The Great Divorce

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The Great Divorce Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
George MacDonald continues carrying the Narrator around the Valley of the Shadow of Life. They come to a female Ghost arguing with a female Spirit. The female ghost refuses to forgive a man named Robert. The Spirit, who knows Robert too, wonders why the ghost can’t forgive Robert. The ghost, addressing the spirit as Hilda, explains that she spent most of her life working for Robert’s sake—yet Robert was ungrateful for her sacrifices. She complains that Robert spent too much time with his friends, ignored her for days at a time, and cared about nothing but food. She insists that in the afterlife, if she were allowed to see Robert, she could “make something of him”—a task she never succeeded in while she was on Earth.
The female spirit in this passage is so petty and small-minded that she continues complaining about her husband, Robert, even after she dies. Much like the female ghost from the previous chapter, she loves to complain for the sake of complaining. But unlike the female ghost from the previous chapter, however, this ghost seems to get a lot of pleasure from controlling other people—“making something” out of others by manipulating their behavior.
Themes
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The ghost complains that in Hell, she’s miserable—she’s surrounded by other people, but can’t “do anything with them.” She begs the spirit to give Robert back to her. As the ghost continues to babble about Robert, she becomes larger and brighter, “like a dying candle-flame.” Then, suddenly, she disappears entirely, leaving a sour smell behind.
The ghost’s soul shrinks until the only thing left is her desire to complain and control other people. This chapter is short, but it introduces an important theme: there’s a fine line between loving someone and wanting to control them. In Chapter 11, MacDonald will suggest that it’s only possible to love someone truly selflessly by loving God first.
Themes
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon