As we come to the end of our series of articles on The Chronicles of Narnia, I want to return to the attacks of atheist Philip Pullman on Narnia, which I dealt with in my first article. In his infamous assault on Lewis’ writing,
It is monumentally disparaging of girls and women… One girl was sent to hell because she was getting interested in clothes and boys.
To anyone who has read the Chronicles, this is arrant nonsense. Flying in the face of this statement is the panorama of wonderful female characters who are the main heroines in Lewis’s stories. The series begins with the valiant Lucy, the viewpoint character for three books and clearly Lewis’ favorite. The Silver Chair introduces us to Jill, who is more fanciful and feminine than Lucy even as she’s a bit more tough and modern. In The Horse and His Boy, we have the indomitable Aravis as a leading character. And in The Magician’s Nephew, we have my personal favorite heroine: Polly Plummer.
Other critics have focused their attention on Digory Kirke, the hero of the book, who seems to share some obvious biographical parallels to his author, Lewis. But I should like to focus on Polly.
Lewis, at this late point in his series, apparently realized that if he was going to end it with a version of the book of Revelation (The Last Battle), he had to go back and do Genesis as well. And if you’re going to “do” Genesis, you’re going to need an Eve. Or at least an Adam. And a plot involving an apple. The Magician’s Nephew has all three elements.
Like too many moderns,
As a child, I liked Polly Plummer because of her cute name and Pauline Baynes’ illustration of her as a charming and determined Victorian child with curls tumbled about her high-collared frock. Polly, we find out right away, is straightforward and adventurous, all girl with a high dose of daring and originality. She has made a “Smugglers’ Cave” out of the crawlspace above her row house, where she keeps “a cash-box containing various treasures, a story she was writing, and usually a few apples. She had often drunk a quiet bottle of ginger-beer in there: the old bottles made it look like a smuggler’s cave.” Since I was a girl who was fond of both ginger ale and writing stories, not to mention creating secret hideouts, I took to Polly immediately.