The Great Divorce

The Narrator Character Analysis

The Narrator of The Great Divorce is never named. Furthermore, the novel contains little information about his personality, his personal life, or his interests. While we know that he’s of a literary turn of mind, and is in some ways modeled on Lewis himself (hence his respect for the author George MacDonald), it’s hard to think of words that could describe him clearly—as he travels through the afterlife, learning about Christian doctrine, readers learn relatively little about him. The Narrator, in short, exemplifies an archetype called the “everyman”—a character who’s supposed to be as ordinary and relatable as possible. The original everyman was the protagonist in a 15th-century morality play of the same name. Indeed, one of the most common purposes of the everyman archetype is to teach an audience about a moral point of view, especially Christianity. In The Great Divorce, the Narrator’s ordinariness and open-mindedness make him an ideal “stand-in” for the book’s readers—as he experiences the afterlife and learns about Christianity, Heaven, and Hell, so do we.

The Narrator Quotes in The Great Divorce

The The Great Divorce quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator or refer to The Narrator. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperOne edition of The Great Divorce published in 0.
Chapter 2 Quotes

He had found himself once more isolated and had to become a conscientious objector. The indignities he suffered at this stage of his career had, he confessed, embittered him. He decided he could serve the cause best by going to America: but then America came into the war too. It was at this point that he suddenly saw Sweden as the home of a really new and radical art, but the various oppressors had given him no facilities for going to Sweden. There were money troubles. His father, who had never progressed beyond the most atrocious mental complacency and smugness of the Victorian epoch, was giving him a ludicrously inadequate allowance. And he had been very badly treated by a girl too.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Tousle-Headed Poet
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

I had the sense of being in a larger place, perhaps even a larger sort of space, than I had ever known before: as if the sky were further off and the extent of the green plain wider that they could be on this little ball of earth. I had got out in some sense which made the Solar System itself seem an indoor affair. It gave me a feeling of freedom, but also of exposure, possibly of danger, which continued to accompany me through all that followed.
It is the impossibility of communicating that feeling, or even of inducing you to remember it as I proceed, which makes me despair of conveying the real quality of what I saw and heard.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

Next moment I stepped boldly out on the surface. I fell on my face at once and got some nasty bruises. I had forgotten that though it was, to me, solid, it was not the less in rapid motion. When I had picked myself up I was about thirty yards further down-stream than the point where I had left the bank. But this did not prevent me from walking up-stream: it only meant that by walking very fast indeed I made very little progress.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

I could hardly help admiring this unhappy creature when I saw him rise staggering to his feet actually holding the smallest of the apples in his hands. He was lame from his hurts, and the weight bent him double. Yet even so, inch by inch, still availing himself of every scrap of cover, he set out on his via dolorosa to the bus, carrying his torture.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Intelligent Man / Ikey
Related Symbols: The Apple Tree
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Fool,” he said, “put it down. You cannot take it back. There is not room for it in Hell. Stay here and learn to eat such apples. The very leaves and the blades of grass in the wood will delight to teach you.”
Whether the Ghost heard or not, I don't know. At any rate, after pausing for a few minutes, it braced itself anew for its agonies and continued with even greater caution till I lost sight of it.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Water-Giant (speaker), The Intelligent Man / Ikey
Related Symbols: The Apple Tree
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

“But I don't understand. Is judgment not final? Is there really a way out of Hell into Heaven?”
“It depends on the way ye’re using the words. If they leave that grey town behind it will not have been Hell. To any that leaves it, it is Purgatory.”

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), George MacDonald (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Grey Town
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hell is a state of mind—ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind—is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly.

Related Characters: George MacDonald (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

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This put me in mind to ask my Teacher what he thought of the affair with the Unicorns. “It will maybe have succeeded,” he said. “Ye will have divined that he meant to frighten her, not that fear itself could make her less a Ghost, but if it took her mind a moment off herself, there might, in that moment, be a chance. I have seen them saved so.”

