Our class discussions have led us to the general consensus that travel often changes us in deep and lasting ways. As a result of journeying to a new place, we sometimes question our beliefs, and sometimes find them reaffirmed. We sometimes find a place to be everything we had hoped for, and other times find ourselves appreciating home even more. Overall, travel seems to have a profound effect on our identities and our principles. We have even gone so far as to say that through various stories of travel, we have seen aspects of what it means to be human. One of the main themes we have come across is that relationships between individuals are part of what makes us a human being. We saw this idea addressed in Invisible Cities and Black Rainbow. Kolvenbach stresses the idea of being “men for others,” and how the face to face contact with those less fortunate than us can perhaps make us better human beings. We see a similar concept echoed in Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader through the transformation of Eustace.
Eustace Clarence Scrubb was “an unmitigated nuisance” for beginning of journey on the Dawn Treader (Lewis 110). He was negative, close-minded, and arrogant. He certainly had not formed meaningful relationships with any of his companions, because he did not consider them worth this time and attention. It is interesting that Lewis has Eustace’s transformation into a better human being result from his transformation into a monster. It should be noted that Eustace begins to change before his turns into a dragon, as evidenced by his long and steep descent into the unknown valley: “This showed, by the way, that his new life, little as he suspected it, had already done him some good; the old Eustace…would have given up the climb after about ten minutes” (82). His journey his already helped him to persevere, or even just to quit whining and deal with the matter at hand. Once in the valley, Eustace begins “almost for the first time in his life, to feel lonely” (83). He misses the presence of the companions for whom he had previously harbored such a bitter hatred. This loneliness and ache for human company becomes even more pervasive once Eustace becomes a dragon.
Once he realizes his transformation, Eustace does at first feel “relief,” because now as a “terror himself” he could “get even with Edmund and Caspian” (98). This feeling is fleeting, and replaced for the second time by loneliness: “He wanted to be friends. He wanted to get back among humans and talk and laugh and share things. He realized that he was a monster cut off from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him” (98). Eustace literally turns into a monster and is “cut off” before he realizes what is so wonderful about being human. His transformation effectively shows him what it is he values about his existence, and also what he was lacking before. Ironically enough, it is as a dragon that Eustace begins to act like a better human being. His “character had been rather improved by becoming a dragon” as he becomes increasingly helpful. His newfound relationships are “what kept Eustace from despair” (108). Once Eustace comes back to his old form, he does so with a new perspective. After his stint as a dragon, Lewis is careful to point out that Eustace begins to be a new boy; it is not instantaneous. Any major change to one’s personality never is. However now that Eustace saw, from a dragon’s eyes, that human relationships are what make human beings so special, he certainly seemed much more eager to foster his own friendships.
Through Eustace’s time as a dragon, Lewis shows us how important relationships are to the human experience, and how lonely we would be without them.