Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces Part 2: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The act of hearing herself read her own complaint has satisfied Orual’s need for justice. The Fox always told her to say what she meant. Now (still in the mysterious courtroom) she realizes she has spoken the truth of her soul, which she has never before recognized. She understands why the gods don’t directly engage with humans—it’s pointless for them to try when humans don’t speak their own truths. They don’t even have faces that the gods can meet.
Simply by acknowledging her real motives, Orual sees that everything she thought she hated about the gods was actually her own fault. She was angry with them for not guiding humans, but now she realizes that until people can understand themselves, they would never understand or accept the gods’ guidance. She sees humans as absurd, persistently lying to themselves and unworthy of the gods’ attention. The entire book has depicted her own process of coming to see her real face so that she can interact with the gods.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
The Fox then speaks up in the courtroom, taking the blame for teaching Orual that gods didn’t exist—he encouraged her not to believe that Ungit represented humans’ own sins, and to doubt that real gods do exist. He never told her why people got so much fulfillment out of worshipping Ungit. He still doesn’t know the answer, but he knows Ungit is a step on the journey to finding the true gods, who will possess human souls. His empty words were not enough to nourish Orual.
The Fox makes a distinction between Ungit and real gods, suggesting that Ungit is only a crude deity who draws power from humans’ shared tendency towards devouring or lustful love. Perhaps she doesn’t even exist independently of humans, but can only work through them. Even so, Ungit is closer to the real gods than his stoic philosophy, which shunned the divine mysteries that he now embraces. The human soul needs something more substantial than his philosophy in order to be satisfied.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Orual wants to protest, but the trial is over. She jumps down into the crowd of ghosts, and the Fox finds her. He asks her forgiveness, but instead she says that she should have sent him back to the Greeklands when she freed him, rather than letting him stay, heartbroken, out of love for her. The Fox confirms that she has consumed men’s lives, and he must bring her to another judge so that the gods can accuse her. He tells her that the gods are not just.
Orual proves that she really does understand her faults now, applying Ansit’s accusation that she consumed Bardia’s life to the Fox, as well. If she had loved the Fox more purely, she would have done all she could to ensure his happiness rather than worrying only about her own desire to have him near her. The gods’ injustice seems to be a blessing, implying that human crimes deserve worse punishment than they receive.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
The Fox leads Orual into a bright chamber. The walls are painted with stories that come alive when she examines them. First she sees a woman walking to a river and tying her ankles together. She realizes it’s Psyche. Orual is overcome by Psyche’s beauty, and cries out, “Do not do it.” She doesn’t. In the next picture, Psyche sits in a dark place, sorting a pile of seeds with help from an army of ants. Next, Orual sees Psyche figuring out how to obtain the wool of the gods’ sheep. When they charge away, she gathers the fleece from the bushes. Finally, Orual sees herself and Psyche walking through the desert. Psyche seems happy, and sings. The eagle takes a bowl from her and brings it back full of the water of death.
Orual begins to see how the god’s prediction that she would “also be Psyche” has come true. She and Psyche have both experienced the same trials in different ways. When Orual sees Psyche about to kill herself, her words are the same as those that she heard the god speak when she tried to jump in the river. This implies that Orual, Psyche, and the gods are all intertwined. When Orual considered jumping, the part of her that was Psyche was also considering it, and the voice they heard came not only from a god, but also from Orual herself. Orual has somehow been present for all of Psyche’s tasks and has helped her succeed at what would have been impossible without Orual’s help.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
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The Fox asks whether Orual understands the pictures. She doesn’t see how Psyche could have been so happy, but the Fox says that Orual took on all of Psyche’s pain. This was possible because humans and gods are all connected. Orual feels very glad, now knowing that her demands for justice were ridiculous.
Though Psyche was physically present for the tasks, Orual did all of the emotional work, allowing Psyche to live a relatively peaceful life. Though the Fox has renounced most of his philosophy, he has found truth in his old teaching that everything in the world is a part of everything else, and this explains how Orual helped with the tasks.
Themes
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Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
On the final wall, Orual sees Psyche walking down into the earth. The Fox explains that everyone is born into the house of Ungit and must escape it. Ungit has set Psyche a series of tasks, of which this is the last. She must retrieve beauty in a casket from the queen of death and give it to Ungit so Ungit can be beautiful. However, if she speaks to anyone, she’ll never return to the world of the living.
According to the Fox’s explanation, Ungit’s cruel, jealous love is the natural state of humanity, and people must fight against it—renounce their sins—to be purified. In Christian terms, people are born burdened with original sin and must follow Christ’s example to reach redemption.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Psyche encounters the people of Glome, who cry for her to become their goddess. Psyche ignores them. Next, the Fox appears and tells Psyche that the gods and her tasks are all her imagination. Instead, she should follow his philosophical principles. Psyche doesn’t reply. Finally, she comes to a woman wrapped in misery. Psyche almost falters. The woman’s arm is bloody, and she speaks in a moving voice, begging Psyche to come with her. Psyche weeps but continues on.
