The Great Divorce

The Grey Town Symbol Analysis

The Grey Town Symbol Icon

The novel begins in a dull, grey town which, we come to realize, represents the afterlife. The grey town is lonely, and the people who live there are always fighting and yelling at one another. For some, the grey town is Hell—a place where humans are punished for eternity (though their punishment consists of arguing, fighting, and loneliness, rather than the stereotypical fire and brimstone). For others, though, the grey town is a form of Purgatory—a place where souls live for a time, before eventually migrating to Heaven.

The Grey Town Quotes in The Great Divorce

The The Great Divorce quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Grey Town. 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

That's one of the disappointments. I thought you'd meet interesting historical characters. But you don't: they're too far away.

Related Characters: The Intelligent Man / Ikey (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Grey Town
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

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I'd start a little business. I'd have something to sell. You'd soon get people coming to live near—centralization. Two fully-inhabited streets would accommodate the people that are now spread over a million square miles of empty streets. I'd make a nice little profit and be a public benefactor as well.

Related Characters: The Intelligent Man / Ikey (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Grey Town
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

“What I'd like to understand,” said the Ghost, “is what you're here for, as pleased as Punch, you, a bloody murderer, while I've been walking the streets down there and living in a place like a pigsty all these years.”

Related Characters: The Big Man / Big Ghost (speaker), Len
Related Symbols: The Grey Town
Page Number: 26
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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The Grey Town Symbol Timeline in The Great Divorce

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Grey Town appears in The Great Divorce. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
...explains that many people choose not to ride the bus because they prefer the “ grey town .” The Poet tried to survive in the town by forming a “circle” of intellectuals.... (full context)
Chapter 2
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
...throwing himself in front of the train, the Poet has spent his time in the grey town . (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Love, Sacrifice, and Sin Theme Icon
...fight is over, the Narrator finds that the bus is still flying over the enormous grey town , and he’s sitting next to a different man, one who’s older than the Poet. (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 that the grey town has existed forever. There are always... (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
...in the Narrator: he’s trying to find a way to convince the people in the grey town to move toward the bus stop instead of drifting away from it. The problem with... (full context)
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
...the Narrator that when it’s nighttime, “They” come outside. At this time, everybody in the grey town must be indoors for protection. The Narrator is confused—how could their houses keep “Them” out,... (full context)
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
...the man claims, the Intelligent Man is wrong to try to sell commodities in the grey town ; commodities are vulgar and “Earth-bound.” The man concludes by praising the grey town for... (full context)
Chapter 3
Dreams, Fantasy, and Education Theme Icon
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
...back?” The Driver explains that the passengers are under no obligation to return to the grey town . Someone shouts out that the people would be happier back in the grey town,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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
...to walk around the river, while he has has to spend his time in the grey town . Len explains that the Big Ghost will understand soon enough. The Big Ghost continues... (full context)
Chapter 5
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
...to know the spirit well; he refers to the spirit’s “father,” who lives in the grey town , a long way from the bus. The ghost claims that he refuses to believe... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
Dick explains that the fat ghost was sent to the grey town because he was an apostate—he committed “sins of intellect.” The ghost is confused—he claims that... (full context)
Heaven, Hell, and the “Great Divorce” Theme Icon
Christianity and Common Sense Theme Icon
Free Will and Salvation Theme Icon
...happiness in Heaven, but the ghost insists that he has to be back in the grey town to “read a paper.” He reminds Dick that Christ was “a very young man” when... (full context)
Chapter 9
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
...way out of Hell into Heaven?” MacDonald replies that the people who live in the grey town are in Hell. But the people who manage to leave the grey town behind will... (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
...souls who leave the Valley of the Shadow of Life and go back to the grey town have made a choice—but what choice, exactly, have they made? MacDonald replies by quoting the... (full context)