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The Great Divorce | Study Guide

C.S. Lewis

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The Great Divorce | Chapter 5 | Summary



The narrator moves toward the river to get away from two lions, finding that walking on the sharp grass is painful. Once by the river, he hears another interaction between a ghost and a spirit; this time, the Bishop from the bus is talking to Dick, a former friend and colleague.

Dick says that the Bishop is there because he is an apostate—someone who renounces the teachings of the church—because of writings he made during his life that were skeptical of the resurrection and other Christian teachings. The Bishop insists that honestly held beliefs are not a sin, and thus he should not have to apologize or repent. Dick feels that the Bishop only wrote those things to rise in rank and make more money, not because he truly believed them. The Bishop then decides he cannot be happy somewhere as boring as Heaven because there will be no intellectual challenge for him. When he decides to return to the Grey Town to continue his studies, he also tells Dick that had Jesus lived longer, he might have come up with different thoughts on religion and faith, just like the Bishop did.


The Bishop, whom the narrator had previous met, is confronted by a former colleague about his skepticism regarding God. According to Dick, the Bishop only adopted provocative views for personal gain, and now cannot even accept what he sees with his own eyes without challenging it. The Bishop refuses to accept this, and instead claims that Dick wants to censor him and restrict his thinking. Even in the afterlife, the Bishop is unwilling to accept the existence of God, which seems to speak to Dick's accusations that the Bishop only wants to take stances that put him at odds with the majority, a practice that brought him his position and a large amount of money on Earth. But here, doing so only limits him to the Grey Town, which he sees as preferential, but which in truth will keep him from understanding everything about the universe.

The narrator's difficulty moving is recurring and important. It suggests that the path of faith and learning can be hard and even painful, but that people gain insights as a result of these struggles that will help them make sense of their circumstances.

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