Or: Concerning Eustace…
Half the chapter consists of excerpts from Eustace’s diary, and most of the rest is written from his perspective, as well. But first, there are some pleasant days (from Lucy’s perspective) of enjoying the open sea and playing chess with Reepicheep:
He was a good player and when he remembered what he was doing he usually won. But every now and then Lucy won because the Mouse did something quite ridiculous like sending a knight into the danger of a queen and castle combined. This happened because he had momentarily forgotten it was a game of chess and was thinking of a real battle and making the knight do what he would certainly have done in its place. For his mind was full of forlorn hopes, death-or-glory charges, and last stands.
Have I mentioned how adorable Reepicheep is?
One thing I noticed is that we haven’t heard much of anything from Edmund so far – it’s been mainly from Lucy or Eustace’s perspective, plus a chapter or two from Caspian on the Lone Islands. I’m not complaining, though – Edmund got way more attention in the past two books, and it’s interesting to contrast Lucy’s enjoyment of the beauty around her to Eustace’s sulky self-centeredness.
Before I move onto Eustace, there’s something I just noticed about Lucy (especially compared to Susan in the last book): She lives in the moment. She doesn’t worry about how they’re going to get back to England; she knows that Aslan will bring them back eventually, but in the meantime, she wants to take in the beauty of Narnia. I mentioned in Prince Caspian that Susan was concerned with the here and now, and no, that’s not the same thing. Susan was focused on the practical aspects of life (the necessities), but Lucy just doesn’t worry about the past or future. She’s the Mary to Susan’s Martha, listening to Aslan while Susan is running around trying to do things by her own power, more concerned about how she’s perceived by society than by God.
Anyhow! On to Eustace’s passive-aggressive diary:
“September 3. The first day for ages when I have been able to write. We had been driven before a hurricane for thirteen days and nights. I know that because I kept a careful count, though the others all say it was only twelve. Pleasant to be embarked on a dangerous voyage with people who can’t even count right! […] It would be bad enough even if one was with decent people instead of fiends in human form. Caspian and Edmund are simply brutal to me. The night we lost our mast (there’s only a stump left now), though I was not at all well, they forced me to come on deck and work like a slave. […]
“If we could, of course, the sensible thing would be to turn west at once and make for the Lone Islands. But it took us eighteen days to get where we are, running like mad with a gale behind us. Even if we got an east wind it might take us far longer to get back. And at present there’s no sign of an east wind – in fact there’s no wind at all. […] The others all voted for going on in the hope of finding land. I felt it my duty to point out that we didn’t know there was any land ahead and tried to get them to see the dangers of wishful thinking. Instead of producing a better plan they had the cheek to ask me what I proposed. So I just explained coolly and quietly that I had been kidnapped and brought away on this idiotic voyage without my consent, and it was hardly my business to get them out of their scrape.”
Eustace continues to display a complete lack of empathy, even when Caspian flat out tells him that everybody on the ship feels just as physically ill as he does. Talk about an unreliable narrator…
Of course, what he deems “wishful thinking” is really trusting that Aslan will provide for the venture as long as they keep the prow pointing East, toward the Light.
“September 8. Still sailing east. I stay in my bunk all day now and see no one except Lucy till the two fiends come to bed. Lucy gives me a little of her water ration. She says girls don’t get as thirsty as boys. I had often thought this but it ought to be more generally known at sea.”
It’s interesting to see how he only refers to Lucy by her name here. Part of it is obviously because he’s generally miserable, but then he basically dehumanizes Edmund and Caspian (when they plainly feel at least as awful as he does, but are still helping out with the ship), always thinking that they go out of their way to make him (more) miserable.
This all comes to a head when they reach a mountain island. Eustace just wants to rest on land for a while, and is shocked to discover that he’s actually expected to help with the (very essential) work they’re planning. So he sneaks off to find a place to relax on his own.
But he didn’t enjoy himself, or not for very long. He began, almost for the first time in his life, to feel lonely. At first the feeling grew very gradually. And then he began to worry about the time. There was not the slightest sound. Suddenly it occurred to him that he might have been lying there for hours. Perhaps the others had gone! Perhaps they had let him wander away on purpose simply to leave him behind! He leaped up in a panic and began the descent.
Between his (obviously unfounded) panic and a thick fog, he gets himself lost on the island.
Next: The Adventures of Eustace