On her journey to the land of the dead, Psyche comes across all the trials that she endured in her life before her exile. In fact, her journey seems to be a metaphor for her entire life, in effect a journey towards ultimate death—because she has made it through all of the challenges to her integrity that other people set for her, she proves herself a purified, Christ-like figure and will be made into a goddess.
Themes
Orual can’t believe she and the Fox did such awful things to Psyche in the name of love. The Fox says that as the gods become more beautiful, this sort of thing will only happen more often. Furthermore, the Divine Nature can change the past, and the present time will soon be the past.
Orual never recognized the pain that she caused Psyche while she was doing it, but now, from a more objective perspective, her actions seem deplorable. The Fox, however, doesn’t think they’re any more awful than other humans. In fact, their attempts to keep Psyche from the gods are only the natural response of all humans born into Ungit’s legacy of jealousy. Since she causes humans to fight the gods, Ungit can be read as a Satanic figure.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Voices from outside announce that Psyche is approaching, bringing the casket of beauty from the land of the dead. The Fox leads Orual outside into a beautiful courtyard. Psyche appears, and Orual falls to the ground to kiss her feet, hailing her as a goddess. She admits that she only wanted to possess Psyche, but now Psyche can have all of her.
Story and reality meet as the drawings on the walls become the present action. Orual no longer feels the need to be superior to Psyche, and, in fact she knows that Psyche is far superior to her. This is a moment of reconciliation, the first time that Orual loves Psyche purely and without jealousy.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Psyche says Orual must stand up so that she can give her the casket to make Ungit beautiful. When Orual stands and looks at Psyche, she is overwhelmed by her beauty, which confirms that Psyche has become a goddess. Yet Psyche seems to be more herself than she ever was. Psyche recalls her prediction that she and Orual would meet in Psyche’s palace in friendship, and Orual is perfectly joyful.
Orual is Ungit, and Psyche’s entire journey, perhaps her entire life, has been for the purpose of making Ungit beautiful; in other words, to help Orual purify her soul, as exterior and interior beauty are always linked in the book. It also becomes clear that the two of them are in Psyche’s palace, and now Orual has become worthy of seeing this divine creation.
Themes
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Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Suddenly a change comes over the courtyard, and everyone seems awed. They say that the god is coming to judge Orual. Psyche brings her to the edge of a pool as the air becomes bright. Orual feels terrified and ecstatic, and loves Psyche more completely than ever. But she can tell that everything only exists for the sake of the god who is approaching. Orual sees two reflections in the pool, but they are both Psyche, one wearing clothes, the other naked. The voice of the god tells Orual that she is also Psyche. But when she looks up to see him, she finds herself in her own palace gardens, holding her book.
Though the novel exists in a world with multiple gods, this final climactic scene brings the story into a more Christian frame. The god seems to be not just one of many, but God himself, as everything centers around him and he is the ultimate purpose of everything in the world. The final part of the prophecy comes true. Orual has purified herself to such an extent that she has become as good as Psyche. She is probably the naked reflection, as nakedness is the complete opposite of living veiled. She has stripped away everything that she earlier felt she had to hide, and it has made her beautiful, even divine.
Themes
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Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Orual lives four more days. She is weak, and knows she’s close to death, but she feels that her soul is almost ready. Arnom and her servants weep for her, but she doesn’t understand why she deserves it. She wishes she had brought her heir, Daaran, to Glome and loved him. Now she understands why the god doesn’t answer humans. He himself is the answer, and words mean nothing. Her narrative ends in the middle of a sentence.
Orual now understands that the gods wouldn’t allow her to die until she had recognized herself and purified her soul. She believes she’s almost pure enough to die now, and death seems like an accomplishment, an attitude that recalls Psyche’s welcoming of death before her sacrifice. Just before she dies, Orual expresses her complete faith in the god and his mysteries, an essentially Christian declaration of monotheistic conviction. Orual has been converted, just like Lewis was. The fact that her narrative is cut off seems to prove her point about the futility of words.
Themes
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Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Arnom, who calls himself the priest of Aphrodite, writes that he has put the book in the temple. There are markings at the end that are illegible because Orual’s head fell onto them. If a traveler to Greece finds the book, he should take it with him as Orual wanted. Arnom passes this responsibility on to the Priest who will succeed him.
Orual has essentially become a prophet of the god, and the account of her life and religious experiences will be guarded in a temple, as fits the writings of a prophet. Even as Orual’s story has illuminated some of the gods’ mysteries, she has also created more mystery with the illegible writing at the end of her book, suggesting that faith, by definition, involves belief in something that cannot be fully understood.
Themes
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