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), George MacDonald (speaker)
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

“Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay is. And if it finally refuses conversion its corruption will be worse than the corruption of what ye call the lower passions. It is a stronger angel, and therefore, when it falls, a fiercer devil.”
“I don't know that I dare repeat this on Earth, Sir,” said I. “They’d say I was inhuman: they'd say I believed in total depravity: they'd say I was attacking the best and the holiest things. They'd call me . . .”
“It might do you no harm if they did,” said he with (I really thought) a twinkle in his eye.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), George MacDonald (speaker), Pam
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

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Ye must ask, if the risen body even of appetite is as grand a horse as ye saw, what would the risen body of maternal love or friendship be?

Related Characters: George MacDonald (speaker), The Narrator
Related Symbols: The Lizard
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

“The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.”

Related Characters: George MacDonald (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

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All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World. Look at yon butterfly. If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste.

Related Characters: George MacDonald (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

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For every attempt to see the shape of eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom. Witness the doctrine of Predestination which shows (truly enough) that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real; but at the price of removing Freedom which is the deeper truth of the two. And wouldn't Universalism do the same? Ye cannot know eternal reality by a definition.

Related Characters: George MacDonald (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

Ye saw the choices a bit more clearly than ye could see them on Earth: the lens was clearer. But it was still seen through the lens. Do not ask of a vision in a dream more than a vision in a dream can give.

Related Characters: George MacDonald (speaker), The Narrator
Related Symbols: The Chessboard
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:

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I awoke in a cold room, hunched on the floor beside a black and empty grate, the clock striking three, and the siren howling overhead.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

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Get the entire Great Divorce LitChart as a printable PDF.
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The Narrator Character Timeline in The Great Divorce

