I’m working on a group of sonnets that will feature the characters in these books. I plan to post the sonnets in no particular order — mainly because I don’t have an expected order for their completion. Today’s post will be the first with others to follow as I’ve satisfactorily completed them.
I love this book cover with its sympathetic depiction of Eustace Scrubb, the dragon. In spite of his unappealing nature at the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, something about this picture captures the vulnerability of Eustace that lies hidden beneath his initial characterization … “dreadful cousin,” an imperious child of progressive parents (whom he addresses by name).
These and other clues help the reader to understand Eustace is a self-centered child and also illustrates why the Pevensie cousins (Lucy and Edmund) aren’t fond of him. Further, despite all Eustace’s progressive education, he is initially unfamiliar with a dragon’s lair (Lewis points out) because he has “read only the wrong books.” With this statement, the child-reader easily comprehends the depth of Scrubb’s educational deficit.
Something else I enjoy about the above book cover is the diminutive and valiant Reepicheep standing guard between the dragon’s claws. Regardless of how Eustace has previously treated him, Reepicheep (a student of chivalry) will faithfully stand by Eustace and keep him safe for the sake of Lucy and Edmund.
Dawn Treader is a wonderful adventure tale … for children of all ages. (See my previous post about it here.)
In the sonnet below, I’ve verybriefly described the transformation of Eustace. Even for readers who find Eustace an unpleasant character in the early chapters, I think Lewis created an interesting character with whom children easily identify. Scrubb’s subsequent transformation doesn’t sand off all the rough edges (nor bring Eustace anywhere close to perfection) but children see a petulant child whose behavior becomes more tolerable and likable. It’s a partial transformation, one that will continue to unfold in the book that follows, The Silver Chair.
Branches of the military have a Code of Conduct. Private businesses often have a similar set of dos and don’ts for their employees. These rules for behavior promote an orderly operation and enable members of the organization to understand (1) what’s expected of them and (2) where the boundaries are. Having specific guidelines for behavior protects both people and organizations against the “Oops, I didn’t know” defense.
Likewise, civil societies have adopted an implicit code of conduct for acceptable and/or unacceptable acts and behavior. Codes may be prescribed via laws and regulations, as well as a shared awareness of right and wrong. For centuries, public disfavor or implied reproof were sufficient to discourage bad behavior. When social condemnation failed, offenders were jailed.
Through the years, a commonly accepted rule for good conduct has been protecting women and children. From medieval times, the inclination of a society to look after women and children was considered chivalrous. (See this previous post about my thoughts on chivalry.)
I remember in childhood the first time I viewed the movie Titanic (1953). This movie presented a societal code of conduct: the captain would not abandon ship, women and children were given life jackets and placed in lifeboats. One male character dressed as a woman and sneaked onto a lifeboat; eventually they noticed his presence and all considered his bad behavior shameful.
Our 2014 topsy-turvy culture has it backwards now. No question, women (gender feminists) have been party to this upset. God forbid any man should open a door for a woman! God forbid a woman expresses her appreciation for the husband who supports her! God forbid she betrays any weakness, any indication she isn’t totally capable of caring for herself in every aspect of her life! (Reminds me of a small child refusing help: “No, I can do it!”)
Now, we’ve come so far the culture isn’t just topsy-turvy … it has moved into the surreal, with bizarre demonstrations of just how “liberated” we are. Instead of accepting the protection society used to offer, women have voluntarily turned away from it, to the extent that women and children are now the first to be harmed, jettisoned and ravaged. The strong will always survive, but the weaker among us − most often, women and children − are often used up and spat out.
A newsworthy example of this philosophy run amok was reported this week. More than likely, you’re familiar with the story: a pregnant abortion counselor videotaped her own abortion as it was being performed. In her comments, she says: “I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life …”The truth is, she didn’t make that baby, she didn’t make that life. But she did TAKE that life! She destroyed that life, having it flushed from her uterus with extreme prejudice.
Sure, we can talk viability. This woman was in her first trimester, the fetus was quite small, certainly unable to live on its own at that stage. An infant is also unable to live on its own. Should we destroy them too? There are times when a teenager seems incapable of doing anything on his or her own … i.e. nonviable. If non-viability is the yardstick for who lives and who dies, who takes the measure? Are there stages of non-viability?
When a society refuses to protect its most vulnerable, all of us live under threat. When a society refuses to protect its most vulnerable, we have relinquished our humanity. Animals in the jungle don’t have a code of conduct. They prey on the weak, the old, the infirm, the young. When humans refuse to protect the vulnerable among us, we’ve ceded our civility. We have become animals … in an uncivil jungle.
Most people know Sunday is Mother’s Day. I suspect many of us had mothers who instilled within us a specific code of conduct. I know my mother did. (Read about my mother here.) One of the rules she emphasized again and again was our responsibility to care for and protect others, to have compassion for others. She encouraged us, in Christ-like respect, to love others more deeply than we loved ourselves.
I live with the daily reminder that my mother gave me Life. In a sense, this Gift was everything she had. I also live with the confidence that she’d have died in my place, if necessary. There is no other gift so precious as the Gift of Life.