assign this remark to Ed at random, but the point only need be that Ed is especially sensitive, not that he is a bad person.
Note also that it's Susan who rebukes him "Do stop grumbling, Ed." And also that once again Peter is above the fray, simply stating his own intentions: "I'm going to explore in the house." Lewis continues: "Everyone agreed to this and that was how the adventures began." So the pattern of the previous day is complete: 1. Conflict between Susan and Edmund, 2. Peter's personal leadership, 3. Mutual agreement. I do wish the movie had portrayed Peter better.

Edmund's fourth remarks: [Lucy comes back and reports having been gone for hours.] "'Batty!' said Edmund, tapping his head. 'Quite batty."

Given that "The others all stared at one another" Ed seems to be voicing what others may be thinking anyway. And not that Susan chimes in "Don't be silly, Lucy" [mother hen again]. I wish to note here that again Peter is the noble one; "'She's not being silly at all,' said Peter, 'she's just making up a story for fun, aren't you, Lu? And why shouldn't she?'" I've only seen the movie once so far, so maybe I missed it, but I didn't think they portrayed this. I'm really beginning to think that Peter was not given his due.

Edmund's fifth remarks are not recorded in their particulars, but we are told that "Edmund could be spiteful, and on this occasion he was spiteful." Point against Edmund.

However, when he does enter Narnia, it isn't long before he feels bad about teasing her about what he now knows was a true story, and seeks to make amends.
Also, note that when he's asked by the White Witch--under the guise of the Queen of Narnia--1. he is under the spell of *enchanted* Turkish Delight; 2. he does not straightforwardly agree to bring his siblings to see her; 3. not only does she not say anything about harming them, she pledges to make them Lords and Ladies; 4. she explicitly says that fauns are not to be trusted, because they spread wicked lies about her. It is not as if she says "Hey, let's sock it to your stupid siblings" and he says "Yeah, let's get 'em!" The real story is entirely different.
He naturally doesn't want to believe the faun's side of the story--is there really any particularly good reason for him to do so?--and this seems to be the main explanation of his not wanting to tell the others about the events of the day: "he felt sure the others would all be on the side of the Fauns and animals". The chief fault of Edmund's seems to be that he does not like to admit that he's wrong. This is mentioned just before he finds Lucy and then in the closing of Chapter 4: "He would have to admit that Lucy had been right, before all the others." That is a serious fault which can drag a person down, but, I more than suspect, it is one which we all share. The worst I can say about Edmund is that this common bad habit was somewhat more thoroughly entrenched than in many.

The main reason I did this study was simply out of curiosity: I had a different impression than a learned and pious friend. In such cases I do not automatically trust my instincts. Also, I think there's potentially an important theological point at stake, one illustrated very well in Lewis's _Great Divorce_: the choices that lead one down the road to perdition are very subtle. To the extent that Edmund becomes a caricature, I think this truth is obscured. I'm just glad it wasn't *me* upon whom the White Witch first came! (What if it was Peter or Susan or you: would we fare much better?)


At Thursday, January 05, 2006 5:07:00 PM, Blogger JK said...

giving you some feed back on your blog. It looks good. I have been enjoying your thoughts on the LWW. I liked the movie the first time off, better the second, but I had some quick reactions to the films that I just couldn't mesh with the Narnia that I love and Andrew Adamsons Narnia. Each and Every time Peter yelled at Edmund I just cringed. It was very frustrating to me to see Peter become an older brother who is such a prick. Being an older brother I loved the example of Peter, while reading it, and saw often how I did not match up to his superior leadership, love, and understanding. At the end of the movie I really felt like he did not deserve the be crowned the magnificent. One scene sticks out in my head above the others. When Ed comes back to the family and the girls hug him, Peter just stands and tells him he needs to get some sleep. Then he gives him some sort of fake half forgiveness make it all better by not really talking about it comment, such as "Do try to not run off this time" I just wanted to see a little more regal and loving response out of Peter. But above all of this is the way that peter held his sword. He looked like a complete fool everytime he began to do anything with his sword. Even boys who dont grow up with swords use sticks. I mean don't make his a complete fool. In the book he also stabbed the wolf, instead of the wolf just jumping upon him. But life is great, and the sex is awesome.

At Thursday, January 05, 2006 5:08:00 PM, Blogger JK said...

the wedding was great.

P.s. Thanks for the amazon gift.

At Thursday, January 05, 2006 5:38:00 PM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

"Each and Every time Peter yelled at Edmund I just cringed."

Totally.  I didn't realize this was such a divergence until I went back
to the text for my defense of Edmund, but when I re-read the first few chapters
I saw what a raw deal he got (as I detail above). 

I also think your comment about the scene you mention is spot on.  Even
that lack-luster response was, in the movie, prompted by Susan (who in the book
is far harder on Edmund than Peter).  It's sad that our great male role
models are taken away from us at precisely the time we need them most.

I shared the thought about the sword.  Surely these British boys had emulated Sir Lancelot or Alfred the Great at some point.

Regarding you're last comment, um, TMI (but ditto).  [I think maybe you thought you were sending me an email rather than posting: a felix culpa from my
point of view.]

At Monday, January 16, 2006 11:24:00 PM, Anonymous db said...

Well, I figured I’d wait a few months for the DVD before seeing the movie version of Narnia, but I might be willing to make a $14 or $15 investment to see LWW a couple of times soon if it means I might be able to have some great sex in the meantime. I really don’t believe in paying for sex, but given that the funds would be directed into the coffers of the movie industry, I suppose I could look the other way this time.

No doubt the fine folks at Mizzou would find this line of reasoning epistemologically correct, but I could be wrong. Before going out on a limb with 15 bucks, I thought it might be a good idea to have an opinion from someone from a really good school like Rochester or Dallas. Perhaps the philosophers or logicians or mystics there can lend a hand and provide an opinion?

Maybe someone like Peter Kreeft could even use this as an example in a future version of his logic text!

By the way, I know Felix Leiter from so many James Bond films, but who is Felix Culpa?

At Tuesday, January 17, 2006 11:37:00 AM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

Ai carumba, I'm going to have to get some kind of filter! By the way DB, are you still on the School Board? I'm sure they'd find this as intertaining as I did. :P


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