Wednesday, October 8, 2008

anthropomorphism in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

From the beginning I was particularly attracted by Reepicheep because it is a very lovable character. I think that it is very interesting that C.S Lewis endowed an animal that most people detest with human qualities. This anthropomorphism contributes to the fantastic world that C.S Lewis has created but also raises a question which is what makes the essence of a human being ? Is it his qualities or his appearance ?

The first time that Reepicheep appears, he arouses Eutasche’s disgust. He judges it according to its appearance. As a matter of fact he shouts : ‘‘Oh !Ugh !What on earth’s that ? Take it away, the horrid thing.’’(p14)However, the narrator describes it as any character he has already described : it is a Mouse but not any mouse since it can be on its hind legs. It stands about two feet high and wears a few unusual items for a mouse such as a long crimson feather and a sword. He is also valiant and has this human faculty which is language. Thus there is a discrepancy between Reepicheep’s appearance and its personality. This theme appearance/reality is a leitmotiv in C.S Lewis’ novel. It is very relevant since the reader travels into a magical world where things appear and desappear, seem to be but are not. One instance is found in chapter13 entitled : ‘‘ The three sleepers’’. The characters arrive in a place where they find three of the Narnian lords but asleep. A ‘‘tall girl’’ appears and invites them to eat the copious meal that lays on the table. Edmund is doubtful because since the beginning of their adventures, they have realized that ‘‘things are not always what they seem’’ so that eating this food could be detrimental to them as it may have been for the lords.

Throughout the book, Reepicheep human-like qualities become more and more manifest. It is very ironical because it is the one that comforts Eustace when he has turned into a dragon. When Eustace was a human being he displayed contempt towards Reepicheep. However, when he became a dragon, he was shown mercy by an animal !Reepicheep did not retaliate when it could have but rather showed a spirit of forgiveness. In other words, we understand that being a human is among other things a matter of behavior, of showing qualities such as love, forgiveness, tenderness…because if it’s not the case, how do they differ from animals if not only in appearance ?

From the beginning to the end Reepicheep’s most important quality is courage so that we understand why the narrator introduced him as a valiant Mouse. For instance, he does not want to avoid the invisible enemies Lucy told him about. He is ready to face them while the rest of the group is scared (p146). Another example is foung page 192. The crew does not want to venture to enter the dark place but Reepicheep expresses his desire to do so. It is more affected by human values such as honor than its fellow human companions. It says : ‘‘…And here is as great an adventure…if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honors.’’The sailors reply : ‘‘Honor be blowed !’’, even the King Caspian who is supposed to be the personification of courage says : ‘‘ Oh, bother you Reepicheep. I almost wish we’d left you at home.’’Furthermore, it is the one who is left at the very end of the world. Though it was a prophetic event, it does not step back and accepts this fact.

Thus, the use of an animal as a significant character by C.S. Lewis is relevant since it teaches valuable lessons such as what is to be a human . This literary device has been used by numerous authors such as Lafontaine in France in his fables or in Disney movies such as Ratatouille, which is the story of a rat whose dream is to become a great chef.

No comments: