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C.S. Lewis Goes to Heaven by David G. Clark

C.S. Lewis Goes to Heaven is a study guide to be used with The Great Divorce.  It is broken down into three main sections, looking at the characters, the geography, and the theology of Lewis’s story, followed by several appendices.

The strength of this guide lies in the background information it provides on historical figures and literary allusions with which the modern reader may not be familiar.  Virtually every such reference in the original text is noted and given at least a thumbnail sketch in the appendices to assist the reader in understanding its significance.  Unfortunately, there are a few items for which the entries seem to have been inadvertently omitted.  There are also some inconsistencies in the amount of information given for various items, and I don’t quite understand why most of the references were explained in the appendices but a couple were examined at comparatively great length within the main body of the text. 

Clark makes some rather confident statements regarding the historical figures he believes Lewis was referring to in The Great Divorce in two instances:  he puts forward the theory that Sir Archibald was Arthur Conan Doyle, and the unnamed Artist John Singer Sargent.  While he does offer some grounds for his speculation, I feel it is stated somewhat over-strongly given the absence of any actual documentation of Lewis’s thinking and intent.  Similarly, I was not completely satisfied with the justification of some of the theological interpretations Clark applied to certain passages; for instance, his reading of Thomas’s comment “Let us also go, that we may die with him” in the story of Lazarus.

All in all, I believe C.S. Lewis Goes to Heaven provides a practical framework for teachers and/or discussion groups to follow, and could be a quite helpful reference for readers of The Great Divorce, especially those who do not have a strong background in classical literature and history, although I have reservations about some of Clark’s assertions.

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