Saturday, August 09, 2008

“Behold, I show you a mystery”

I hate it when publishers print two different endings for Dickens’ greatest novel, Great Expectations. There is only one ending. Dickens was not forced to alter the end of the book; he chose to do it. That he chose to do it after consulting a friend does not invalidate his alteration. That consultation was part of the creative process, so there is really only one ending to the book.

As you know, in what has been termed the original ending, Estella and Pip do not end up together. In the alternate ending, the one that is shown in the movies, Pip and Estella meet again and do not part. The reason the Great Expectations alteration displeases the critics is because Dickens seems (to them) to be mixing genres. In most of his other novels he followed the fairy tale motif where the hero and heroine marry at the end. In Great Expectations, he was writing what appeared (the critics claim) to be a very un-Pickwickian realistic novel and then he switched to a fairy tale ending. I do not think Dickens is guilty of switching genres. Estella, after much suffering, finds a depth to her soul that she never knew existed, which allows her to love Pip as Pip has always loved her. Such transformations are as rare as deathbed conversions, but are they completely out of the realm of reality? Life in this world is inherently tragic for we all face death at the end of it, but is it completely unrealistic to depict some moments of grace, before death comes, entering into the lives of human beings?

It is only unrealistic if you do not believe that there is such a thing as grace. Did you ever ask yourself why, since they were going to die in the end anyway, Christ healed the sick and the lame? Of course He did it because it was His nature to love, but why did He not suppress that part of His loving nature and save all His love for the crucifixion and resurrection? Because Christ knows that human beings must win before they lose. Every human being must experience some moment or moments in their life when they feel loved. They must, or they will not believe in the ultimate gift of love from the God of love.

Literary critics of the twentieth and twenty-first century should not be allowed to write about novels of the nineteenth century because the nineteenth century novelists believed in the soul, but the twentieth and twenty-first century literary critics do not. It is analogous to C. S. Lewis’s contention that someone who has an a priori belief that there are no such things as miracles should not be allowed to debate the subject of miracles. And likewise those post-Christian whites who deny there is such a thing as race are not capable of understanding a white man’s love for his race. What they can’t understand or feel themselves they simply condemn.

The great novelists, from Scott in the late eighteenth century, to A. E. W. Mason in the early twentieth century, all wrote from a Christian worldview. They believed in the soul. And one is struck, when reading through the literature of that time, with how the various writers developed the doctrine of the Incarnation. If we are truly created in the image of God, then God can be found in the hearts of His creatures. This was the implicit Faith of the major writers of the 19th century and it is what makes them so interesting to read in contrast to the writers of our own time. But the winners write history, so the 20th and 21st century intelligentsia has labeled the older writers “immature” and “unrealistic” in contrast to the more contemporary writers who write psychological novels that are more “realistic.” And by continually repeating their lie ad nauseum the general public has come to believe it. “Those old dead guys didn’t know anything.”

And every single religious leader across the board from Novus Ordo and traditionalist Catholic to Protestant has turned their flocks over to the same scientized moderns who hate any work of literature that depicts men and women with souls. None truly believe in the Incarnation. They believe, like Rosencrantz and Guilderstern, that man is as easy to understand as a flute – nay, even easier. Ask them any question and they’ll provide you with an answer from a scientized, addle-brained efficiency expert of a theologian or from a “trained” psychologist and “expert” in his field.

If one does not believe in the God-Man, he will not believe in man, which is why we should be able to see through the façade of the modern clergy. They say they believe in the Christian God, but they deny the Incarnation. When they study man they do not study him as a human being created in the image of God but as a bug or an ape. The modern clergy have mind-forged manacles on their souls that narrow their vision to the point at which they can’t see anything but the sewer that runs by the basement window.

If we are created in the image of God, the 19th century writers were right to stress the importance of what takes place in the secret and non-generic recesses of the human heart. Each heart is a kingdom, and what takes place in that kingdom touches other kingdoms and has momentous consequences that affect God’s plan for our salvation. He works through humanity. If we stifle the humanity in us, if we turn to bug theology and ape science, then we will have placed our civilization outside of His grace. And of course we have done just that. And He won’t return until “we long for the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still.” +