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator appears in The Great Divorce. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
An unnamed Narrator finds himself standing by the side of the street in a long line for the... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator notices the other people standing in line for the bus. Almost everyone seems to be... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
...has taken a seat, only half the seats in the bus are filled. As the Narrator sits down, a Tousle-Headed Poet sits next to him and observes that the “present company”... (full context)
Chapter 2
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
The Narrator sits on the bus, listening to the Tousle-Headed Poet for a very long time. The... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
...the bus. People fight, using guns and knives—but strangely, the fight ends quickly, and the Narrator is completely unharmed. When the fight is over, the Narrator finds that the bus is... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator asks his new neighbor, the “Intelligent Man,” about the grey town, and the neighbor explains... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Intelligent Man confides in the Narrator: he’s trying to find a way to convince the people in the grey town to... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
...Intelligent Man drops his voice and whispers, “It will be dark presently.” He warns the Narrator that when it’s nighttime, “They” come outside. At this time, everybody in the grey town... (full context)
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
A fat man in the seat ahead of the Narrator turns around and informs that Narrator that the Intelligent Man is wrong: it will never... (full context)
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Hours pass, and slowly, it becomes brighter outside. The Narrator opens the bus window to get a better view of the light, but the Intelligent... (full context)
Chapter 3
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
...over a large cliff. Slowly the bus descends, until it lands on the cliff. The Narrator and his fellow passengers get off the bus, and find that they’re near a river,... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
As the Narrator looks around, he has the feeling that the grass and trees are made of an... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator looks up and sees what is either an enormous cloudbank or a mountain range. The... (full context)
Chapter 5
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
As the Narrator surveys the river and the trees, he hears a sound, and two huge lions emerge... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
As the Narrator observes the fat ghost’s interaction with Dick, he has an idea—perhaps he could walk on... (full context)
Chapter 6
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator walks on the river, against the flow of the current. After walking for an hour,... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator sees a ghost crouched near a hawthorn bush. The ghost is trying to move toward... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
...voice cries, “Fool. Put it down.” The voice seems to come from the waterfall—and the Narrator realizes that what he’d thought was a waterfall is really a bright angel, who floats... (full context)
Chapter 7
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
As Ikey limps away with his apples, the Narrator looks closely at the huge angel. The angel, whom the Narrator calls “the Water-Giant,” does... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator turns and sees another ghost—a tall man with grey hair and a gruff voice. The... (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,”... (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 the Narrator that... (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... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator decides to move toward the trees, where he might be safe from the rain. 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 finds that he’s become very invested in the ghost’s decision. He hopes the ghost will... (full context)
Chapter 9
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
The Narrator flees from the herd of unicorns. He then hears a low, Scottish voice, asking, “Where... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
George MacDonald, addressing the Narrator as “Son,” thanks the Narrator for his enthusiasm and respect. He explains to the Narrator... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator, trying to understand MacDonald, asks if it’s true that Heaven and Hell are only states... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator is confused. He asks MacDonald about his Roman Catholic friends, who claim that the souls... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator asks MacDonald about the role of choice in the afterlife. The souls who leave the... (full context)
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator asks MacDonald about vice and sensual sin. MacDonald explains that some people go to Hell... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator asks MacDonald why the Spirits don’t go down to Hell to rescue the damned. MacDonald... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
MacDonald and the Narrator turn to see a ghost talking to one of the solid Spirits. The ghost is... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
MacDonald invites the Narrator go for a walk—the Narrator grabs MacDonald’s arm, and MacDonald carries him around the woods.... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator tells MacDonald about the herd of unicorns who frightened away the ghost earlier. MacDonald explains... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
MacDonald brings the Narrator to a group of ghosts who have gotten close to Heaven only in order to... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator discovers that many of the ghosts he meets with MacDonald have tried to “bring Hell... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator also meets ghosts who scarcely look like human beings anymore. Some of these ghosts have... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
MacDonald brings the Narrator to a ghost whom the Narrator recognizes—in life, the ghost was a very famous artist.... (full context)
Chapter 10
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
George MacDonald continues carrying the Narrator around the Valley of the Shadow of Life. They come to a female Ghost arguing... (full context)
Chapter 11
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator recalls another discussion he overheard while he was with George MacDonald. He saw a woman’s... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
MacDonald carries the Narrator away from Pam and Reginald, explaining that their conversation will go on for a very... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
MacDonald leads the Narrator on to another ghost, who’s carrying something on his shoulder. The ghost is carrying a... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
...and bigger, until he’s a huge, naked man, almost as big as the angel. The Narrator also notices that the lizard is growing—it changes into a large stallion with a golden... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
MacDonald explains to the Narrator that the lizard was lust—a creature who has no home in the mountains. With the... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator is confused. It would seem that the ghost’s lust was less of an obstacle to... (full context)
Chapter 12
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
As George MacDonald walks with the Narrator, the Narrator sees light flashing in the trees, as if reflected from a river (hence... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator sees a lady, and realizes that the Spirits are singing and dancing to celebrate her.... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
As Sarah approaches the Narrator and MacDonald, she stares off into the distance. Following her gaze, the Narrator sees two... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
...Tragedian say to each other, in unison, “You’ll notice she hasn’t answered our question.” The Narrator begins to understand what’s going on: the small and tall ghosts are two halves of... (full context)
Chapter 13
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
Immediately following the events of the previous chapter, the Narrator watches Sarah laughing. The Dwarf tries his hardest to keep from laughing along with Sarah.... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
As Sarah moves away, the Narrator asks MacDonald about Frank—he can’t help but think that it’s wrong for Sarah to be... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
The Narrator wonders aloud why Sarah didn’t go down to Hell to visit Frank—she could have gone... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator asks Macdonald what happens to human beings who remain in Hell instead of choosing to... (full context)
Chapter 14
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Suddenly the Narrator, still with MacDonald, finds himself surrounded by a “great assembly of gigantic forms.” The Narrator... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator asks MacDonald about freedom and fate. Were the choices that the ghosts made—choices which sometimes... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
The Narrator notices that MacDonald is becoming brighter. He hears voices singing, “Sleepers awake!” The sun rises... (full context)