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The Great Divorce | Study Guide

C.S. Lewis

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The Great Divorce | Chapter 11 | Summary



The narrator and MacDonald encounter two ghosts; one is Pam, a grieving mother who wants to see her late son, and the other is a man with a lizard on his shoulder. Pam is talking to her brother, Reginald, who insists that she has to learn to love God separate from her desire to see Michael and that her grieving has been self-centered enough to hurt the rest of her family. The man with the lizard is asked by a spirit if the spirit can kill the lizard. Although at first he hesitates, once he agrees to it, the lizard turns into a stallion that he mounts and rides toward the horizon.

MacDonald explains that love for other humans can be either a way to love God or a hindrance to the love of God. According to MacDonald, the lizard was lust, which was turned into something better when the ghost agreed to killing it. The narrator comments that Pam's love was a larger obstacle than the man's lust when it comes to getting to heaven, and MacDonald explains that the obstacle was truly Pam's unwillingness to give up her pain. Whereas she held onto it, the man sacrificed his lizard and was rewarded.


This chapter juxtaposes love and lust. Pam sees her all-consuming love as a powerful force for good, but in truth it harmed her loved ones and obscured their pain. But had she let go of her pain, she could have moved on to Heaven and found peace. Her refusal to do so ultimately damns her to Hell. The lizard could also have damned the man he was with. But despite his doubts, the man let the angel kill the lizard, and his faith was rewarded with even easier and faster entry into Heaven. Faith in salvation, then, is one of the key determinants to salvation, and without it, a soul is damned, even if that soul's sin seems lesser compared to others.

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