The Great Divorce

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The Hard-Bitten Ghost Character Analysis

A bitter, cynical soul who tells the Narrator that Heaven and Hell are a “racket,” both owned by the same people. The Hard-Bitten Ghost is generally distrustful of the world—despite the fact that he’s “been everywhere” in life, he’s never particularly impressed by the places he visits. It’s possible that Lewis intended the Hard-Bitten Ghost partly as a parody of the ideas of William Blake, whose long poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, argues that good and evil are two different forms of the same vital energy. The Narrator generally respects people like the Hard-Bitten Ghost, and so the Ghost’s cynical observations throw the Narrator into deep despair.

The Hard-Bitten Ghost Quotes in The Great Divorce

The The Great Divorce quotes below are all either spoken by The Hard-Bitten Ghost or refer to The Hard-Bitten Ghost. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the HarperOne edition of The Great Divorce published in 0.
Chapter 7 Quotes

“I thought they were at war?”
“Of course you did. That's the official version. But who's ever seen any signs of it? Oh, I know that's how they talk. But if there’s a real war why don't they do anything? Don't you see that if the official version were true these chaps up here would attack and sweep the Town out of existence? They've got the strength. If they wanted to rescue us they could do it.”

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Hard-Bitten Ghost (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Narrator meets an old, Hard-Bitten Ghost—a cynic who doubts everything he sees. During the course of his conversation with the Hard-Bitten Ghost, the Narrator begins to have profound doubts about Christianity and Heaven. As the Hard-Bitten Ghost points out, the fact that both Heaven and Hell (i.e., the mountain and the grey town) exist would suggest that God—who, according to Christian doctrine, is all-powerful—has chosen to allow Hell to continue. In other words, the Hard-Bitten Ghost is offering the Narrator a slightly modified version of a familiar theological argument: the fact that sin and suffering exist mean that God wants human beings to be unhappy—if God wanted humans to be happy, he would let everybody into Heaven. The Hard-Bitten Ghost further implies that God must, on some level, be responsible for Hell and evil.

Interestingly, Lewis presents the Hard-Bitten Ghost as a cynical, world-weary paranoiac, rather than a sincere, intellectually engaged thinker. As before, Lewis used ad hominem attacks to discredit important theological arguments—in other words, it’s so abundantly obvious to us that the Hard-Bitten Ghost is an unlikable person (he’s an anti-Semite, for instance) that we’re inclined to doubt the legitimacy of his ideas, too. Nevertheless, Lewis seems to take the Hard-Bitten Ghost’s questions seriously—throughout the novel, he will strive to explain why the Hard-Bitten Ghost is wrong about Heaven and Hell, and why God allows Hell to continue.

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The Hard-Bitten Ghost Character Timeline in The Great Divorce

The timeline below shows where the character The Hard-Bitten Ghost appears in The Great Divorce. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
...the tree looks delicious, but it’s just “propaganda,” since it can’t be eaten. The “ Hard-Bitten ghost ” claims that he’s come to the river to see it for himself—in life, he... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator guesses that by staying by the river, he and the Hard-Bitten Ghost could become “solider,” an idea that the ghost promptly rejects. The ghost complains that people... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
The Hard-Bitten Ghost tells the Narrator he has to be getting along. Before he leaves, though, he tells... (full context)
Chapter 8
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
The Narrator sits by the river, feeling miserable after his talk with the Hard-Bitten Ghost . When he first met the Spirits who lived by the river, he assumed that... (full context)