After three chapters of intensive character development for Eustace, we get two vignettes which help reveal the chemistry of the main cast (even if their characters don’t actually change).
I think I’ll try this one character by character, starting with Eustace (mainly because he’s only really active in the first “narrow escape”):
Eustace (who had really been trying very hard to behave well, till the rain and the chess put him back) now did the first brave thing he had ever done. He was wearing a sword that Caspian had lent him. As soon as the [Sea Serpent]’s body was near enough on the starboard side he jumped on to the bulwark and began hacking at it with all his might. It is true that he accomplished nothing beyond breaking Caspian’s second-best sword into bits, but it was a fine thing for a beginner to have done.
This might not seem like much (especially since, as I said, he doesn’t play a significant role in the second episode of the chapter), but it establishes his new, “proper” role in the ensemble, one that was lacking in the first two books: The “everyboy”. The Pevensies were established as “chosen ones” in Narnia pretty close to the beginning of LWW, and they’ve been royalty ever since; Caspian is royalty as well, and with the rest of the crew was born and raised in Narnia. Eustace, on the other hand, has no rank and zero experience with “adventures”.
And then along comes Reepicheep to actually save the day!
Others would have joined [Eustace] if at that moment Reepicheep had not called out, “Don’t fight! Push!” It was so unusual for the Mouse to advise anyone not to fight that, even in that terrible moment, every eye turned to him. And when he jumped up on to the bulwark, forward of the snake, and set his little furry back against its huge scaly, slimy back, and began pushing as hard as he could, quite a number of people saw what he meant and rushed to both sides of the ship to do the same. […] Their only chance was to push the loop backward till it slid over the stern.
Reepicheep alone had, of course, no more chance of doing this than of lifting up a cathedral, but he had nearly killed himself with trying before others shoved him aside.
Have I yet mentioned how adorable Reepicheep is?
In all seriousness, this chapter shows that Reep is hardly the sort of person who fights just for the sake of fighting; he fights to defend – even if it’s in defense of something as “simple” as his honor. Unfortunately, there’s no enemy for him to defeat in the second “escape”, although there is quite a bit for Edmund to do.
First of all, Edmund gets to exercise his detective skills when they encounter the remains of one of their seven Lords. And then he figures out what’s so strange about the pool they’ve encountered:
“That water turns things into gold. It turned the spear into gold, that’s why it got so heavy. And it was just lapping against my feet (it’s a good thing I wasn’t barefoot) and it turned the toe-caps into gold. And that poor fellow on the bottom [of the pool] – well, you see.”
Then Caspian just HAS to go and test the water.
“The King who owned this island,” said Caspian slowly, and his face flushed as he spoke, “would soon be the richest of all the Kings of the world. I claim this land forever as a Narnian possession. It shall be called Goldwater Island. And I bind all of you to secrecy. No one must know of this. Not even Drinian – on pain of death, do you hear?”
“Who are you talking to?” said Edmund. “I’m no subject of yours. If anything it’s the other way round. I am one of the four ancient sovereigns of Narnia and you are under allegiance to the High King my brother.”
“So it has come to that, King Edmund, has it?” said Caspian, laying his hand on his sword-hilt.
“Oh, stop it, both of you,” said Lucy. “That’s the worst of doing anything with boys. You’re all such swaggering, bullying idiots.”
While I’m tempted to just side with Lucy on this one, Edmund might actually have a fair point, even if he words it poorly. He may simply take umbrage with the whole ”bound to secrecy on pain of death” thing, and Caspian is the one blowing things out of proportion when Edmund decides to pull rank on him.
Fortunately, Aslan appears before the argument can escalate further. This is only his second appearance so far; the first time he was bathed in moonlight on a moonless night, and this time he’s covered in sunlight although the sun had already gone down. And after he appears, their memories of the whole event become muddled – all, it would seem, except Lucy.
Lucy alone seems to remember everything (relatively) clearly, as she is often cited as a “source” by the narrator (including in this chapter, of course).
Due to the enchantment at the end, none of the second narrow escape actually “counts” toward character development for anyone, but it does display a certain weakness in Caspian, a side of him he never displayed as a boy: Arrogance, ruthlessness, and perhaps greed (although that last one is probably just due to the peculiar circumstances).
Next time: Lucy’s turn!